So You Marched, Now What?

On January 21, I, along with millions of other people, took part in the Women’s March on Washington. It was an amazing and fulfilling experience. Before I even traveled to DC for the march I had my doubts as to whether I should attend. As I waited for the bus on inauguration day, I called my mom to let her know I was going. While I expected her to be a typical latina mom and say “Ay, mijo! It’s going to be dangerous there, don’t go!” I received the exact opposite as she said, “I’m proud of you mijo. I’m proud that you are going to protest on behalf of oppressed people.” My bus was supposed to arrive in DC at 8:30pm, but instead we got there at 10:40pm. We could have arrived at 5am and I still would have been ready to march because that conversation with my mom motivated me in a way only moms know how.

The day of the march I woke up a little late because the “Welcome to DC” greeting I received from my cousin was a little too spirited. Nevertheless, nursing moderate hangovers, we hopped on the Metro and ventured to the march. They say everything happens for a reason and that was the case with us arriving three hours late. When we got off the Metro and started marching, we found ourselves amidst a crowd of about 70 indigenous people marching in solidarity with Standing Rock and other encroachments of Native land. My cousin and I marched to the beat of various drums and were propelled by a song many in the group hummed. The words of the song were foreign to me, but its language of resistance was powerful and clear. The one phrase I understood was, “water is life” and I couldn’t agree more, considering water composes 60% of our bodies.

My day was filled with other great moments, but it became clear that while we all marched in the name of women, we all had different grievances to air; however, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It was pretty cathartic to march in front of the White House and shout, “We will not go away, welcome to your first day.” It was also great to see so many people who shared my disgust with how this new administration is shaping up. However, we can only have true systemic change when all of us translate our grievances into sustained action. The Women’s March on Washington was a great tool to get everyone’s attention; now we must capitalize on that attention.

There are four major ways to keep the momentum from the march going:

1) Call your senators and representatives

Yes, this type of action sounds very dated and cliche, but it can be effective. In a long series of tweets, Emily Ellsworth, a former congressional staffer, discussed how one day her office was so inundated with phone calls regarding immigration policy that they had to bring those grievances to the representatives, which stimulated discussion within the office. If a few hundred people in one district call one office on a particular day regarding the same issue, it will certainly have an effect.

To find out who your local representatives are, click here.

To find out who your state senators are, click here.

2) Stay informed and help others do the same

One tool that consistently irritates Trump is the media so let’s continue to use it. Whether it’s via conventional or social media, be sure to stay informed about issues concerning our country and the Trump administration. For example, on the first day of his presidency, Trump repealed an Obama executive action for first time home owners that would have saved FHA homeowners an average of $500 a year. In California that average is as high as $860 a year. For a president that pledged to fight for the “common man,” making it harder for people to buy homes runs counter to his campaign rhetoric. If we do not stay informed about this administration’s decisions, we remain ignorant and make their lives much easier. In the five days since his inauguration, Trump has advanced the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, defunded NPR and banned free speech from the EPA. We cannot allow his administration’s “alternative facts” to become accepted as facts. So when you hear about events and laws concerning issues you care about, read up on them, share it with your friends, and ensure that we are all well informed.

3) Participate in organizations that fight for issues you care about

We all have various issues that are close to our hearts and we have to decide as individuals which we are willing to spend our time and money on. Whether it’s the prison industrial complex, racial injustice, climate change, etc., pull up Google and find organizations in your area that fight for the cause of your choice and get involved. If you’re feeling particularly anarchistic and have the white privilege to withstand intense levels of activism, maybe even consider joining a black bloc at the next protest. No matter what you choose, get involved and stick with it. The Women’s March on Washington is making that easy by launching its 10 actions 100 days campaign and this twitter handle will help make sure you actually do the actions.

4) Plan For 2018

If the Koch-fueled Tea Party could sweep elections in 2010, then a people-fueled movement can certainly overtake America in 2018. Organizations like Swing Left are already thinking about the 2018 election cycle so that we can sway the political pendulum to a more reasonable side. Now you may be thinking, “I’m not happy with the GOP or the DNC.” Perfect. Start organizing now and whatever party you’d like to promote can make headway by 2018. Currently the GOP controls the White House, Congress, and Senate, which makes checks and balances very difficult. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for reelection and so are 33 senatorial seats. Let’s capitalize on this opportunity.

All of these actions may not be for everyone, but some combination of them is surely suitable for most. President Obama said it best in his farewell address.

Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try to talk with one in real life. If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose.

If you’re like me and want to see this country move in the right direction, we must act now and sustain it for the years to come. It is much better to have tried and failed than do nothing and complain about the way things end up. We all have to figure out where we stand and the sooner the better.