Do you ever have a burning passion inside of you, a passion that makes your heart beat so fast, truly believing that one day you can change the world. I used to fight this feeling, as if it was unrealistic, as if my voice didn’t matter, as if our world was and is too screwed up for even the largest groups of people to positively and effectively change it. This changed the minute I stepped onto the streets of DC on January 21 at the Women’s March.
I’ve always considered myself an activist, but my activism for the better part of my life has been restricted to social media posts and an occasional dinner conversation during the holidays. I often became frustrated with myself for not doing more, for sitting back and commenting as events unraveled right before my eyes, events that broke my heart. Sure, getting an equal love tattoo might mean something to me, but how are other people affected by that? Dickinson allowed me to turn this passion into something tangible, surrounding myself with resilient and empowered individuals, individuals that recognize how important even one voice can be.
As my group and I were walking down the streets of DC with our pussy hats and signs, trying to find our way to the train, we were cheered on by numerous individuals from all directions. Whether they were walking across the street from us or honking as they slowed down to give us a huge smile and a look of hope, I felt the energy of that day the minute I stepped outside. What I didn’t realize is that I wasn’t even close to being prepared for what was to come.
Stepping onto the Amtrak train, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Train after train passed through the station, packed to the absolute brim with the nastiest of women and men. It took my friends and I three shuttles to be able to throw our bodies into this energetic and hopeful crowd. Women, men, children, the elderly, you name it, I was surrounded by determined, empowered individuals, not afraid of who they were or what people may believe their limitations were, just like my friends and I. As squished, claustrophobic and nauseating as it was, every single individual on that train knew that we were on the road to making history.
Absolutely nobody held their tongue at that march that day. I was privileged to hear from the most badass, determined, and unapologetic individuals such as Alicia Keys, Gloria Steinem, America Ferrera, Sophie Cruz, Madonna, Zarah Billoo, Cecile Richards and more. They refused to be silent and they encouraged us to speak up. One speech that was particularly powerful to me was given by Michael Moore. Mr. Moore emphasized using one’s voice to defy the silence and speak up, to do much more than simply sharing posts on Facebook, for change will only come when we speak out about what we hope to be changed and most importantly, DO something about it. As he chanted out (202) 225-3121, ten little digits, the number to Congress, to our local representatives, I realized how imperative it was that I was standing among thousands of my fellow humans that day. He urged us to use our voices, because together, our voices are a lot more powerful than we may think. That day, we were doing exactly this.
The great Malala Yousafzai once said, “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” I marched that day unapologetically, with no hatred in my heart. I marched that day because love wins. I marched because I want individuals all over the world to feel safe, to feel wanted, to feel appreciated, to feel loved for nothing less than exactly who they are. My friends and family often call me a dreamer, sometimes with a slightly negative connotation. Never in my entire life have I ever considered this part of myself negative, and I never will. It is who I am; it is where this burning passion lives; it is where it thrives. I didn’t march for one particular person or against one particular person that day, I marched because I believe in love, I believe in the love of humanity. I absolutely believe one person can make a difference in this world and it’s about damn time we start standing up for what we believe in, what we know is right. One step at a time, I marched for the LGBTQ+ community, for Planned Parenthood, for immigrants who don’t feel welcome in our country, for Trayvon Martin. I marched because all lives matter, I marched because violence is never the answer, I marched and stood up and chanted and sang and yelled and smiled and laughed and cheered for those who do not have a voice, for those who are silenced. I marched because I will never give up hope. I marched because that is who I am.
Today, I say screw it. Today, I am fully succumbed to this passion, a blood rushing through my veins, head rush, fingertips tingling, feet moving, heart booming kind of passion. I am who I am and you are who you are. We must love and accept; we must treat others like human beings. Life is too damn short not to live it the way you want. What individuals often fail to consider is that as fellow human beings, as beautiful people living on this beautiful earth, doing beautiful things, we are all responsible for one another. Unity has never failed and is absolutely always the answer. Never in my entire life have I felt more a part of a community than on that cold, damp day in Washington, DC.
So today, open your eyes and don’t just look at someone, see them. See them for who they are, human beings, just as you are. We are all one and until we realize that, I’m afraid we may continue to struggle. I often think about the world that I hope my children will grow up in one day, and it’s not the one we are living in right now. Never in a million years would I want my children to be afraid of being exactly who they are, of feeling the need to conform to our heteronormative, homophobic, xenophobic society. I will be teaching my children to be themselves, to express themselves, to love themselves, to learn, grow, teach and prosper. I will always look back on that January day and know that I made history along with thousands of other individuals, hoping for nothing more than peace and a whole lot of love. As thousands of my fellow nasty women and men and I chanted, “all love, no hate, that’s what makes America great,” I became proud of our country. America is a beautiful place with beautiful people, with beautiful hopes and aspirations. I found these people at this march and I have found these people in my life at Dickinson. So, get up, call Congress, march, chant, stand strong, but don’t succumb to the silence, don’t fall prisoner to it, do something about it. Make your mark on this world, one march — one action — at a time.
Written by Olivia Lyman ’19