By Thomas Infante
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Nearly half a million people marched through the streets of our nation’s capital on Jan. 21 to protest President Donald Trump. The women’s march in Washington D.C. had one of the most impressive turnouts in recent history, and the College was not without representation.
The feeling of unity was omnipresent as around 100 members of the College community, including faculty and students, attended the march.
The idea to transport students to the demonstration began soon after the election, according to Cecilia Colbeth, the program coordinator of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department.
“Myself and six other students were attending a National Women’s Studies Association conference in Canada the day after the election,” Colbeth said. “We felt as if we needed to speak up about the rights of women and other minority groups. We asked ourselves ‘What can we do?’”
Soon after, the plan to attend the march developed. Colbeth worked with Jane Wong, the dean of the School of Humanities, to fund the trip. Other departments also contributed, including the American Federation of Teachers Union and Women In Learning and Leadership.
The activists began their day at 6 a.m., as they boarded two large buses bound for the nation’s capital. According to Colbeth, transportation was a concern from the beginning.
“It was very difficult to find buses to rent because so many were being used by others for the same purpose,” she said. “We finally found two, and within two days, we had filled the seats.”
This was the first march that Colbeth, as well as many of the students, took part. Immediately upon arrival, she was struck with a feeling of camaraderie and warmth from the other participants.
“We started at RFK Stadium and walked about 13 miles through Washington D.C.,” Colbeth said. “There were people of all ages and backgrounds banding together to make their voices heard. It was unbelievable how supportive and good-natured the crowd was. It was a great opportunity to voice our concerns and introduce the students to peaceful activism.”
Matthew Cathell, a professor of Technological Studies and an activist at the march, agreed.
“All along the way, people cheered us on… crossing guards, police officers, armed service members,” he said. “Folks leaned out windows and came onto their yards and porches with their children, holding up signs saying, ‘Welcome’ and ‘Thank You.’”
Cathell described the enormous crowd at the event.
“I don’t know if there was ever a bigger collection of pink hats anywhere, anytime,” he said. “The hats were worn by women, men and children of every color, every age and every description.”
Cathell described the exuberance of the crowd as the march began.
“People burst into spontaneous chanting as they waved their signs. Signs that were uplifting, hilarious, witty, angry, pleading, profane, hopeful and, sometimes, beyond any classification,” he said. “People were laughing, starting conversations with strangers, beating drums, taking photographs and, of course, marching.”
Among these like-minded citizens stood many students from the College, who had much to say about why they participated.
“I marched to be counted and to bare witness. I marched because peaceful assembly is American and it is patriotic. I marched for the women next to me, who came before me, and those future feminists in the making,” said Rachel Smith, a freshman women, gender and sexuality studies and communication studies double major.
“I marched for my momma and all the women who wanted to be there, but couldn’t,” she added.
Numerous demonstrators acknowledged a need for unity as a cause for their participation.
Rosie Driscoll, a junior women, gender and sexuality studies and history double major, said that the march is about “those I love and about those who I’ll never meet, but who don’t deserve to be treated as second-class Americans. To me, the march was a way for many people to unite and say, ‘Do not forget us, or we will hold you accountable’ and a way to engage more people in activist work.”
Some students who participated felt the need to march in order to defend their religious beliefs.
“As an American-Muslim, I feared the next four years after hearing offensive rhetoric throughout the presidential campaign,” said Zahra Memon, a sophomore deaf education and iSTEM double major. “However, yesterday proved otherwise. The march was an impactful movement filled with kindness, love and hope from a diverse group of people.”
Zainab Rizvi, a junior women, gender and sexuality studies and elementary education double major, marched because of the disrespect that she feels minorities have been subjected to by Trump.
“I marched to proudly hold my position in the country that my parents fought so hard to be a part of,” Rizvi said. “I marched along fellow women of all backgrounds, races and religions fighting a similar battle.”
Ann Marie Nicolosi, an associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies, said that the experience filled her with pride.
“The students realized that they were part of a bigger community,” she said. “Even I didn’t expect such a warm welcome. I knew it would be peaceful, but the environment was very loving.”
Nicolosi, who has participated in several peaceful marches, is thankful for an administration committed to social justice and empowering students to share their voice.
“Activism and gender studies are definitely correlated just because of the nature of what is being studied,” she said.
When asked if the department plans to march again next year, Nicolosi responded, “I think it’ll be much sooner than a year from now.”