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Power to the Polls: the 2018 Women’s March on Topeka

Protesters+gather+at+the+Kansas+Capitol+in+Topeka+for+the+anniversary+of+the+Women%27s+March+on+Washington.+About+400+people+showed+up+and+marched.+Photo+by+Megan+Smith
Protesters gather at the Kansas Capitol in Topeka for the anniversary of the Women's March on Washington. About 400 people showed up and marched. Photo by Megan Smith

Protesters gather at the Kansas Capitol in Topeka for the anniversary of the Women's March on Washington. About 400 people showed up and marched. Photo by Megan Smith

Protesters gather at the Kansas Capitol in Topeka for the anniversary of the Women's March on Washington. About 400 people showed up and marched. Photo by Megan Smith

Megan Smith, Reporter

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With my poster in hand, reading  “All Bodies Are Good Bodies” on one side and “reSISTERS” on the other, I walked up to the steps of the Capitol Building in Topeka, Kansas. I watched the masses of people gathering behind and all around me, and heard the speakers welcome us to the second annual Women’s March on Washington.

I watched the American flag, Kansas flag, LGBTQ+ and Transgender pride flags wave behind the podium as the first speech was about to begin. I listened to each of the speakers stress the importance of equal representation in government, the media, and in all types of careers, and how the way we use our voices can affect future generations and the opportunities they have. I listened to these powerful women say that any woman in the crowd could be where they are one day. I listened to them talk about the injustices they have faced as Latina women, Black women, Queer women, and Indigenous women.

They emphasized the fact that each of us has a voice, but it is our choice whether we use that voice to spread messages of injustice and hatred, or to spread empowerment and love to everyone we encounter. They emphasized that time is up on sexual harassment, assault and abuse, that time is up for all of the people in power who abuse their position to deny even the most basic human rights, that time is up for voter suppression and all politicians that do not represent their district, state, or country’s values. They condemned President Trump’s hateful actions and words, and promoted a clean DREAM Act, a plan for the undocumented to get citizenship, and an America that does not become divided in our differences. We become united because of them.

Many of these women spoke about the principles that the United States was founded on. How “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were not given to everyone, and are still out of reach for some. They talked about how for centuries, we have been living on stolen land, in a country founded on genocidal principles that nearly wiped out Native American tribes’ cultures.

These speakers also talked about why they were marching, and what got them involved in the social justice movement. Representative Valdenia Winn of Kansas City said, “I know Trump is president. I know Brownback is still the governor. I know Kobach is trying to be governor. So yeah, I’m marching against them… Today I hope we’re marching for ourselves, our mothers, our daughters, our grandmothers, our sisters… We are marching for human rights, respect for our laws and respect for each other.” This is what we need women across the world to hear, messages of resistance to hate and oppression, messages of power and strength, messages of hope for the future, instead of the hate spewing from social media, news outlets, and celebrities.

But these speakers were not the ones who truly inspired me. What I was the most moved by, what made my breath catch in my throat was a 6-year-old girl named Lida Perry, who quoted Audre Lorde. She said, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I’m afraid.” She said that this means that when we use our voices we are powerful. We should not let others speak for us, because we, as women, are powerful. Seeing her, a 6-year-old girl, speak up and use her voice to inspire women all across the state was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. If she can do that, what can I do? What can women across America and across the world do when we unite? When we use our voices and encourage everyone to use theirs?

I walked the streets of Topeka, sign in hand, united with my fellow women, my fellow Americans, regardless of whether or not they were American on paper, or in their heart.

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Power to the Polls: the 2018 Women’s March on Topeka