Student finds unity, compassion in Women’s March on Washington

Commentary: Graduate student Kiah Bennett reflects on the comradery she found among the 470,000 protesters at the Women’s March on Washington.

Every direction I turn, my gaze is met with a sea of pink hats and posters. It stretches until met by blurring fog. I am just a little speck with a sign, but rather than feeling lost, I feel hopeful and energized. I feel present and unafraid.

On Jan. 21, I was proud to stand with more than 470,000 men, women, and queer-identified persons in the largest inauguration protest in history. The Women’s March on Washington was so much more than a congregation of hundreds of thousands of unified humans – it was a time to connect. The sign I held read “The rise of the woman = the rise of the nation” and this weekend I was proved correct: women are astonishing creatures and this is only the beginning.

We collectively cheered as more and more of us shimmied our way into the metro system, introducing ourselves, where we are from, and our protest motivations. In the streets, we spoke of neoliberalism and injustice, of hope and a right to healthcare. We relinquished obligation to pleasantries and were raw humans for the day. We were the makings of an enduring support system of strangers. Citizens alike, we yelled, laughed, cheered and raised our militant voice at the white men who continuously lead humanity astray.

I am a woman comprised of fire and compassion, of hope and fury. My experience at the Women’s March on Washington showed me I am not alone. I have never been in a crowd of people wherein anger, compassion, love, and purpose coexisted unanimously. Whether they were friends or strangers, the marchers took care of each other. Crowds parted as wheelchairs made their way through, and how organizers and celebrities announced their concern for children who had been separated from their mothers. When my arms tired, my fellow protester offered to hold my sign as I recovered. Compassion became a safety blanket for the overfilled streets of D.C. and biting wit was the language of our resistance. And the Women’s Marches across the world show the great potential for change that is held in the hands of the people.  

The myriad reasons I womanspread this Saturday cannot be penned in any one place. However, I marched because I have a pre-existing condition: I am a woman. But I did not just march for myself: I marched for the 18-year-old, who did not feel as though her voice and experience mattered. I marched for the survivors who are scared to reach out, for and with the women and transgender people with PTSD who feel they are without sanctuary or resource.

I marched in solidarity with my sisters and brothers whose experiences are vastly different from my own: Black Lives Matter protesters, gender-nonconforming persons, people with disabilities, undocumented immigrants and former convicts. I swarmed around a counter-protest with thousands of others to drown out their hate and marginalization. I marched in an evolving movement of the people, by the people, and for the people. I marched for, with, and as the suffering 99 percent. I marched because the United States is in a vulnerable time right now, but as author Rebecca Solnit stated, “the future is dark, with a darkness as much the womb as the grave.”

I marched because hearing someone say, “I believe you” is to this day one of the most earth-shattering, soul-shaking, soothing experiences of my life. I marched to say, “I believe you.”   


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