Shirley Suzuki of Montclair cannot attend the march but plans to knit a dozen hats under the Pussyhat Project. Her hope is that the “hats will help marchers stay warm and make visual statements in support of women's rights, women's truths, and reclaiming our bodies, minds, and spirits from misogynistic rhetoric and oppression.”
Kelly of Belleville marches for volition over our own bodies, she marches for the future of her daughters, for social services, the working poor and those below the poverty line. “The thin layer of stability that millions of people in the country are standing on is cracking and it’s going to be very devastating when the cracks turn into holes and the people start falling through.” Like many of us she went through a period of grief after the election but remains galvanized and takes her husband’s advice to heart, “There’s always time for tears but use them to gain strength and to become resolved, to act.” When faced with her daughter’s fears for the future, she says “We have a life worth fighting for and that’s one of the reasons she’s coming with me to march in DC.”
Holly Graff of Montclair marches for our country’s marginalized, for the fearful and the oppressed. “We are all connected,” she states and if you’re marching for one then you’re marching for others. Closest to her heart are the rights of LGBTQ and her teen daughter who woke with tears on Nov 9, saying, “I don’t want to feel afraid because of who I am and who I love.” Holly marches as a message to future generations to let them know that the 2016 election was not the voice of America. Holly wants to be part of the “very strong voice of dissent that stood up and resisted.” She and her daughter will march together, standing on the right side of history.
Karyn Hamilton of Montclair knew immediately she would attend the Women’s March on Washington. She feels the need to connect, to be with those that feel the same way. As a kid she followed her older sister’s lead and wore a black arm band to school to protest the Vietnam War and refused to pledge allegiance. At the time she did not fully understand why. Today she knows why. She marches for her sons’ future wives and children and for all of her friends’ daughters. “We have to stand up and make sure that everybody knows we’re here.”
When the election results came in, Nadine Cauthen of Bloomfield felt physically sick. "I felt like my country had just told me that I don’t matter. That I as a black person, I as a woman, that I don’t matter." She found strength in soothing the fears of the Newark students she works with. Nadine taught them how the system works, reminded them of the importance of reading, of staying informed. The election has strengthened her drive to complete her degree, to get her certification, and to continue working with “those beautiful faces who are ready to learn.” She feels it is important to remember and to pass on experience. “When it all gets whitewashed and watered down in the history books we can say: I was there, I knitted the hat, I marched on the ground, I taught in the classroom, I remember the fear in the eyes of the five and nine year olds that should never have been there.” Nadine’s hope is that the drive and passion of the Women’s March movement carries on beyond January 21.
Despite the pro-Trump signs in many nearby yards, the election results came as a shock to Leigh Pennebaker of Middletown, fueling anxiety and concern for her kids and the world in which they'll be growing up. Still, she is encouraged that her sons and daughter see people taking action, becoming part of a resistance movement, speaking out. Although Leigh worries about the possibility of disruption against the Women’s March, one fear remains stronger: “a world where we can’t protest, we can’t get together, we can’t speak our truths, and we can’t criticize a president.” Leigh marches on Jan 21 as an example to her children that we can stand up for what is right and fight to change the direction of our country.
Artist Andrea Arroyo of Manhattan remembers the celebratory feeling of election night giving way to solemn despair and compares the silence of the city to that after 9/11. When she felt too anxious to get out of bed the next day, she did what she does best: organized through art. While still in pajamas she put out a call, inviting any and all to participate in her project, “Unnatural Election: Artists Respond to the 2016 US Presidential Election.” Access to the arts and culture along with free-thinking, diverse and creative people led her to fall in love with New York when she first arrived from Mexico City 30 years ago. Since then she continues to bring attention to victims of injustice through such art projects as “Flor de Tierra, Homage to the Women of Juarez” and “Tribute to the Disappeared.” She believes art can change the world. “When people see art it’s a very different reaction than when they are listening to a speech or going to a demonstration... It changes hearts and perceptions.” She looks forward to the Women’s March movement creating a much-needed community, widespread and inclusive. “This is not only about making our voices heard but about making change happen.”
