My Chicago friends will ask me why I marched for women’s rights and social justice in Chattanooga. The short answer is that’s where we were when the 2018 Women’s March occurred. I wished that I was home in Chicago for this occasion, but I was glad that my husband and I marched in Chattanooga because it turned all the stereotypes I had of the South on their heads. We need to shake up our assumptions every so often to stay alive.
As we entered Coolidge Park, I told myself that I would be glad to march with the 100 to 200 people that would brave marching in this small (population about 175,000) Southern city. I told myself not to be afraid of the police or the bystanders who would be jeering at us.
We walked into the park where the warm- up rally was taking place. A singer revved us up covering Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T and then I turned around. People kept coming. They were old and young. They were predominantly white but there were some people of color, too. There were men and women. Everyone mingled comfortably.
Then we marched over the bridge into downtown and back over the bridge back to the park. The people kept coming – about 6,000 of them. I didn’t see any police. Nobody on the sidelines jeered. On the contrary, people in the crowds waved and many driving by honked signaling their support.
We talked to people who told us about Democratic women candidates who are running for office in areas where Democrats hadn’t run before. Some said they were in small minorities in their towns. The fact that all these people were there was testament that they were a much larger minority than I thought they were. Students told us they would definitely register to vote. A woman walked with her daughter and granddaughter in a stroller. She said, “I told her [her granddaughter] with tears in my eyes that by the time she went to school, we would have a different president.”
I only hope that she is able to keep her promise because there was so much to march for.
I marched to raise my voice to warn the current occupier of the White House that I won’t accept America becoming a Fascist state. I marched to demand respect for all Americans regardless of gender, ability level, skin color, origin, religious affiliation or lack thereof, or sexual orientation. Lastly, I marched to demand that we don’t give up. That we go to the polls in droves in November.
For the first time since November 8, 2016, I acted on these values with hope. When T. got elected, I thought that America was headed to Fascism and we would have to emigrate. For the first time, I’m hopeful that may not happen. If people who hadn’t marched before can march in Chattanooga and cities throughout America, maybe there is hope. Maybe America will regain its ideals. Maybe America can be America again. We all have to keep demanding it – Together.