One year later...
One year ago today, many of us were sitting in our homes coming to terms that the world looked a little different than we thought it would. Many of us came to realize that our neighbors, our friends, our families, (and in some cases, our spouses!), would choose self-interest over the welfare of their fellow human beings. We were realizing that the future of the world was smaller, less compassionate, less free. For many, it was a crushing realization.
Of course, the marginalized voices in our society already knew what many of us were only just discovering. We just weren't listening before November 8. Now, we charge ourselves with the task of listening well and often - and following where they lead.
Mere hours after that night, this began. We began. A forceful movement for change. We have welcomed each other into our hearts. We have shed sweat and tears together, and in some cases, like Charlottesville, Virginia, blood. It has been a long and unending road forwards, towards… something. Something we can hardly even express in its entirety, but can only imagine. A better world for not just ourselves, but every voice we did not pay attention to before we woke. As we say in Women’s March West Virginia: We are stronger together. Together we rise.
We have had great days, truly amazing days. The March in DC and Charleston on January 21, 2017. Wins in the protection of the Affordable Care Act. ACLU’s successful defenses of civil liberties. So many times when we have stood up - stood together - united in the defense of women’s rights and human rights.
And while no one is likely to forget the 2016 election, who could possibly forget 2017? The first transgender woman candidate to be elected and serve in a state legislature in Virginia. The first Sikh mayor elected in New Jersey. The first trans woman of color to be elected to public office – city council - in the United States. The first lesbian mayor elected in Seattle. The first woman of color to be elected lieutenant governor in New Jersey. The first woman mayor in Provo, Utah. The first black woman to be elected mayor in Charlotte, North Carolina. The first Latina woman to be elected to city council in Lancaster, PA. The first Asian-American to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Seattle’s first openly gay school board member. And so many more.
The country was raining with wins for women this year. 11 out of 14 seats picked up by Democrats in Virginia were women. Women showed up across the board – as candidates, campaign workers, poll workers, and perhaps most importantly – as voters.
So, it has been a hard year and every victory was hard fought, but it has been an important year. A year for history books, and we are the makers.
The path ahead is still long, and it will not be easy. One criticism we have heard often about Women’s March is how broad our scope is. Are we simply about women’s rights? Or civil rights? Environmental rights? Economic issues? Black Lives Matter? Immigration reform? Abortion rights? Gun safety?
YES! We are!
It is a women's issue when a black man is shot 23 times for walking down the street.
It is a women's issue when pipelines threaten our health and that of our environment.
It is a women's issue when the President is more concerned with building walls than with building bridges.
It is a women's issue when a woman must travel hours to the only legal abortion provider in the entire state of West Virginia.
It is a women's issue when we are still being paid less - and valued less - than our male counterparts.
It is a women's issue when they continue to say, "There is nothing we can do." at yet another loss of life by gun.
It is a women's issue when there are so many among us still food insecure, health insurance insecure, job insecure, home insecure.
And so, our stance is that we stand for ALL. All people. Women’s rights are human rights.
I wish we could say that these things could be fixed quickly and easily, and we could all return to our lives. But that is a privileged idea, and one we cannot abide.
We must continue. Together.
It has been our great privilege to be a part of this movement with all of you. Thank you for all that you have done, all that you do, and all that you will continue to do.
Happy Birthday, Women’s March West Virginia.