January 31, 2017
By Jacqueline Souza
After a disappointing election year and Friday’s traditional Inauguration ceremony, millions of people around the world participated in marches in response to the official beginning of President Trump’s administration. The various Women’s Marches focused on reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ equality, racial justice, immigrant rights, and environmental justice, among other topics. While I was unable to make it to Washington D.C. for the weekend, I did protest here in Pittsburgh by attending local marches and rallies. I was frequently reminded of the importance of solidarity, intersectionality, and unity at these events, but the “Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional” rally left a lasting impact. As expected, white men and women came out in droves to support both this rally and those happening across the globe- but how do we advocate for intersectionality in the years ahead? How do we lead organization efforts while simultaneously acknowledging our privilege? In general terms, what are our roles in social progress when we continue to benefit from the oppression of others?
On Saturday, I attended the “Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional” rally in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood. The demonstration was formed in response to the original Women’s March on Pittsburgh; its organizers ignored the concerns of individuals who argued that white feminism was legitimized through the silencing of women of color within the Facebook event page. The original march did take place–but the intersectional rally in East Liberty, which drew a crowd of thirteen hundred people, intentionally centered Black femmes, nonbinary individuals, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. At the rally, people of all races, gender identities, and sexual orientations came to stand in solidarity with one another, focusing less on the Trump administration and more on being present and unified in the face of hardship. I immediately noticed the thoroughness of representation within the spokespeople, and the attendees, a group just as diverse as the organizers, came to protest a variety of social and political issues: they rejected fascism, capitalism, racial discrimination, and ableism. Many discussed the meaning and implications of intersectionality itself, given the controversy with the original march.
Since attending the rally, I have been considering my role as a white activist moving forward. I belong to one of the most privileged demographics in this country, and the platform and resources to which I have access as a white woman are insurmountable and endless. For this reason and many others, my priority must lie in educating myself on topics that are directly relevant to the lives of marginalized people, even if those issues are not pertinent to my own experience. I absolutely welcome this responsibility–if we want to successfully mobilize against the Trump administration, it is imperative that we support one another and help to amplify the voices of those who are systematically unheard, though they were fighting before we even started paying attention.
White America- this weekend has been incredible, but we have the luxury of being able to decompress now that these historic marches have ended, while others cannot. For the sake of people of color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, and other marginalized groups–we must continue to fight, and fight hard. Participate in mass demonstrations, call your local representatives, volunteer, donate, and vote. We must also continue to educate ourselves and learn to stop talking when we should be listening. We must take a step back and recognize the ways in which we have caused systemic discrimination in the past, and the ways we continue to do so. We cannot move forward together until we can hold ourselves accountable and recognize that we contribute to the perpetuation of inequality.
Jacqueline Souza is an intern for New People and also studies sociology and journalism at the University of Pittsburgh. She is interested in racial justice, social movements, and U.S. politics.