Events, Marches and Demonstration

Women’s March on Seattle Resisting Trump’s Inaguration while Marginalizing Women of Color

In collaboration with nationwide demonstrations, from our capital Washington D.C, Seattle refused to be silent on this 1st day of Trump’s presidency. Women from all walks of life organized and led the 3.6 mile long demonstration from Judkin’s Park to Seattle Center. When I finally arrived at Judkin’s Park, the uphill trek to the meeting location left my asthmatic lungs out of breath. As the crowd began to move, I sat on the curb of the street to set up my camera and drink water, knowing that I’d never fall behind the huge mass. There was no beginning or end as far as the eye could see. The immense group people squoze out of the park like canned sausages. We eagerly approached the street so that we could expand. Estimates before the march predicted at least 50,000 participants, but we gasped in awe at estimates of over 100,000 that were marching with us on this sunny Saturday. The demonstration was said to be the largest of its kind in over 30 years of Seattle history. People who didn’t realize they’d ever be activists couldn’t help but stand in solidarity with their mothers, sisters, daughters and other loved ones in their lives against Trump’s sexist misogyny. We all know that Trump’s focus on hate isn’t exclusively reserved for women. Trump has made hateful statements against Blacks, immigrants, Muslims, the poor, disabled people and other marginalized groups. His campaign, which has been built on ‘protecting’ the millionaire class, has effectively attacked the other 99%. Today we marched in an attempt to stand up and fight back, not only nationally but world-wide. Protests in solidarity were organized in Germany, England, the Philippians, and many other regions. Common Dreams maps of sister marches around the world show an overwhelming illustration of international solidarity. People who lived on the march path joined us on their balcony, one girl playing Bob Marley’s Get up, stand up while pumping her fist while dancing above us. Along the trail speakers stood on wooden planks at different locations giving speeches and restaurants put signs outside their windows in solidarity. The city swarmed with marchers, stopping at restaurants, getting coffee and grabbing snacks at local shops. I’d be interested in seeing how the surge of over 100,000 people benefited Seattle businesses on the march’s path that day. Pink caps flooded the crowd men women and children wore them in solidarity.

 

On the other hand, not everyone was as excited about the event. Many criticized it as a White feminist movement that pushed people of color and our agenda’s into the shadow’s while using our bodies as numbers to push their own causes. Many women of color have been criminalized and killed as a result of violent executive power in the United States. Many activists including myself felt that this act of state violence should be a focus of the march in addition to the focus on sexual abuse and reproductive rights. Personally, although I stand with feminists who emphasize the need for reproductive freedom (like I stand with all marginalized groups), I regret that Black and Brown women were not stood for with the same emphasis. However, there were many individuals that came in solidarity with Black women that have been killed in police custody, as well as with Native American women that have gone missing without justice. We must realize that when we cast individual groups of women into the shadows, all womanhood is at stake.

The march was originally organized by white women as the “Million Women March”, later changing the name and adding women of color as organizers. The march left a bad taste in the mouth of many like Jamillah Lemiux, ” Once again, the labors of Black folks (in this case, the 1995 Million Man March and the 1997 Million Woman March organized by Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam) were being co-opted and erased by clueless White ones. And just what would this “million” women be coming together to march about—their mothers, sisters, homegirls and friends who elected Trump in the first place?” White women did vote Trump into office, 63% in contrast with the 94% of Black women who voted for Clinton. I challenge both groups, in the same way that White women voted for the sexist misogynist, how could we as Black women vote for Clinton? The same women who publicly called our children “super-predators” with the intent of signing on a crime bill that’s fueled the mass-industrial prison complex. Obviously we both voted against our interests, regardless Trump was voted in against the American interest, so we are ALL under threat.

The Women’s March left a lot of people of color feeling outside of the movement. Many critiqued the lack of women of color originally recruited to organize the demonstration. The Women’s March has been criticized for building a White Feminist movement built on the backs of people of color. I completely understood this perspective from the beginning, knowing that it would be difficult to gather 100,000+ people in the Seattle area for Black Lives Matter protests (attendance usually far below even 1,000), but when it came to the threat of white women’s ‘pussy power’ people flooded the streets to protect them. Women of color have always been marginalized in this society, our blood is constantly shed with no justice or protection. Our tears fall among a crowd of silent ears and invisible faces who dare not to stand up for fear of loosing their own privileges. We are caught tangled between in the lies, deceit and injustice our people our forced to navigate everyday.

