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Johnson: My experience at the Women’s March on Washington

Hannah Johnson, Op-Ed Contributor

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When I first saw the Women’s March on Washington event advertised on Facebook, I RSVP’d “going” without thinking twice. Even though I didn’t know how I would get there or where I would stay, I knew that somehow, I would get to D.C.

When I clicked “going” to the event, I was sitting alone in my apartment in Prague, Czech Republic, where I was studying abroad. Feeling distant and disconnected, I spent hours on the internet trying to find out what I could do to support my friends who were distressed and those who feared for their well-being after Trump’s election. The Women’s March on Washington seemed like my answer.

I realize that while the march was moving and inspiring, the event alone won’t make a difference. For me, the march is a call to action, sparking in me a sense of accountability to help create urgently needed change over the next four years.

That said, the march was incredible. I met feminists from all walks of life who were friendly and supportive. On my bus to Washington alone were a former American Civil Liberties Union lobbyist from South Dakota, former Peace Corps members and four generations of women from one family. The woman sitting next to me was a Turkish immigrant who fiercely opposed Trump and was looking forward to making her voice heard. They shared their reasons for marching with the whole bus, and it was clear that these women were passionate, knowledgeable and determined to make a change.

Beyond the marchers, the event’s speakers and organizers sent a strong message to the crowd that this action is just the beginning. Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem and many others emphasized that while it was inspiring that so many people showed up to march, the work was just beginning. They encouraged people to call their elected officials, think about how to create change locally and learn about and reflect on history.

And in particular, the women of color who spoke reminded the crowd that the fight for equality and justice is one that they have been fighting for decades. The women’s march clearly was not the first movement for women’s liberation, but it will certainly become a historical marker for feminist action under Donald Trump.

As I boarded the bus for the drive back to Chicago, I still felt energized and empowered by what I experienced during the march. To see demonstrators scream for feminist icons — with a vigor usually reserved for pop stars — was incredibly uplifting. And I’ve found a new love for the pink knit hats that filled the streets in protest.

Even though the March on D.C. was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I hope that it will not be the last time I experience such a sense of empowerment and inspiration to take action. This weekend was the beginning of the fight to keep myself and those around me accountable for continuing momentum and bringing that progressive spirit home.

On the bus ride back, everyone around me began discussing what actions to take next. We all swapped contact information so we could start a group to share resources and opportunities to continue the movement to protest Trump and fight for civil rights in Chicago. While I’m returning to my normal life consumed by classes, extracurriculars and stress, I know I won’t be leaving behind the ideals I learned from the march. As thousands of protesters and I chanted while walking past the White House, “Welcome to your first day; we are not going away.”

Hannah Johnson is a Medill junior. She can be contacted at hannahjohnson2018@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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