Our Historic March: Senior Erin Perry Shares her Experiences from the Women’s March on Washington

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Maeba Jonas, Jamie Haskins and 11 Westminster students marched with me in our nation’s capital last month. PHOTO BY ERIN PERRY.

BY ERIN PERRY
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR 

As a Westminster student, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the Women’s March on Washington in Washington, D.C., two weekends ago. What began as an idea for a ‘field trip’’ for my independent study with the Rev. Jamie Haskins and classmate Mahogany Thomas, ’16, blossomed into a beautiful, diverse group of students journeying together toward the city of purpose and power to demand that American women-disabled, black, Muslim, Christian, queer, poor and everything in between-will and must be heard.


Like any trip with two chaplains and 12 students, the road to Washington began with questions of reflection and purpose and how we would continue moving forward without a functioning car phone charger.

We each shared individually why we felt called to make the 14-plus-hour trip to the nation’s capital. Some had experienced a passionate response to the last election cycle’s rhetoric against individuals living on the margins–people of color, Latinx/Hispanic communities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, folks with differing abilities, women. They felt empowered by collective action to speak up.

Others felt compelled to march for the important women in their own lives—their professors, their sisters or their mothers. Some of us felt compelled to march because we knew that we had an incredible opportunity to be a part of history.

We were all aware that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We shared a general anxiety about what tone the march might have, with strangers from across the country gathered and crammed together. However, we knew that the people committed to our trip were committed to one another.

We knew that we were all compassionate enough to sit and sleep together in a cramped van and on bare floors, despite going five days without a shower. We found community in each other and in the thousands of women of all ages, shapes and colors who we passed on the road and those who honked when they saw the signs in our windows and the pink pussyhats on our heads.

The Women’s March on Washington  and sister marches across the country have challenged women and men to think harder about how we are called to work together, not just for ourselves and “our” issues, especially in the years to come.

When I asked her how it felt to be in D.C. for the weekend, a member of our trip, Westminster student Shayla Doran, ’20, responded enthusiastically.

“To be in D.C., the nation’s capital, with all that history and importance and buzz around me, that was awesome,” Doran said. “To be in the march in D.C.? I mean, obviously, I felt like I was with history in the making. But it really opened my eyes to my privilege. I also feel like I am justified in getting mad over things like racist or belittling comments or catcalling or sexual innuendo or the fact that women aren’t paid as much as men, you know? Because I’ve seen and walked alongside millions of women who are victims of that and so much more. I feel like being in the march in D.C. meant more to me than just being in D.C.”

We were graciously welcomed to stay in the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church  downtown  for the weekend. We quickly learned that the church was once a stage for Martin Luther King Jr., the church of Abraham Lincoln and a refuge for Vietnam War protestors. Both during and outside of the march, we were surrounded by reminders of the importance of the fight for justice and that justice for women can take many forms.

Olivia Wilson, ’19, spoke to the powerful message in the Women’s March on Washington’s platform, that ‘‘our liberation is bound in each other’s.’’

“My favorite part of the entire trip was seeing and experiencing firsthand the power of unity,” Wilson said. “Although these hundreds of thousands of people were from all over the U.S., from all walks of life, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, from different religions and races, collectively, we all believed in the ideas of equality and justice for all.

I loved seeing the variety of signs at the protest, because it helped provide a visual of what 21st century, third- wave feminism looks like today. Feminism is no longer specific to white, upper-class women; it applies to women (and men) from all races and income levels, and encompasses a number of small sub-issues. Black Lives Matter is a women’s issue. Clean water is a women’s issue. Reproductive healthcare is a women’s issue. Immigration is a women’s issue.”

In many ways, we were prepared as students of Westminster to understand the importance of intersectionality and the expansion of traditional “women’s issues” due to the efforts of the Resources, Equality, Support and Tolerance Center workers, the Remley interns and the programming of the Center for Faith and Service. Westminster College has always praised diversity in the background, identity and thought of its students, challenging us to think critically about service and justice in our world today.

The Women’s March on Washington  and sister marches across the country have challenged women and men to think harder about how we are called to work together, not just for ourselves and “our” issues, especially in the years to come.

Feminism is no longer specific to white, upper-class women; it applies to women (and men) from all races and income levels, and encompasses a number of small sub-issues.

I am thankful for the amazing women in my life who inspire me daily, but even more so for the incredible women who made it possible for me to be a part of history. The Center for Faith and Service has flourished this year, as its members have combined faith, community engagement and diversity to inspire students, faculty, and staff to think critically about how we serve one another as members of a larger community.

Wilson, referring to two of the directors of the Center for Faith and Service and co-organizers of the trip, said, “Maeba Jonas and Jamie Haskins are amazing people, and Westminster is very blessed to have them.”

Although all of us who attended the march reflected on our way home how this opportunity had changed our lives and attitudes about justice work, the march alone can never represent the ways in which Haskins, Jonas and Program Director of Intercultural Engagement Lejla Dervišević have inspired and encouraged students to love more, act better and be better. These are the incredible women who gave us purpose. We marched because of them; we marched with them, and we marched for them.

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