WASHINGTON, D.C. — Several local residents were among the hundreds of thousands of people who marched in Washington, and around the country, on the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Though their specific reasons for wanting to participate varies, they all agree that it was a positive and uplifting experience.
“This past weekend I joined over half a million wonderful humans in Washington, D.C. (along with so many others all over the country and world) in a march of unity,” said Kennedy Freeman of Elkin. “This march was not for one specific cause or right, but a march for equality all over the world. This was a march for women and men all over the world to be treated with the respect and equality they deserve. This was not a march of hate or disrespect for our new president, but a march to raise awareness on topics we and others feel deserve justice. This march was for anyone who has ever had to deal with oppression in any way. This march was a way for me to use my voice for causes I believe in.”
Freeman is a graduate of Elkin High School and now is studying at UNC Chapel Hill. She summed up her experience at the Women’s March saying, “This weekend, I felt so empowered to be surrounded by women and men united by one common message: equality for all.”
Cameron Beals, a student at Elkin High School, called the march “amazing.”
“I feel as if there is a lot of uncertainty or inaccuracy of many as to the reason for marching, so I hope this clears the air for many,” Beals explained. “I, myself, marched for the equality of not only women but all people, for basic respect. I marched not to remove Trump from office (I acknowledge the inauguration on the 20th, of course), but to voice the opinion of many around the world that women should not be treated in the manner in which he has treated them in the past. I marched to tell our president, our legislators, men and women everywhere, that I have higher expectations than that out of our country and out of its people.
“I marched for equal pay for not white women only, but for women of other races and religions of whom are paid even less to the man’s dollar. I marched because I acknowledge my privilege of bias (whether implicit or not) yet will still fight for the ones that do not have such opportunities. I marched to keep the power that I have over my body and to keep the support of organizations that exist to guide women through difficult decisions they may face. I marched to stick up for the earth in the hopes that those who follow a different agenda will put my planet and its inhabitants first,” Beals said.
She went on to say, “I marched not against another group or party, but for the many causes of which I support. I marched on behalf of the many that could not attend, so that their voice could be heard as well. I marched not because I want Trump to fail, but because I want him to be better, to recognize that certain actions and words are not ones which show respect for the American people. I marched in hopes that he will have more decency as a human being and therefore hopefully be better for what the nation needs. I marched because I believe in America, in a democracy and in the power of my voice.”
In addition to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., other locals participated in a march held in Greensboro.
“It was just a creative, affirming experience. I wouldn’t describe it as angry at all, it was just this determined feeling and I think the idea of resistance to some of the ideas [of the new administration] was expressed,” said Anne Gulley, who marched in Greensboro along with several other Elkin residents.
Talk of a women’s march began circulating on social media just days after the election and many didn’t hesitate to jump on board.
“As soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to be there and take my girls,” said Beth Shaw, who lives in Elkin and traveled to the march with several friends and their daughters. “I felt like it was important that we be heard. And heard is really the key word. I never felt like this was a protest, it was a march. It was a march to bring forward what’s important to us, what we value, what we want the new administration to know and to acknowledge.”
As a mother with young daughters, the issue of women’s dignity was an important one for Shaw and one of the main reasons she wanted to participate in the march. Trump’s demeaning comments towards women have been largely reported, including his vulgar statement about grabbing women by their genitalia.
“I want my daughters to feel like they are in a world that treats them respectfully,” Shaw said.
Respect, politeness, kindness, basic human decency were common themes that local marchers said they noticed at the event. It was a refreshing reminder, they said, that there is still goodness in the world.
Shaw said a powerful moment happened for her family later in the evening following the march. Having left from dinner and still in the heart of D.C., Shaw and her daughters happened to be at a crosswalk with a man wearing one of Trump’s campaign hats with the slogan “Make American Great Again.” The man asked Shaw’s daughters if they had enjoyed the march and wished them a good trip back.
“That little moment of one person in a Trump cap who was kind and friendly, that 30-second encounter gave me hope that there’s goodness in all of us and we can find it,” Shaw said.
Shari Allen, who traveled from Boonville to be at the march, said she, too, was overwhelmed at the positive energy throughout the event.
“It was really quite amazing and more than what I expected or dreamed it would be,” Allen said. “Everybody was helpful. Everybody was kind, everybody was friendly.”
She said even at the metro station leaving their hotel folks were purchasing extra tickets to share with strangers. At the port-a-johns along the march route, people were sharing their extra wet wipes when there was no toilet paper.
Even as they exited the metro station to head towards the start of the rally, Allen said, “There were just loads of people carrying signs, people were singing songs and they were chanting. Everybody was saying, ‘oh, I’m sorry, oh excuse, me,’ I’ve never been around so much politeness in my life.”
“Everybody was just wanting to be nice to somebody, to pay it forward,” Allen said.
Another running theme of the march was that the event should not be a stand-alone moment. Speakers at the rally encouraged attendees to stay involved and continue to push for positive change. Running for office was a suggestion speaker Michael Moore gave the crowd.
“I think some of us can do that, but a lot of us really can look around at a more local level and see what the needs are. Are there women’s voices that aren’t being heard? We can each look around us and see what good we can do,” said Shaw. “You can go to the march and feel good about it and have a great day, but if that’s all it is, it’s really a disappointment.”
Contacting congressional and senate leaders is a great step for those wanting to stay involved, Shaw said.
“At a minimum that should be done, they need to know what we think, and if we’re not communicating with them, we can’t blame them for not hearing us,” she added.
Allen said, “Even in just group conversations, speaking out is an important thing to do, and if people start speaking out, then maybe it will start to permeate the mindset of others.”
In conclusion on their thoughts about the march, local participants reiterated the sincere feeling of togetherness.
“I felt this overwhelming joy at being with a group of people from all over the country, people from every different background, every different religion, every different ethnicity and every different reason for being there. Even with all the differences, we felt like we were all together,” said Shaw.
“My word for the day was love,” she added. “If we want to say ‘love trumps hate’ and those kinds of slogans, we really have to live it and that day I really felt the love. Every person you encountered at the rally or working that day, people we met on the metro, in restaurants, the police, the National Guard, everybody was just so awesome and helpful and kind and respectful. If nothing else, I hope we can all keep up that feeling and that way of living with each other. That’s where it starts, when we start caring about each other and treating each other well and having concern for each others needs. If we have that, we can do anything.”
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.