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“We will keep marching,” say CDDHS grads

January 27, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Brock Weir

 

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of women and men from around the world took to the streets for their city’s Women’s March, designed to send a message to the newly minted U.S. President Donald Trump.

One of the largest crowds gathered in Washington D.C. just hours after Friday’s inauguration turning the streets of the American capital into a sea of pink – among them, recent Centre Dufferin District High School graduates Brandy Davis and Alessandra Schlums.

Describing the experience as one of the most “incredible” moments of their lives, the young women say they were compelled to take the trip to Washington for issues much larger than themselves.

“I first heard about the March online a couple of weeks before and, as the time came closer to the day, we realised the trip was something we needed to do,” says Alessandra, 20, who is now studying mechatronics engineering at the University of Waterloo. “The reason I wanted to participate in the March was mainly powered by small events in my everyday life, such as the online negative comments and social media postings regarding the issues we marched for. Although people always say to ignore those and move on, I don’t believe this. Ignoring dismisses them, and they also have the power to influence others.”

Among those issues, says Brandy, is political rhetoric that has shown potential discrimination against people of colour, as well as the LGBTQ+ community.  Brandy, 19, who is studying sociology and psychology at Queen’s University, says Alessandra approached her to attend the Women’s March. This was the first time she had heard of it, and the deeper she delved into the root issues, the more eager she was to take part.

“I consider myself an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, and so this March was an opportunity to show my support to the American people,” she says. “Since coming to university, I have taken many classes in the Gender Studies department and I have learned in depth about the discrimination towards people of colour and LGBTQ+ people around the world. While studying this, I have learned about the progress society has made regarding equality to people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community, but with some of Donald Trump’s policies threatening this progress, I knew I had to go to Washington to try and help support those people whose rights and freedoms are being threatened.”

And that support, says Brandy, was warmly received on the ground. One of their most memorable experiences was pausing for a photo as they approached the U.S. Capitol. They stopped and made a deal with a fellow demonstrator that if they took her photo she would take theirs.

Then, the woman saw the sign Brandy and Alessandra were carrying, which said, “Sisters of the North.”

“Before I could finish [telling her where we were from] she grabbed my hand, squeezed it tight, and thanked us for being there,” recalls Brandy. “She told us that it meant so much to her that we came from so far to support somethings so near to her heart. Before they left, the lady I was talking to hugged me, thanked me once more, and said, ‘Welcome to Washington.’ That struck me so hard because I had no idea that my presence there would be so appreciated.

“I did not know what to expect when going to Washington. In fact, I was a little nervous that going there was putting myself in danger, since the day before there were such violent protests. However, there was not one act of violence or hate. It was just one big ‘love-in’ and the interaction we had with those ladies was just one small example of that.”

Alessandra agrees that the common refrain of “thank you” was a very memorable takeaway.

“They were almost surprised that Canadians would cross the border to attend the March,” she says. “I think a lot of it has to do with people associating these issues with the American President. Although he has been the cause of an increase in public racism, sexism, etc. These are worldwide issues, and have always been around, but Trump has only heightened them.”

Of course, an American President’s term of office is four years and Alessandra and Brandy say there is still work to be done.

“This was not a one-day movement, so we will keep marching,” says Alessandra. “Every day we all need to be making progress with these issues, especially now that Trump is president and he has already re-introduced the ban on international funding for abortions. Millions of people in developing countries use dangerous abortion methods when they don’t have the funds. Without American funding, this number will increase.”

Adds Brandy: “[President Trump] needs to make an effort with the people and show that he cares. He can’t just talk the talk, he has to walk the walk too. He needs to go out into communities to talk to the people, and by people I do not just mean the rich white men of America, but everybody – all people of colour, religions, sexualities, etc., and really get to know them, connect with them, and learn what they want.

“I will keep marching until people are not ashamed to be who they are anymore, until people stop fearing for their lives, and until equality for all is achieved, however long that takes.”

         

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