Deliberate Stepping

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By Teresa Barrington Chase

I’ve always been a marcher. There’s something so powerful to me about connecting feet to earth—creating a physical commitment with purpose. Deliberate stepping. My early marches were an initiation into a world where my voice, my drive, my fire, could effect change. I seized upon the opportunity and never let go. There are many issues for which I’ve marched. College provided great platforms with like-inspired people. The anti-apartheid movement solidified my activism. Marches are just one layer of activism, a great motivator.

When I first heard about the proposed Women’s March On Washington, I was intrigued. I felt the original platform lacked purpose, many women organized to adjust and correct. I decided to go after researching the issues that would be presented and listened to the surrounding feedback. The idea of being part of a million women demonstrating in Washington, DC, and around the world on the same day was very powerful. A historic moment of solidarity.

As the march grew closer, the backlash began on social media. I listened to people who thought it was a great idea, others who thought it was terrible, and still others who were somewhere in between, like me. I realized I was going to have to solidify my purpose. In the days ahead, I bought my bus ticket, packed a purse, and drove to the bus departure site.

A vibrant group of diverse people; all ages, men, women, children, from different economic backgrounds and ethnicities greeted me. I stood in the middle of that melting pot and felt a sense of hope that I had not experienced since before the 2016 campaigns and election. The air surged with energy—buzzing with laughter and conversation. On the bus, we settled in … swapped stories, helped each other with all kinds of needs: food, medicine, clothing, and comfort. I felt content and connected with the collective energy.

Arriving in DC on Saturday morning was triumphant! We made it to our destination and headed into the Metro station. The subways were jammed with fellow march participants. Again, powerful to see so many people of different ages and ethnicities totally vested in this demonstration. I knew we had come together for a common goal, but we were  also there for individual reasons.

I didn’t bring any signs or wear a fuzzy pink hat with ears. I felt calm and a sense of being grounded in a way I had never before experienced at a pre-march rally. Intertwined among the speeches was a moment where I felt like I had finally grown into myself. As I reflected on all the other marches, rallies, actions, demonstrations, boycotts, and acts of civil disobedience that I participated in before this halfway point of my life, I was grateful for holding myself accountable through the years, accountable to that commitment I’d made to others and to be a political activist. This work is real. This work is hard. This work is necessary.

So many beautiful women in one place: intelligent, funny, expressive, joyful, pensive, angry, thoughtful, determined, youthful, wise, innocent, tired, confused, heartened, discouraged, hopeful, allies, accomplices—a unique and rare moment that I will not experience again suffused with the power of female energy. I made that power my focus the day I caught that bus. My love of women guided me—our shared and separate suffering as mothers, daughters, sisters. While I recognize the layers between us, I will never contribute to a false sense of equality in this country when I come from privilege and racism and a White supremacist system surrounds us.