On the day of the third annual Women’s March, there is much to be proud of. Millions of women around the world have moved closer to their power — in our homes, in our communities, in our workplaces, in our places of worship, and most importantly, in our democracy — after generations of being excluded from power.
In 2016, many of us were shocked and dismayed by the election of President Trump because, among other reasons, he was recorded laughing about grabbing women by their genitals.
In 2017, women grabbed our power back and mobilized millions all over the world. Here, in the United States, the Women’s March was one of the largest mobilizations in recent history. In 2018, women took their power to the polls and, today, the U.S. Congress is the most diverse it’s ever been, with more than 100 women elected or re-elected to national office, to altering the balance of power in the House of Representatives.
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Women of color in particular stole the show, electing the first Somali-American Muslim woman, the first Palestinian-Muslim woman and the first indigenous woman. Women of color, and in particular black women, turned out overwhelmingly in support of a new progressive agenda. We are ready to govern, and we will not let anything stand in our way.
Movements are powerful, despite flaws
The original Women’s March was an important catalyst for women across the nation to channel their anger into governing power. It has opened up the imagination of millions and women are questioning the status quo: How do we build a world where women are seen and respected as human beings? What are the barriers between us that get in the way of us being powerful, together? What happens when we, inevitably, break each other’s hearts? Is there room for us to find each other again, and under what conditions?
As a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and a longtime community organizer, I know firsthand what happens to successful and impactful social movements — those who are afraid that those social movements will usurp their unearned power, wage deceitful campaigns to try and undermine them. The Women’s March is no different — it has been demonized, and there have been those who have tried to detract this powerful organizing vehicle from its purpose — to make women powerful in every aspect of our lives.
But as Bernice Johnson Reagan once sang, “We who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes.” We know that the Women’s March is about the power that can be created when people come together to demand full and complete personhood. It’s about the call for all of us to step up and be leaders who light the way towards a better future.
We know that movements are not perfect, that they are deeply flawed because the people who comprise the core of social movements are themselves in a process of being transformed. We are reflections of the world we live in, and our desire for a new one doesn’t automatically mean we are successful in shedding the problematic aspects of the current one.
Don’t sacrifice our momentum to the critics
When we come together, we win. When women who have traditionally been marginalized and excluded from power are encouraged to lead, we cannot be stopped. We change the balance of power in the halls of power. We speak up courageously about the injustice we have endured, for the sake of making sure that no one else will have to endure injustice in silence.
Today, in part because of the Women’s March and, in part, because of the incredible organizing and activism that preceded it and that follows it, women are building momentum, we are taking power and we are learning how to transform it. And that is how social movements work. We learn together, we cry together, we struggle together, we work together, we reach for one another, over and over again, because we deserve to be powerful, together.
I know that I am grateful for the Women’s March, in all of its complexity. Thank you to all of the people who have made the Women’s March possible and a viable opportunity to build and transform power — the co-chairs, the staff, the volunteers, the sister marches, the millions of women around the world who have vowed to be silent no longer.
I don’t expect or require perfection from movements like the Women’s March. I require, and am myself committed, dedication to learning, to growing, to transforming, and most of all, a dedication to building a world where we can all be powerful, together.
Saturday, I’ll proudly join women and the people who love us all around the world from my home in Oakland, California, speaking up and marching for the dignity of all of us. May we continue to learn to be powerful, together, for the sake of all of us.
Alicia Garza is principal at the Black Futures Lab, director of strategy and partnerships at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network. She helped draft the 2017 Unity Principles for the inaugural Women’s March and is a speaker at the Women’s March in Oakland. Follow her on Twitter @aliciagarza.