“Fired Up, Ready to Go”: Messages from the Women’s Marches

Last Saturday, Jan 21st, women-led protests took place nationwide and globally.

According to data gathered by political scientists Erica Chenoweth at the University of Denver and Jeremy Pressman at the University of Connecticut and published by Vox.com, the demonstrations boasted record-breaking numbers with an estimated 3.7 million people attending in the United States alone. Protesters, most of them women, marched to promote numerous intersectional human rights causes, such as women’s, LGBTQ, minority, immigration and reproductive rights, as a response to the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Six UVa-Wise students who marched now share their experience: Two students, Josi Stidham and Bailey Christoforatos, attended the Women’s March on Washington, while four students, McKenna Blevins, Sharmae Stringfield, Georgia Horne and Kara Dotten, protested at the Women’s March on Asheville.

I was excited to get to the rally early and hear the feminist icons speak, but when I arrived at the metro station, I found myself in a line of well over a thousand people. This was two hours before the first speaker! It was then that I realized the scale of the march. I had read that

Josi Stidham and Bailey Christoforatos at the Washington, D.C., Women’s March
Josi Stidham and Bailey Christoforatos at the Washington, D.C., Women’s March

200,000 people would be in attendance, and even though the numbers were more than double that, I could have never anticipated the number of people I saw. You couldn’t escape the march. Women, men, children in strollers and senior citizens covered Washington. Even though the streets were crowded and the lines were long, I have never been surrounded by more courteous people. It seemed as though there was such unity between us all. We all marched together, for each other, for those who couldn’t march and for those who chose not to. – Josi Stidham, UVa-Wise junior

It was a last minute decision to attend the Womens March on Washington. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to make history with my mother and one of my good friends. Every individual should have the same opportunities and should be treated with the same respect regardless of gender association, race and relationship preference. It was a life-changing experience and I hope that I can participate in all of the Womens Marches to come! – Bailey Christoforatos, UVa-Wise senior

Attending the Womens March on Asheville was one of the most positive experiences of my life. To be surrounded by such strong and empowered women of all ages left me with an amazing feeling of hope and belonging. I was humbled, overwhelmed and unbelievably proud of all my sisters and brothers who are willing to stand up for the rights of not only females, but of all humans. Together we really can make a difference in the world, but it starts with our voice and our right to demonstrate peacefully. – McKenna Blevins, UVa-Wise senior

I didnt have the chance to make any specific displays, so when I got to the Womens March on Asheville, I wished I was better prepared, because all the signs and other intentional displays of protest were so powerful. However, I did manage to remember to bring a pink headband. Standing with the crowd, I have never been more proud to wear pink. I used to view it as an oppressive color, but this brought this color back into my life in a new light. After all, nasty women wear pink. 

McKenna Blevins, Sharmae Stringfield, Georgia Horne, Bailey Helbert and Kara Dotten at the Asheville, N.C. Women’s March.
McKenna Blevins, Sharmae Stringfield, Georgia Horne, Bailey Helbert and Kara Dotten at the Asheville, N.C.
Women’s March.

As soon as we reached Asheville, I was eagerly looking out the window at every person’s face. You could tell who were on their way to the March at first glance. My excitement grew when I saw this precious family in the parking lot, holding signs. It was refreshing to see a family on this political outing with their heads held as high as their energy levels. As I approached Pack Square, you could hear a mass of people ahead. I wanted to get close enough to hear the speakers, but I got distracted by all the creative signs and clothing surrounding me. There were people on roofs, parking garages, Vance monument, and even on a light pole. 

Never had I felt so much love and security amongst such a large crowd of strangers, only they were not strangers. They were my sisters (and some brothers). This powerful body of women’s marchers will forever stick with me. There is this amazing feeling to be a part of political impact as an everyday citizen. It leaves me fired up…ready to go get more politically involved. It motivates me to resist being silent. We will be heard. We will fight for our human rights. – Sharmae Stringfield, UVa-Wise senior

The Women’s March on Asheville was the first march I had ever been to. I went because the beliefs represented at this march are ones that I hold near to my heart, beliefs that I have fiercely supported since I was a little girl. I often struggle with when I should or should not speak out against something I don’t like, and the Women’s March gave me the perfect place to use my voice and speak out on the rights I feel so strongly about. The march itself was better than I had ever hoped; I had never experienced such a sense of belonging anywhere else, nor the bond I felt with the other women, friends or total strangers. – Georgia Horne, UVa-Wise Early College Academy

Imagine being surrounded by a small group of women who promise to support one another with kindness and acceptance. Now imagine being surrounded by 7,000. Attending the Women’s March on Asheville was one of the most empowering and inspiring moments of my life. When I arrived at the march I was swallowed into the sea of powerful women chanting, “The people united can never be divided,” which, upon looking around, gave me hope for the next four years. Women of different races, ages and backgrounds stood together with a collective message: We are united, and we will not be silenced. We have decided to stop belittling ourselves, to stop claiming that we “aren’t like other girls.” We have decided to join hands and lift one another up instead, sending the message that we are like other girls in that we will not quietly sit down. This march was just the beginning. – Kara Dotten, UVa-Wise junior

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