Today, we celebrate a day that puts the present and future of our country into eye-opening perspective. Today, on the third Monday of January, we celebrate the honorable Martin Luther King Jr. and his fearless efforts to lead a life in pursuit of justice, truth and equality: racial equality.
He has been activists’ and aspiring activists’ role model for more than half a century. His legacy and life has been defined by the utmost courage, service and peaceful action that is still essential in hopes of victory among similar present-day struggles. The work is not done. It is not done for racial equality, sexual and gender equality, religious liberation and equality, for immigrants and those of varying political and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Though there are different forms of fear and violence occurring in face of present-day battles, the plight for racial equality and desegregation during the escalated tensions of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States was met with extreme physical dangers and hostility.
Today, we remember a man who demonstrated exceptionally relentless courage, compassion and most importantly, nonviolence during combat with opponents that presented him with minimal reciprocity.
He dreamed of peace, healing and community: noble values that the wellbeing and health of our country is in desperate need of today.
Today, and this week particularly, we continue the battle for equal human rights for all.
This Saturday, January 21, 2017, there will be what is projected to be one of the largest human rights demonstrations in the history of the United States: the Women’s March on Washington.
There have been criticisms that regard the march as non-inclusive or another act of “white feminism”. Skeptics have defined the march as culturally appropriating or as women’s backlash in response to the first female president not being elected.
I have been volunteering with the Rhode Island Chapter for the Women’s March on Washington since the 2016 election, and I will be marching in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.
I’ve spent every Sunday for the past 10 weeks with a group of passionate, intelligent women and men volunteers who are devoted to equal human rights. I’ve learned the short history and structuring behind the upcoming march, and that the four co-organizers are Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour, a white woman, African American woman, Puerto Rican woman and Palestinian-American-Muslim woman, respectively. I’ve learned that these women have been listening to the needs, concerns and fears of participants in this march and trying their best to accommodate everyone for an event that is fully inclusive, supportive and welcoming of all in favor of human rights.
While there are still countless critiques, and four individuals cannot offer a full representation of the women in our country, it is a start.
And a start is what we need right now.
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
The national mission, the Rhode Island chapter mission, and my personal mission are in alignment: that women’s rights are human rights but also, perhaps more powerfully, that all groups that were or were at risk of being silenced and marginalized in lieu of recent events in our country have a voice of their own, even if that means using mine to help.
I am marching for the groups of people who are at risk of being compromised by both directly hurtful or negligent, non-inclusive mindsets. I am marching to demonstrate that I will speak for them when they aren’t being heard, fight for them when they cannot fight for themselves and stand together with them to ensure that the progress our country has made in the last century is maintained and not destroyed. I am marching for Mother Earth and all of its inhabitants, because we owe them our gratitude and protection for all that they have given to us humans.
I am marching because as a woman, I want it all. I want social justice, rights and ownership to and of my body, parity, respect and equality for myself, for the women who have fought before me, and for the women that we will be bringing into this world. I want this world to be a greater place when my own daughters and sons enter it, because that’s what my predecessors did for me.
And as a woman, I expect my male friends and family to do the same, with and for me and my female peers.
There is prevalent, underlying and at times blatant racism, sexism and discrimination throughout our country and as a white woman I can, at times, be blinded. I admit that. It has not been my socioeconomic plight that allows me to recognize intersectional discrimination in all its faces, but it is in my heart to do all that I can with the privileges that I’ve been born with.
There will be controversy, suspicion and disagreement regarding any movement of this size and subject, but there are good people behind this march who are trying to do a good thing.
There are people– people aspiring to act in ways that Martin Luther King Jr. did– people fighting the good fight, who are behind this march.
And what this country needs more than anything right now is community and coming together.
“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.” – Coretta Scott King
It was the honor, humility and dignity with which Martin Luther King Jr. fought that is most memorable and renowned, and it is those qualities that I will bring to my own battles, including the one this Saturday.
Let’s ‘Make America Great Again’ not by building walls to keep others out, but by embracing all of those within our reach already, and keeping them close and safe. Let’s redefine America, and remember that love trumps hate.
Stay good, and stay grateful.