Thursday, March 8, 2018

I Want To Be The Female In My Family Who Stood Up and Stood Out

It was the eve of the Women's March and I could barely contain my excitement as I logged off my work computer for the day. It was time. 

I laid my camera gear around me to charge my batteries, format my memory cards and pack my rolls of film. This year, I was only going to take one film camera and my digital as opposed to the three I lugged around last year. 

While my camera battery was charging and I started cleaning my lenses my oldest spawn sent me a text. 

Hey Ma, excited for the Women's March tomorrow! Are you making a sign? 

Hi, I wasn't planning on it. Were you? 

Yeah, let me send you some ideas from Pinterest. 

I silently laughed when I received her Pinterest examples. I knew they would be the kind of signs she'd boldly display at her first march. The kind that had an expletive in it.This year I was taking my niece, Micaela, again so it was going to be a family affair with my eldest joining us. 

The lyrics of the song, The Schuyler Sisters, from the Hamilton musical replayed in my head. Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now. 

For thousands of us in this country we don't feel lucky with the present leadership. I mean, why would over 600,000 people wake up at the crack of dawn on a perfectly good Saturday morning to march down the streets of Los Angeles standing up for justice if we felt lucky? 

That line of the song was a reminder of the freedom we still have in this country called the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It's the freedom of speech I don't take for granted and I'm grateful we can protest in this country without getting shot at or arrested by law enforcement as in other parts of the world. 

While I hummed along to the song in my head I reached for the white board I used in my photography shots. As if my hand was moved by an unseen force I started to create my own sign and knew that I would be raising my voice more than my cameras at the march the next day. 

I'm no stranger to hitting the pavement in protest against social injustice as I've participated in several walks for My Refuge House and other anti-human trafficking organizations. (Peruse this blog archive and you'll find my blog posts about them.) With the monumental wave of change happening in this country the time for standing up for what's right is crucial. People are waking up, putting on their activist hats and using their voice to speak up for the first time. 

Marginalized and oppressed people, especially women, are fed up and no longer remaining silent. With the advent of the #MeToo Movement that galvanized survivors to finally speak out about their experiences of sexual assault and harassment I knew the number of participants in the Women's March would double this year. 

We are now using our voices to demand respect, equality and fairness. This is not a new fight but it's a battle that needs to be waged instead of brushed under the proverbial rug. I believe that in times of peace we become complacent and I can only find the positive in this tumultuous time by seeing more people rise up and take a stand. 

Then there's the blatant, ugly evil of racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism that has risen and encouraged by the person I can only call #45. He is not and never will be my President. I've had a handful of friends on social media who seemed gleeful that they can finally express their true feelings about certain minority groups. Or, voice their support for this man who is emblematic of dishonesty, corruption, infidelity and hypocrisy. While I accept the differences in others, I know that I can't be friends with people who refuse to see the blatant wrongs this leader has committed. I can tell you that I no longer call them friends.

This isn't the time to tolerate pure unadulterated hatred. We need to collectively stand up and fight against the spread of hatred and ignorance that is perpetuated by #45's actions and words. That's the decree of the Women's March and the reasons I spent a Saturday with my daughter and niece to wake people up, get them to the polls and vote for those who would advocate for us. 

Today is International Women's Day and it's not a day I take lightly. While writing this blog post I saw a tweet from My Refuge House as to the origins of this historical day. 
The impetus for establishing an International Women’s Day can be traced back to New York City in February 1908, when thousands of women who were garment workers went on strike and marched through the city to protest against their working conditions. “Like today, these women were in less organized workplaces [than their male counterparts], were in the lower echelons of the garment industry, and were working at low wages and experiencing sexual harassment,” says Eileen Boris, Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara.
This year's theme is #PressforProgress which is "A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

Today I honor all the women warriors in their homes, jobs, families, schools, churches, etc. who rise up when no one is listening or paying attention. I bow down to the women who are activists in their own quiet, unassuming, yet, powerful way because I know you move mountains. I salute the women who oftentimes felt defeated but nevertheless persisted. I cry for the women who are victims of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual slavery, domestic violence and human trafficking---the ones who are paralyzed with the fear of retaliation. We stand with you and are fighting for you! 

As for me, I want my granddaughters (and future grandsons) to know that I was that female in the family who stood up and stood out. 

I want them to know that I marched and fought for the progress that they deserve. 

I want them to understand that I live my precious life today with their future in mind. 

I want them to believe that I used my purpose and calling to help create a better world for them and their children. 

I want them to see that I paved a way for them to make a difference in their lives and to use what they have to fight for others less fortunate. 

I want them to learn from my actions so that they can pass on to their children the empowerment we're all raising our voices for today. 

The Ancestry tweet today that inspired
my words in this blog post. 
These are the photos we took at the Women's March with our phones, my digital and film cameras. 

My niece, Micaela, is the assistant editor
of her school's newspaper, ZU Media and was
covering the Women's March. You can read her
article here.