Selma Avdicevic of Montclair believes in an America where people can succeed regardless of how they pray, what they wear, or who they love. She bought the ticket to that American ideal when she first came to New York as a 20 year old refugee during the Bosnian War. As legal guardian to her sister, she survived by keeping her head down and working hard to pay the bills and to earn a college degree. Selma’s determination continues and she proudly puts herself in the ranks of Nasty Women. She believes that being an American involves caring for your community. “It’s doing what you can,” she says. Selma cooks the dishes she grew up with for refugee families, and volunteers for her PTA and local food pantries. It’s been difficult for her to reconcile with the election results but she remains resolute. “If you love something you fight for it. If you have something that you strongly believe in, you don’t walk away. You fight for it. You make it happen. And that’s what we’re going to be doing.”
Reflecting over the Obama years, Candice Narvaez of Nutley is most proud of gay rights. “A lot of these couples were together for 10, 20 years but they could finally actually get married. It was huge.” The election results angered but did not surprise her. Candice understands the perspectives of many Trump supporters. She grew up in a working class neighborhood on Staten Island. Teaching in the school closest to the Twin Towers, she witnessed the struggles of firemen, construction workers, and EMTs on 9/11 and after. She feels protective, knowing that Trump is not looking out for them. Candice, whose son’s medical issues prevent her from attending the Women’s March, stands strong for the working class and for the future of women’s rights, education, and health care.
Reshma Ketkar of Maplewood was busy attending Emerge New Jersey, a candidate training program for Democratic women, and missed a local poster-making event for the Women’s March. A neighbor noticed and offered to create a sign for her, a testament to Maplewood’s spirit of community. Herself an active community member and a local outreach coordinator for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, Reshma has always been politically active. She recalls the pride she felt as a college student and first time voter, walking the two miles to the polls. Reshma is proud of our peaceful democracy but feels it now under threat. More than ever, she hears the call to be engaged. “It’s incumbent upon us to make sure that the future is what we want it to be.” She hears the future asking, “Where were you on January 21, 2017?” Reshma knows exactly where she will be: marching with the resistance.
The family heirloom that sits in Jackie Yarmo’s kitchen reminds her of the values instilled in her by her parents. It is a hand painted “Peace Now” sign crafted by her father that hung under their “big picture window during the whole Vietnam War.” She will be marching with her daughter, Ella, who is part of a generation across college campuses speaking out and educating us all on such issues as gender identity. While Jackie was texting with her brothers on election night, surmising that their Socialist dad must be flipping in his grave, Ella and her brother were texting each other, “You ok?” They keep in touch daily and Ella is proud of her feminist brother, a high school junior. Jackie’s mom voted for Hillary before passing away, but Jackie feels the fog of grief lifting and hears that urgent call to march on Jan 21. She seeks hope and to march with people who “believe that the world doesn’t have to be a bigoted, closed place.” Most importantly, Jackie and Ella will march for the people who need their voices heard, but do not have the privilege to attend.
Tiffany Loncar of Montclair felt prepared. It was within our grasp. Following the first African American presidency, the election of a woman as president would have a deep influence on her children's formative years. Tiffany recalls the sight of her children's feet alongside her mother’s in the voting booth and the happy tears in her mom’s eyes. “She worked her whole life modeling for me what women are capable of.” When election night was over she felt crushed breaking the news to her mom and children, angry at the women who failed to show up for Hillary. But she did not despair: “If we let things just go, we’ll continually and forever be considered second class, seen only through a lens that expects women to be the supporting gender.” Propelled to action, she formed a support group to focus on organizing buses from Montclair to attend the Women's March in DC. Her small group has organized an ever growing number of marchers (12 buses will be departing from Montclair alone) as well as organized a GoFundMe to cover bus fare for low-income and underrepresented residents in our area. Tiffany continues to wrestle with her disappointment and anger but she looks forward to marching in protest. She marches for and with her mother. She marches against misogyny, for the women past who have accomplished so much and for the women ahead who will continue to fight for equality.
