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My Women’s March On Washington

My Women’s March on Washington — Learning from the humanity of others

By Evan Henshaw-Plath

Participating in the Women’s March on Washington was a profound, life-changing experience. Coming on the heels of a depressing inauguration, the march was both necessary and inspirational, and I’m glad I went.

But, what affected me the most wasn’t the march itself, it was the people who came together to share it. It was the time we spent in the moments between and after the events. The conversations I had and connections I made reassured me that we can achieve a diverse, inclusive, and humane world.

My aunt organized a caravan of family and strangers from Iowa and we stayed in two large rental houses. She listed our additional space on MarchBNB and others joined us.
The houses ended up reflecting the diversity that we want in America, that we saw in the march, and that we want in our movements. We were: my cousin from rural Minnesota, who’s adopted and raised 5 kids out of foster care; a Lutheran pastor; a couple of gay teenagers from Iowa; my mom from California; myself from Portland, Ore.; an immigrant from El Salvador who spoke minimal English; a grandmother from Panama; twin teenagers from Richmond, Va., their 7-year-old brother, and mom. We were black, white, Latino, English- and Spanish-speaking, vegetarians and meat-eaters, rural and urban, family and strangers, Muslim, Atheist and deeply religious Christians.

We were the march, staying together, getting to know each other, talking about where we were coming from, our struggles and dreams. After the march we all sat around and watched a video of the day’s speakers together. Then we talked. We talked about race.We talked about inclusion and being good enough to feel accepted in society, to struggle for jobs, or to drive for Uber. We talked about how to help kids who are in foster care,and what it means to be a single father today, to be a single mother. We discussed what it’s like when your friends’ parents are deported, what it means to be a black teenager in America or the way black boys are treated as criminals in school. We talked about being undocumented and the difference between how white and brown immigrants are treated — white immigrants are embraced while African and Latinos are never considered American enough. We talked about black nationalism and rural white poverty. We talked about what it meant to be queer, trans, or straight in America today. We talked about what it’s like to be black and living in a wealthy white suburb or a white teacher in a poor majority black school.

We talked from the heart, about our own lived experiences.

And then we talked about consent, rape, sexual assault and redemption, and what both men and women can do to change rape culture. We asked if sexual predators can recover. We struggled for understanding and a path towards justice and asked if this path could include redemption? What do you say as a man to your male friends who’ve raped or assaulted women? What happens when many men don’t even realize what they are doing is rape? The sexual violence is just as real but rendered invisible.

More than anything, we listened. We knew we wouldn’t all agree, but we weren’t arguing. Instead, we were hearing each other, learning and appreciating the diversity of who we are, where we’re coming from, and how we could work together.

The weekend reminded me of what I’ve heard about the encounter groups of the feminist movement in the 70s. Like those groups, we talked about the difficult issues. And we did so not to get answers or to solve problems with policy, but to learn, to understand each other as people, and to embrace our common humanity.

I saw we aren’t living in a bubble. The progressive soul of America is broad, complicated, diverse, and deep. Our march, our weekend of organizing, talking, cooking and eating together, that was not a bubble. We were from across america, the best of what america is, diverse & real, not perfect but learning, and constantly getting better.

We were emboldened by the protest, and deeply inspired by the conversation and faith we observed in from our fellow struggling humans. We are committed to not letting this moment disappear. We will continue the struggle.

We discussed what actions to take, how to organize, how to collaborate. We vowed to help each other learn and to stay connected.

And, we promised to resist Trump’s America, and to create a new inclusive, sustainable, humane future.

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