Reflections on The Women’s March on Washington by Katja Vujic and Christine Lavosky

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photo by Christine Lavosky

Katja Vujic: On November 9, I woke up at 7 a.m., though I didn’t have class until 10. I’d spent the day before, Election Day, avoiding all coverage. I’d sat on the hill in the Common in the dusky afternoon light and had a light picnic with my friends. It was the most pleasant day I’d had in a while. I think something in the back of my mind knew that I needed to squeeze every moment of relatively carefree happiness out of that final day before the storm.

When I woke up November 9, I braced myself before opening my email where I get a daily summary of top news sent to my inbox. I read the election results. I cried for a long time. I called my mom. I cried some more. I went to class and cried there too. And then I threw myself into finals and things were temporarily okay. I fixated on the hope that maybe the members of the electoral college would save us come December 19. But they didn’t, and when I went home to Nashville for winter break, I felt stuck, helpless, and incredibly small.

At this point, I was only marginally aware of the Women’s March on Washington D.C. I’d seen a few headlines, and I’d commented on posts in the Emerson Peace and Social Justice (EPSJ) Facebook group about interest in getting transportation to the march. Christine was an EPSJ member who had made a few posts about getting a bus, and on January 2, I messaged her asking if I could help organize.

Christine Lavosky: My memories of the night of the election, though it was only two and a half months ago, are already spotty, disconnected. The details I do remember take me a few moments to conjure up out of their blackened depths. I remember sitting in my living room for hours, doing homework fruitlessly. The distraction of checking the election results perpetually lingered in my mind, interrupted my thoughts. My roommates and I sat on our weathered couches in our Allston apartment, becoming more and more anxious, disillusioned, and shocked at the election results. Around midnight I told myself I wouldn’t let Trump interrupt my sleep. And yet, he did, and not solely for that night, but for that entire week. Trump’s victory and its implications about the American population had a far larger effect on me than I ever imagined they would. But truly, I never thought about how I would feel if Trump were elected because, like many Americans, I simply never truly believed it had any potential of happening.

For about a week, I could think of almost nothing but the women, people of color, immigrants, and Muslim Americans who felt powerless, disenfranchised, and targeted in our country. I cried at the drop of a hat. I cried while reading news articles about Muslim women who no longer felt safe wearing their hijabs in public, and after my roommate, an Indian American woman, told me she was thinking about moving back to Canada after graduating because she no longer felt safe in the U.S. And then there were the many times I wanted to cry–while feeling the tension on the T, or talking about the election in class–but suppressed the urge because of the public setting.

Just as sadness was turning into anger, I heard about the Women’s March on Washington D.C. My ears perked up when I heard Megan Cathey, one of the co-presidents of EPSJ, announce that another Emerson student, Marni Zipper, had been in contact with an organizer for transportation to the march and that she was working towards getting Emerson students there. I knew from this first moment, before even knowing any details, that I had to attend. I knew that by whatever means possible, I had to get there, and wanted a group of Emerson students to march beside me. Attending a post-election protest in Boston had ignited a reactive fire within me that propelled me to fight for my rights and for those of others, for a government that valued love, tolerance, acceptance, and equality for all over money, greed, superiority, senseless division, exclusion, and capitalism.

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photo by Morgan Sung

When I learned Marni had only begun the process of organizing a group, as she was spending the next semester abroad and could not attend the march herself, I felt energized and ready to take the task on myself. Unfortunately with the stress of finals I did not begin organizing Emerson’s transportation to the march as early as I could have. It was not until the day after Christmas that I posted on Facebook in several Emerson groups trying to gauge how much interest there was in attending the march. Seeing my posts, Katja got in touch with me. I was ecstatic to have a partner in what I knew would be a difficult–not to mention last-minute–endeavor.

KV: After messaging Christine, I got to work: I contacted over twenty bus companies for quotes, and I started inquiring for interviews. My plan was to write a piece for Your Mag to raise awareness and interest, and to show that Emerson students could and would fill a bus to DC if one was made available. I also started a GoFundMe page, and Christine and I both emailed President Lee Pelton on the off chance that we could convince the school to help fund our effort.

While conducting phone interviews for the Your Mag article and transcribing as fast as I could, email responses from local bus companies poured in. All were sold out. Finally, as I was writing the article, I got a new response: Greyhound had a bus. It would cost over $4,000, but we had a bus.

I was going to try my best, but I was fully preparing myself for the more likely possibility that it would all fall through. I posted my article, I shared the GoFundMe everywhere I could think to, and I kept myself busy with preparations for my trip back to school.