As a professional singer and actress, Marlaina Powell of Montclair considers herself thick-skinned. Through meeting resistance over career choice from friends and family, Marlaina has learned to defend herself and is proud to be part of a community of artists accustomed to speaking out on matters of social justice. Although Marlaina supports the Women’s March, she did not feel compelled to attend. “Black people are used to marching. We’ve been marching since the 50s. We’ve been doing this work and we’ve been doing it alone in large part.” She feels that we cannot “begin to deal with sexism, homophobia and religious discrimination until we begin to tackle racism.” Marlaina finds that even a progressive town like Montclair has big strides to make with integration. Diversity and the magnet school system is what drew Marlaina and her husband to Montclair 5 years ago. They were surprised to discover that their daughter was the only black girl in her class, and was 1 of only 8 black children in her grade at Watchung Elementary School. The lack of black peers along with little diversity in the staff (only 2 black teachers in the school), led them to switch their daughter to Hillside. It was crucial that her daughters’ role models included black educators. As a PTA member, Marlaina fights for racial equality by pushing such actions as diversity training for staff. “I want the teachers to see these little brown faces the same way they see the white faces. They all have potential. Just because one is born brown doesn’t mean he is inherently less intelligent.” Revealing the underbelly of racism starts with us, in our families and in our schools. She asks that we keep an open dialogue with our friends and family, that we have the uncomfortable conversations which lead to more understanding, and that we work to make friends from different races, modeling for our children to do the same. She pleads that we continue marching when racial injustice strikes another Tamir Rice. “What I want more than anything else: I want black boys, black children, to be viewed the same way that white children are.”
Sarah Stibbe Damaskos of Montclair wasn’t completely surprised with the Trump victory. She recalls an October visit to Ohio where she met Trump supporters, and heard bits of their stories from a pastor. She laments that Democrats did not put more effort into understanding these voters and is disheartened by the lack of kindness that has come with this election. “The ugly crudeness is not how my parents raised me and not what I believe in.” Within her own family, the 2016 holiday season brought an even greater desire to give back to her community. In addition to her support of The Montclair Scholarship Fund, Sarah recently partnered with John Wisniewsk and Jon Bonestee of HackNCraftNJ to create Laptop Upcycle, dedicated to bringing technology to students in need. From the women and children she meets through Laptop Upcycle, she sees the extra efforts, missed recesses and general stress put upon families who lack a computer needed to complete daily Google Classroom assignments (used throughout middle and high school in Montclair). Sarah marches for these women and for all women. She wants their struggles known, their voices heard. “Women are the backbone of family life and why people don’t recognize that and support it is a complete mystery to me. Where is the downside?”
Amy Freitag of Montclair is impressed with the wide reach of the Women’s March. As someone in a same-sex marriage and a mother to an adopted Latino immigrant, she feels the urgency to stand up for her family and to show up for our democracy. The recent election has revealed currents of intolerance in our society. Amy feels it when her 10 yr old son, adopted from Guatemala, asks, “Will he send me back?” and she senses his fear of not being welcome due to the color of his skin. She recounts how one evening her 8 yr old came downstairs prepared to leave with backpack, cherished possessions, and directions to Canada. A visiting friend reminded him, “But we need you here. We need you to be part of the resistance.” For Amy, taking part in the resistance includes remaining alert, not giving in to despair, and continuing to show up. “All I could think of is I’ve got this full time job, I have three kids, I don’t have time for this guy to be the president. But I’m going to have to make time.”
Dhyana Kluth of Bloomfield admits that the current political climate can be scary but rather than feel terror she chooses to feel hope. She feels “this is part of a greater upheaval of change” and is excited at the chance to support the movement of the Women’s March. Its mission statement resonates with her deeply. In her work as a shaman, Dhyana helps people “heal core wounds caused by the imbalance of masculine energies in the patriarchal systems we were raised in and have lived with for generations.” On the 15th of January, she co-led a womb grief ritual, “We needed to grieve our rage in body, make space for birthing the new earth because if we’re tied too much to this anger, this rage and fear, we’re just being reactive.” On the 21st, Dhyana was ready to march. “We are taking part in a beautiful revolution. What a gift to be living during these crazy times.”
Coming from a world of activism, Teka-Lark Lo of Bloomfield has attended many protests in her time. In her experience if there was anything to fear besides the police, it would be aggression from male protesters. The Women’s March was the first time she felt completely safe at a protest. “It was such a good vibe. I was so happy.” She attributes the success of the March to it being women-organized and revels in its huge turnout, over 4 million marchers tallied in the US alone. Teka-Lark, a transplant from Los Angeles, is a big proponent of women supporting each other. She created her Black Grrrl Book Fair in response to the lack of women and diversity at the LA Art Print Fair in Los Angeles. The Black Grrrl Book Fair places feminism as its focus, and much like the Women’s March, calls to women from all walks of life to participate. Black Girl Book Fair takes place on June 3 in Montclair. “If you’re a woman show up!”