I am a 67-year-old grandmother, and I still remember the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and President Nixon’s resignation. But I’ve never experienced anything like the Women’s March on Washington.
On a grey day, I stood with my 66-year-old female partner in a sea of impassioned, energized, well-behaved humanity. We were packed so tight we couldn’t find the friends we had planned to march with; we tried to text but there was no signal. It didn’t matter. We were there and everyone in the march felt familiar, like a friend; there was a thrill of citizen activism.
As a Latina, who hails from Cuba, the march made me reflect on the Latino community’s long history of civic activism. During the Mexican Revolution, a group of courageous revolutionaries fought for more than 20 years to end a dictatorship. Their strategies ranged from armed insurrection to diplomacy to organized labor, and ultimately their efforts succeeded and Mexico established a constitutional republic.
In Argentina, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have marched for more than 40 years. At first they marched to learn what happened to their children, who “disappeared” during a military dictatorship. Their peaceful approach, which capitalized on the visibility of an international stage, toppled an intransigent dictatorship. They continue marching today for political and human rights
There are many other examples of Latinos coming together to fight for what’s right, and of achieving success after a long and arduous struggle. And now, as we stand on the brink of what promises to be a very trying period for minorities of all kinds, I am inspired by their example.
I, like many others, feel ready to fight for my rights, and for the rights of all those who have found themselves suddenly more vulnerable than we imagined possible.
What will I do? Here’s how I plan on getting started. Will you join me?
1. Join the movement.
If you got out to march, or didn’t, join the movement by taking part in the Women’s March on Washington’s next campaign, 10 Actions for the first 100 Days.
2. Get ready for the threats to come.
As we saw so starkly last week, under our new president many communities will be at risk. We need to be ready to quickly join together in defense, as so many thousands did at our nation’s airports this weekend.
If deportations begin, we need to be ready to mobilize to block the highways, bridges, and tunnels leading to our cities. We need to be armed with information on the rights of our immigrant families and neighbors if the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) comes knocking at their doors.
If women’s reproductive rights are curtailed, as early signs indicate they might well be, we need to lobby our legislators and show up to clinics to support women against anti-choice protestors.
If emboldened police forces take up arms against our Black brothers and sisters, we need to document and speak out about abuses and support organizations that are fighting police abuse in our courts.
There will be many issues to confront. Choose one that speaks to your heart.
3. Look toward 2018.
This election showed us more than any other in recent history that voter apathy is truly dangerous. It’s time to get ready for the next election. If you’re not registered to vote, register. If you are, talk to your friends, family, and neighbors, and make sure they are too.
Help your community organizations register voters. Volunteer to help immigrants apply for citizenship. Become an advocate at the local, regional, and national level.
We need to see more candidates who are truly representative of our country’s beautiful diversity run for office. Support diverse candidates, or run for office yourself.
4. Support a local nonprofit.
Now, more than ever, the grassroots nonprofits that will be on the front lines defending our communities need our support. Donate as much as you’re able to help them build their infrastructures and political muscle. Volunteer your skills, whether it’s carrying boxes at a food pantry, knocking on doors to register voters, writing grant applications, or serving on a board.
5. Envision a better future.
We will never overcome our current conditions unless we imagine a brighter future. In your own mind, develop a narrative that leads beyond where we are now. Share that story with others. Use the power of social media, which elected our current president, to propel us toward a different future.
6. Keep on marching.
Despite the enormous challenges to come, there’s also an incredible opportunity to come together and stand up for what we know is right. As we saw this weekend, we are powerful together.
With our families, in our neighborhoods, in partnership with everyone who is vulnerable, we need to join arms and march together. We need to engage in civic activism like we haven't seen in decades.
And we need to remember, as Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”