Being a person of color in a white supremacist society is a daily traumatic experience. 

The reason why I chose to attend the march was because I wanted to see for myself what this demonstration’s ‘movement’ was moving towards. Would it truly embrace the struggles of all women? Would it even be possible? The ignorant innocence of some White women in the face of Trump’s reign is almost laughable. I always chose to view their ignorance as a lack of understanding that has been heavily guarded by White male patriarchy in order to protect the precious positions of power that white privilege have allowed to exist for so long. White men know that if white women snap out of it and realize that they are oppressed within the same system that benefits them, maybe they wouldn’t be so compliant. White women have stood idly by as women of color have been abused throughout the majority of American history, but would this march mark a change in that trend of violence, aided by a silent white female majority. This is where the phrase, silence is violence can be seen in practice. 

Although there were a small percentage of people who brought signs that supported the Black Lives Matter movement, there was a moment where a group of young women tried to start the chant, “Black Lives Matter,” but it wouldn’t catch on. There were people who looked directly at me and still refused to let that chant leave their lips, I wondered why it was so hard. I knew they could hear it just as loudly as I could. Before too long the girls stopped trying as everyone around them refused to join in. Maybe they were shy? or tired? or did they disagree? Regardless, in that moment I realized that “Black Lives Matter” isn’t a chant widely accepted by Women’s March participants, proving that the Women’s March isn’t a place to amplify and lift up the struggles of Black women. Although there were some who used the march as a platform to protest that fact, this was the reason why many Black and Brown women refused to attend, they knew their screams for equity were only small cries under the weight of “Pussy Power!” this was a chant that the marches didn’t hesitate to yell. 

Recently I came across a thread of tweets from Hotke that concisely illustrated the trauma she experienced while participating in the Women’s March on D.C. I felt a personal connection to her story. Like watching marchers refuse to chant, “Black Lives Matter” in that moment I shared her pain, discomfort and displacement. While reading her tweets, I was more angered by the way she was treated at the event. If we were truly inclusive of Native American’s and their experience, then their struggle would have been a central focus of the demonstration, especially with Trump’s recent use of executive action to move forward with the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Like Blacks trying to fight against the genocidal rate of police murders in our community, Native American’s and their stake in this fight has to take a backseat. 

Although I see [and experience] the problems and obstacles associated with being a person of color attending an organized protest centralized around white feminism, its crucial that we as people of color are not only there, but that we also use the space as a platform for awareness or protest. Had Hotke not been present and willing to share her experience, than the enlightenment of thousands of people who’ve read her tweets, would have fallen short. 

The Women’s March was a historic event, I can’t take that away from it, record numbers of participants were calculated in many states and sister marches collaborated worldwide. However, we must understand that this event was historic for White America, white American feminists. Now I call on white America to assist people of color in our protests and demonstrations, help make our numbers historic, asset us in amplifying our struggles and calling out our oppressors, even at the cost of your privilege. For those who don’t know where to start, March 4th in Seattle there will be a Black Lives Matter March for Freedom at Seattle Central College.

As a result of this event, people are more aware of the “invisible hand’ within our democracy that can willingly move against the will of the public majority. Many citizens who were unaware of the electoral college process are now pushing for its removal from our voting process. How could an underlying system vote against 3 million+ individual votes of the people? America definitely showed its ass in this election, proving that there are systematic changes that are needed in our democratic process. Obviously not everyone’s voice is heard in a way that matters. This is why I took to the streets with hundreds of thousands of others in Seattle. Hopefully as we move forward in this country more white women will stand for women of color when the time calls, hopefully we will see more white women at Black Lives Matter rally’s in the future standing with mother’s who’ve lost their sons in the same way we stood with their daughters whose rights are threatened.

You can watch a video I created with footage I captured from the march below

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About Amani Sawari

I am a University of Washington alum, Class of 2016. I graduated with my Bachelors Degree in two majors: Media and Communications AND Law, Economics and Public Policy. It’s a mouthful but it illustrates how I have a hard time doing only one ‘thing’. I am a writer, poet, singer, songwriter and much more. I enjoy sharing my experiences and perspectives with those who are interested and I am a proud member of the black diaspora!

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