I remember taking a deep breath before turning to my strict father driving me home, working up the nerve to ask him if I could go downtown. I started explaining that the anniversary of the Women's March was in two days and that people planned to march again. I asked if there was a chance I could attend this time, and to my surprise, he said I could, and that he'd be happy to buy the bus tickets for me to head downtown. My father has always been supportive of my political affiliations and stances, but coming from Somalia, a country where locking up political dissidents was the norm not even a few decades ago, demonstrations of outrage have always been a sore spot in my family for a good reason. Protesting while being a young woman of color means something different. By being loud and disruptive means making people uncomfortable, and lucky for me, I am surrounded by a community of women who are more than willing to cause some discomfort.
Demonstrations of outrage have always been a sore spot in my family for good reason.
“We’ve got a prime minister who said he’s a feminist … this [the march] is just about making sure we hold the people in power accountable. Especially with Time’s Up and the #MeToo movement – the vibe is different. There’s a sense of urgency from all of us to decide where we want to be. History’s taking names, and history’s going to ask us where we were when all of these issues were happening. I’d like to say I was here.” That's what I told a reporter from Chatelaine Canada when she asked me why I was there. I had to pause for a second because I had not prepared myself for the intense energy that the Women's March in my home city of Toronto had, let alone be ready to state why I was there. Personally, it was about recognition. As a Canadian, I am proud of some of the achievements my country and its governments over the years have made, but that does not mean we as women get comfortable. That was the energy that I got from the people at the march- we've gotten this far, but we still have long ways to go. Standing in solidarity with our sisters down south, but at the same time recognizing and honoring the fact that there was still work to be done, and not to accept that would be a disservice to women whose voices are not being heard.
History’s going to ask us where we were when all of these issues were happening. I’d like to say I was here.
On the subway ride to the march, it was apparent that most of the second train was on their way to the march. It was hard to miss the pink/red/purple themes, not the mention the handles of the signs being poised almost sword-like, ready to strike. The air outside was warm, the sun shining, and the sky semi-clear, in contrast with the previous day's weather- as if it were planned that way. The fact that over 50,000 bodies were there in attendance also may have contributed to the warmth. We marched around the downtown core, chanting affirmations calling for violence against women to end, that our bodies, did, in fact, belong to us, and that we believed survivors of sexual abuse. I had goosebumps. I heard my voice in all of these women. I listened to the cries of generations of women. The frustration in our throats was met with the hope in our hearts when the organizers called on the crowd to link arms and hold a moment of silence. Silence for six slain Muslim men last year, domestic violence victims, missing and murdered Indigenous women, and for murdered young POC. If you ever find yourself struggling to put into words what it means to be an intersectional feminist, there it is. The need to recognize the fact that it all of us or nothing, that justice will never be served until everyone receives it. Until no one is murdered because of their identity, or community resources are not withheld from underprivileged communities of color, justice will never be served. Until we protect our most vulnerable from hate crimes, and until no young woman ever has to say #MeToo, we haven't finished the job.
The message at the end of the march was simple- take the energy from this march, and put it into every aspect of life. Activism does not start with the march, and sure as hell does not end there either. Take it to your schools, your workplaces, and your houses of legislation. Put the energy into your body language and your vocabulary. Change starts with when enough people decide to put the work in, and I knew that every person there was making the conscious decision to be a force for change, and at the same time give permission to young women watching that they can be changemakers. For many, it's easy to make the march about a specific orange tinged Commander in Chief. While the 45th President's actions might be a catalyst, he is not the primary cause of protests. Islamophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, and all the other ugly and phobias -isms existed long before his campaign and presidency, and unfortunately will still be here even when he leaves. However, the people that attended this march, and marches everywhere, from different races, gender identities, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds prove that there is strength in numbers. For every injustice, there is a consequence, and for every victim, someone is willing to listen. It is up to us banish hatred, and we will. I've got way too much faith banking on humanity not to believe so.