Where Do We Go from Here?

Where Do We Go from Here?

Andrea Miller, Executive Director
January 26, 2017

On January 21st, 2017, over 200,000 peaceful protestors marched to Denver’s Civic Center Park. Cheers rolled over the crowd like waves, starting at the front and traveling whole city blocks as the women’s march moved through the city. An electric urgency and sense of purpose crackled throughout the day. Together with our children, neighbors, and partners, we marched for our freedoms, for our rights, and for our future.

We weren’t alone on January 21st. In Madagascar, Antarctica, India, Serbia, New Zealand, all over the world, and throughout the United States, people marched in protest of President Trump and the hate and bigotry spewed by his campaign. In addition to the primary protest in Washington DC, there were over 600 other 'sister marches' held across the United States. Together we created the largest protest in US history. We heard outcries from all around the world in support of women and against policies that take us back to a darker time.

But the question now is, where do we go from here? Many bloggers and commentators have referenced the women’s march to the Occupy movement, but the divisions that threaten the unity of the women’s march run far deeper than the lack of organization that plagued Occupy. The long and uneasy tension between white feminism (the narrow-minded idea that all women experience misogyny the same way) and intersectional feminism (a form of feminism that recognizes how class, race, sexual orientation, and other identities affect women’s experiences of misogyny) has hung over the feminist movement and the women’s march since its inception. And in addition to facing that challenge, the women’s march will face the same difficulty that all political movements do: namely, how does it stay relevant? How does it harness the energy of millions of protestors to channel their anger into more substantive political action?

Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that many of the people who showed up for the women’s march will end their political activism then and there. But for those of us who are planning to grit our teeth and stand our ground for the next four years, we must stay vigilant, and remember that this is going to be a long battle to make sure our voices continue to be heard. The challenges we’re facing will be a test of endurance, but the stakes are too high to let exhaustion, hopelessness, or fear win out. And the only way we will succeed, the only way the women’s march will avoid quietly fading away, is if we work to maintain our rights and the rights of our youth together.

With that in mind, here are some things to remember and some action items to commit to as we move further and further into four years of resistance.

1. Be wary of white feminism. The biggest challenge to this movement is the pervasive and false belief that focusing on the struggles of white women is enough. In the next four years, we must embrace intersectionality - the understanding that different systems of oppression are intertwined. The resistance must speak not only to the challenges white, upper class women face, but also to the systemic problems that oppress people of color, the LGBTQ community, indigenous communites, and other marginalized and oppressed groups. What white women have felt during this election - many of them probably for the first time - women of color have had to deal with and fight against for decades. We must resist messages of division, that tell us it’s enough to focus on the oppression of one group and disregard the oppression of others.This movement requires unity, and that means fighting for the equality of all people.

2. Stay humble, and honor those who came before. While the women’s march may have been the largest protest in U.S. history, it is hardly the first. If you are new to political activism, research the long and difficult struggle for equal rights in this country. The fact that the women’s march was so peaceful speaks not to the accomplishments of the women’s march, but to the sacrifices made by those who came before, those who faced violence and imprisonment to fight for rights we take for granted today. We must approach the next four years with humility, and the openness to listen to the wisdom of those who have been involved in this fight all of their lives.

3. When they go low, we go local. Find out who your local policy makers are at the city, county, and state level, and contact them regularly. Our local policy makers don’t hear from us enough, so when they do get phone calls and emails, they listen. You can find out who your legislators are here. Set a reminder on your calendar to email your representatives often. There’s a misperception that they are flooded with calls and emails, but at the local level this rarely happens even though it should. Local involvement should also include attending meetings for local organizations, including showing up to your local NAACP or PFLAG chapter as yourself, as an ally, as a person who believes that justice cannot be achieved until it is achieved by everyone.

4. Push your political involvement. We need to break out of our comfort zones over the next four years, and attending the women’s march must only be the first step on a long political journey if we’re going to enact real change. That means showing up for more rallies and marches. It means pushing yourself to be the most informed voter you can be for every election cycle, not just the presidential election. It might even mean running for office. Now is the time to be bold and embrace political activism in new and innovative ways.

5. Support the work that is already being done. Organizations like Colorado Youth Matter, Planned Parenthood, CCASA, CCADV, COLOR, and others will be working within the framework of a federal government that does not want us to exist. It is of critical importance that the community supports us as we face the challenges ahead. Your donation has never been more important, and your involvement in community volunteering can substantially bolster our work.

It’s been an exhausting whirlwind of a month, with little sign of relief ahead. So the last piece of advice that I would urge you to act on is to take care of yourself, because we need you. We need your resilience, and we need your strength. As we move from the inauguration and the women’s march into the age of Trump, we must be vigilant in working together toward a unified front to resist the dangerous and harmful actions of the current administration. I’m making a call to action to you and to our community: Be a part of the solution and the change you want to see.

Copyright © 2015 Colorado Youth Matter