Why I Marched

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By Leila Stewart

I was born on Sep. 11, 2001 in Syracuse, New York. My first day of life was one of the worst days in American history.

Fifteen years later, and I’m living in the middle of the United States, while also in the middle of the largest divide between Americans I’ve seen so far.

I’ve never been one to sit in silence.

Everything about my existence is loud.

I was raised by my mother, the epitome of independence, and have always been surrounded by women who were able to do everything a man could and more. In my world, women are invincible.

At the end of last semester, I was thrown into an unfamiliar perspective. For the first time in my life, I had to grapple with this terrifying thought that the steps we took for women’s rights could be reversed in a much shorter amount of time than they came.

My phone was blowing up with notifications, and all around me was this question, “What are we going to do?”

I never imagined myself to be in this position.

I felt like we were going backwards, that the women’s rights movement would be stomped on and disregarded, and everything I had advocated for my whole life meant nothing.

I was plagued by the dread of the possibility of our future; a future where women’s rights would be stripped.

This could be seen in every part of me.

I angered people with my persistent sadness. So many times I was told, “Get over it.”

My somber was old news, even for myself. Yet, I refused to just “get over it.” Instead… I got angry.

The Women’s March on Washington was started by Teresa Shook, a retired attorney living in Hawaii, who called on women to march through Facebook. This led to a movement throughout not just America, but the world.

When a friend told me about the Women’s March on Lincoln, I knew that was what I needed to do. I just had to do something.

On Jan. 21, I found myself with a camera around my neck and a poster in my hands in the midst of thousands of people, and not just women, but children and men. There were babies in strollers and grandparents in wheelchairs. All in one. A beautiful mass of people. 

The march started at the Student Union at UNL and ended at the Nebraska State Capitol.

Originally, I had gone because I wanted to feel that women could still have reproductive and equal rights regardless of our administration.

I wanted to feel that fighting hard enough for them

would be enough to succeed. I was ashamed of my country. I wanted change and I wanted so badly to feel like something I did would someday matter. I thought that this would solidify my faith.

Looking back at this, I realize, I don’t feel that way anymore.

My feelings about the march were widely known, much like the negative attitude others had towards me because of these feelings and my attendance. Instead of the question of how to move forward, I was now bombarded with, “What was the point?”

That led me to this realization.

The march did not change anything. It did not reverse any of the restrictive healthcare laws put in place by the government. It was too late to affect the outcome of the election. From the moment I got home that night up until right now, everything is the way it was before.

The underlying purpose to the Women’s March wasn’t to pass or repeal any laws. One protest won’t change anything.

It was proof that no matter who our president is, or what laws our legislators decide to pass, nothing can take away from the fire in our hearts.

I may only be one person, but I was a person among millions.

The fact that we could walk down the streets of Lincoln, not knowing one another but loving each other still, is what makes America great… not great again.

I was wrong for being ashamed of my country.

I went to the march for my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and all of the women before me. I went to the march for my two little sisters and all of the women who will come after me.

I marched because I can, because I want to spend what time I am given on this earth fighting for what I believe in.

I marched because I am proud to be a woman, and that pride is what makes us invincible.