Women United, Together We Rise
The Women's March on NJ was an awe inspiring event and I was very happy to witness what turned out to be 7500 people who had something to say about saving our civil rights. I have been working in media advocacy for the past ten years and I was initially somewhat ambivalent about how the event would turnout. Often it is a small group of people who make change happen. As I drove into downtown Trenton, as I have on many occasions, I noticed something different. There was a steady stream of people parking and walking to the War Memorial. As I turned the corner I saw hundreds of people standing outside, and they kept coming. Little did I know until later, the building was filled to capacity inside. I kept looking for the speakers and wondered where their voices were coming from. But, there was plenty of action outside.
As I kept walking around taking photos and video of the participants, I became immediately uplifted. All the news throughout the election campaign took a toll on me. Advocacy work is difficult at best and change takes guts and perseverance. Hearing and reading real news, fake news, "alternative facts," and the growing division between people on social media has become unbearable. The Women's March helped to bring some heart, soul and a collective voice on democracy into plain view. Being on the ground, even on a grey, drizzly day brought a sense of peace and a feeling I clearly was not alone. I was immediately engrossed in all the handmade signs and symbols people came with. This was the strongest grassroots effort I have ever seen put forth—and my favorite—from the bottom up.
Over the years as I’ve worked on advocacy for addiction, criminal justice, health and environmental issues and often feel there’s not enough support from everyday citizens. The Women’s March on NJ showed citizens—women, men, teens and kids together passionately supporting human rights. The creativity and diversity of voices spoke loud and clear. Hearing Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman brought me back to 2009 when she was NJ Assembly Majority Leader highly engaging in inclusive and democratic prison reform legislation. At that time we were all asked to do our part and I did mine. But, since then I have not found the same civic eagerness, which is what led me to create a series about civic engagement, entitled Engaging People.
I know I am in my element, as one of my friends, a colleague on criminal justice reform said, “Lori, I know you’re loving this,” adding a little emoji of a woman boxing. I have to widely praise Elizabeth Meyers who organized and coordinated the Woman’s March on NJ with a coalition of individuals and groups. It’s amazing to see a women who has the passion, energy and spirit to take on grassroots organizing at it’s best, with little past experience for managing an event as large successful as this one was.
Now, what’s even more important are the next steps—keeping up the dialogue, events and action. As Edith Savage-Jennings reminded us, ”I truly hope and pray this movement today, will send a message that we no longer are going to stand for anything that’s not right…I personally know the President, don’t let him take us for granted, stand up for what you believe in, what you feel you know is right.” She then led everyone in singing TOGETHER: Deep in my heart I believe WE SHALL OVERCOME! YES WE CAN!