I have started a post every morning since the march and then failed to share it because it felt inadequate. There were so many emotions about the event itself and they have been overwhelmed by the many emotions I’ve had since (45s first week in office has been painful and scary).
I was very honest leading up to the Women’s March about the ways in which I feared it would fail women of color and all of us living on the farthest ends of the margins. It was a march started by White women and while that is not an inherently wrong thing it has so often proven to birth very limited acts of justice that only serve those with the greatest proximity to whiteness and respectability.
We saw that reality manifested in the ways that organizers of the march kept having to walk back mistakes after failing to consider those in the greatest need for justice (for example: sex workers).
Hear this, some incredible Women of Color joined the national and local planning committees. I’m so grateful to them for their energy and commitment. But there were still many issues and, even if there hadn’t been, organizers cannot determine the actions of the attendees. In a space so White, People of Color simply know we have to prepare ourselves for the onslaught of microaggressions, erasure, and disrespect.
This was what I was hoping to avoid and so it was nearly midnight the night before when I finally decided that I would participate. I did this only after I learned there would be a group of Indigenous people marching under the banner of #IndigenousWomenRise. This gave me hope that my presence and voice wouldn’t be washed away in a sea of white womanhood and pink pussy hats. That’s how I found myself, in the middle of the night, sitting on my living room floor surrounded by my paints and brushes. I wanted to make a sign that showed Venezuelan and Indigenous pride (and my love for a good arepa).
Even though I could meet up with the indigenous group,I didn’t want to go to the march alone and I struggled to find someone who would march with me at such a late hour. Most of the People of Color I knew had left DC altogether and all of the white people already had plans to march with friends. I texted a few people that had invited me to join them and asked if any would join me instead so that I could be with People of Color without having to risk marching alone.
My friend Shiri stepped up in a way that meant the world. She broke plans to be with all of our friends that day as an act of allyship with me. She very intentionally took herself out of her comfort zone and her place of camaraderie so that I could safely be in mine. It was such a simple and important choice and is one of the most obvious examples of solidarity at personal expense a White person has shown me in my own life.
To compound the blessing, I heard back from two Latinx friends who also wanted to join me- Lauren Ileana Sotolongo, who is Cubana, and Fabiola Rondón Delgado, a fellow Venezolana.
On 3 1/2 hours sleep, I woke up before the sun and made my way to the waterfront where an Indigenous women-led prayer circle was being held. Our tiny circle of 10 sat on a wet stone ground by the park’s labyrinth. We talked, prayed, and blessed one another with sage before parting ways and heading to the March.
Shiri, Lauren, Fabiola and I had made plans to meet at the Indigenous circle in front of the American Indian Museum. DC was overcome by people that morning and it was at least an hour before I was actually able to make my way to the front of the museum and even longer before a single one of us found each other.
I was so uncomfortable with my experience during that time that I nearly gave up and rushed to the safety of my home. I have participated in many marches, rallies, and protests over the years. I’m used to crowds and energy and many many many more people of color. When you march for Black Lives Matter, or immigrant rights, or Indigenous sovereignty, you don’t see this many white faces (Perhaps we will now, hmm?).
There were other PoC there but, overwhelmingly, I was surrounded by white women and it scared me. The hats and the appropriative “Women’s Lives Matter” signs did not help. Also, I was just plain weirded out by dancing cops who seemed to have forgotten their riot gear at home (I have a feeling that’s the first and last time I’m going to
When I finally found the Indigenous circle and my friends, it shifted the entire tone of the experience for me.
I suddenly had the calming comfort of looking into other brown faces and hearing them shout, sing, and pray the concerns of my own heart. I got to watch my friend from Standing Rock, Raymond L Kingfisher, lead us in song. I had the beautiful experience of dancing with other Indigenous women- alongside another Venezolana, Fabiola (there aren’t a lot of us in the U.S. so I don’t have pleasures like that often).
But I also had to watch as three young white women stood on the wall overlooking our circle and sing-shouted the words to “This land is our land. This land is your land…” Sisters, really?
I had to struggle to hear elders speak while white people stood around me chattering, “oh, what’s this? What’s happening? It’s Indians! I wonder what kind they are. Look at what they’re wearing!”
(We are not an art or history exhibit)
When we finally started marching and folks linked arms to create a protective circle around our drummers and dancers, we had to repeatedly endure the disrespect of other marchers shoving their way through the obvious barrier and walking straight through our lines.
Cameras were shoved in the faces of dancers as others had to step forth and say, “did you even ask? Do you have permission to photograph her?”
Our chants of “Mni Wiconi! Water is life” were diluted by people next to us, not reading the room, and attempting to shout “Show us what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!”
And so it went… The ENTIRE time we marched.
So, yes, I went to the march. It was powerful and it was history in the making. It was also very very white and exhausting and not really for me or mine.
We made our spaces like an act of defiance. We so often have to do things this way and, when we cry out, we are branded divisive and angry. I suppose we should just learn to be more grateful for the simple invitation…
Anyhow, see you at the next protest for murdered trans women of color! Right?