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Emerson protestors in front of the Capitol – photo by Christine Lavosky

CL: We both admitted to ourselves that at this late stage, we were unlikely to get funding for our trip. These skeptical opinions made us all the more shocked and overjoyed when numerous offices and a student organization on campus contributed funding toward the trip. We were – and continue to be – so grateful for the contributions from the President’s office, The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, The Elma Lewis Center, The Office of Academic Affairs, The Office of Student Life, and Emerson Peace and Social Justice. Without them, we could not have made it to the march.

KV: After that, it was kind of a whirlwind. I got back to Emerson on January 8, and on January 11 we got the confirmation that we were fully funded. A sigh of relief, followed by a flurry of Facebook posts and messages; we needed to get forty-eight students registered for the trip by that Friday, and we needed two faculty members to agree to accompany us.

And we did. On the following Tuesday, just three days before the bus was meant to pick us up, the payment was submitted. It was really happening. Those three days were full of frantic phone calls and even more frantic emails to Andy Donahue, assistant director of Student Life, who graciously kept adding students to the trip registration up until a few hours before the bus’s departure.

I didn’t believe the bus would really come until I saw it, clutching my neck pillow and trying to figure out how to organize everyone boarding the bus. Cara Moyer-Duncan and Bill Palumbo, our two faculty advisors, deserve endless praise for taking the reins and getting everyone situated, and reminding me that yeah, I should probably count how many people are on this bus!

At about 5:30 a.m. on January 21, a bus of forty-nine Emersonians arrived in Washington, D.C. And on that day, for the first time since November, I felt powerful. “He works for us now,” said one of the speakers, and something clicked. There were steps to take. There was organizing to do. It wasn’t the last day of my journey to the march; it was my first day taking part in the movement. I was surrounded by people who were there for the same reasons I was, and we were joined by marchers all over the U.S. and all over the globe.

CL: The day of the march, all fifty of us ambled off the bus, running on a few hours of slumber and large adrenaline reserves. I could feel the energy of the million pink pussy-hatted figures I would later march beside. I breathed in the feelings of solidarity and rabble-rousing to come as we made the twenty-minute trek from Union Station to Independence and Third St., the site of the beginning of the march. There we spoke with other earlybirds, commenting on each other’s posters, sharing the great distances we’d traveled and why it was so important for us to travel them. We stood with an ever-growing sea of sisters–women who, in most other situations, we would have called strangers–and listened to impassioned speakers including Gloria Steinem, Ashley Judd, and Cecile Richards. We stood together, shoulder to shoulder as the speakers, and our shared feminist energy, inspired and inflamed us with the power to continue fighting for our cause.

KV: I cried again that day, listening to America Ferrera, Sophie Cruz, Janet Mock, and Angela Davis, who just a few months ago spoke at Emerson. I cried first in despair and then with joy. And then I marched with crowds swarming in all directions. It was a grey, foggy day and we covered every street in sight with bright colors and loud voices.

The march was not without its issues; the focus on reproductive rights combined with response to the infamous “Grab them by the pussy” comment resulted in a lot of genitalia-centered rhetoric, and there was little discussion of trans women or the fact that sex and gender are not the same. Though we heard from a diverse group of speakers, there has been criticism of the march as leaning too heavily on mainstream white feminism. Those are discussions that are important to have; as we continue this movement we should always be examining ourselves, both individually and collectively, and working on unity and inclusivity.

Ultimately, though, the experience was moving, empowering and, at the risk of sounding corny, genuinely life-changing for me. I’m so glad that we were able to represent Emerson on an enormously historic day such as this one.

Now I feel ready to take this on. It’s going to be hard. Already, Trump has signed off on some devastating executive orders. Already, I’m starting to feel afraid again. But there is so much to be done, and we will do it.

CL: The most important message of this historical moment–the largest protest in U.S. history– was that it cannot be confined to a one-day event. We must not hang up our marching shoes and our pussy hats now that we’ve returned home. The day after the march, I woke up in a daze. Although I was hungry and badly in need of a shower, the first thing I did was grab my posters from the march and tack them up on the wall right behind my door. Every time I leave my bedroom, they’ll remind me to keep fighting for the rights that women, immigrants, Muslim Americans, the working class, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people deserve. They’ll remind me that the march is not over. The fanged black cat on one of my posters will wink at me and say, “Peace out pussy cat, stay nasty out there.”

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Emerson women at the march – photo by Christine Lavosky

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