I Have More Reasons Than I Can Express.

On Saturday, January 21, 2017, I jumped in my car and drove to Rapid City, South Dakota, to be a part of the Women’s March. This was important to me for more reasons than I can express, but I will try to touch on some of them here.

I marched for my one-year-old daughter. May she grow up in an America that wants to see women succeed. A society that has affordable healthcare, birth control, reproductive rights, paid maternity leave, and equal pay for women. A country that recognizes that people who are LGBTQ+ are equal under the rights provided us by our constitution. All are created equal.

I marched for my three-year-old son. May he get to be a part of that same country. May he be an ally for women and may he, in turn, benefit from that.

May both of my children be caring, empathetic individuals who see injustice in the world and know how to show love for all people, regardless of their background.

I marched for my students. I want them to know that everything I have taught them in class is true. My students are dumbfounded when we discuss slavery. They ask why. They are confused when we talk about the suffragist movement and women fighting for the right to vote. They don’t get it when we discuss the Civil Rights era, and see photographs of people using different water fountains, bathrooms, restaurants, and swimming pools. It doesn’t make any sense to them, because they know the world is better than that. They know that Malala Yousefzai was shot in Pakistan trying to fight for rights of girls to get an education. This also makes no sense to them. Why are there places in the world where girls don’t have the right to an education? I assure them it makes no sense to me either. A couple years ago while watching the news with one of my classes, the anchor started to talk about the pay gap between men and women who were doing the same job. One of my students, a girl, came running up to me to repeat the statistic. She was baffled and I knew I had no good answer to provide her. I teach them they are equal and they can do anything they want to do, but when they hear that may not be true, they simply cannot understand.

Since I started teaching in 2010, I have had a sign on my door saying “Everyone is welcome here, everyone belongs.” I believe this to be true, and this is why I marched.

Our country has grown to be better because of the people who stood up. People who peacefully marched. That is what happened on the day of the Women’s March. Over five million women and men around the world, in cities large, small, and tiny, peacefully came together to march for equality. We want to live in a world where people are treated equally. This is why I marched.

I Am A Woman, A Refugee, An American, & Afraid

I marched because I am a woman and a refugee and an American. I marched in support of amazing women I know, strong women that came before me and for our daughters and sons that will inherit the world we are eventually going to leave behind. I also marched because not marching did not seem like an option to me.

But, to be honest, I mostly marched out of fear.

When I was a teenager, the country that I knew and swore my loyalty to, Yugoslavia, fell apart. It was not a slow and painful death, but a quick infection, that cost all the republics, and mostly Bosnia, hundreds of thousands of lives. It started with an idea, that became a rhetoric, that finally turned into action which took its final form as genocide, mostly done to Muslim population. The idea was to make “Serbia Great Again” and many men, women, children and elderly paid the price.

I remember those early days before snipers and heavy artillery surrounded Bosnian cities and villages started to burn. Men with floppy hair on TV yelling into microphones, chanting masses with waving flags, the demagogs and the ideologists and the protests and everyone declaring themselves, publicly or privately, as supporters or as opposition, as this or that nationality. All of these elements were a marking of a serious crisis to me.

The lump in my throat kept growing as we moved through American primaries in 2016, got close to election, elected a president and finally, when the current administration took office in January of this year, the lump in my throat was me suffocating. The rhetoric of the campaign, particularly the parts where certain groups of people were isolated and presented as “bad” (disabled, immigrants from Latin America, women, Muslims – we have all seen the clips and read the quotes), were quite terrifying to me. Was this a deja vu? I understood there is much more detail than this, laws and legislations, senators and representatives, and our own complicated and unique American history. But I could not deny the parallels.

So I marched.

I marched so that my family but, more importantly, my neighbors, don’t have to go through what Bosnian population went through in the nineties.

I marched so it is clear to people around me who I am and what I stand for.

I marched for all the women of the world and struggles that unite us.

I marched to stand with my sisters and brothers against words and actions that will undo the work of ones that came before us. This goes for education, for environment, and for rights of women, minorities and LGBTQ community, and numerous other issues that I feel like are at peril.

Mostly, I marched so I would be less afraid.

I Marched Because I Want Our Voices to Be Heard!

I marched because I learned the importance of being an advocate in 1976 when I started my first job as a counselor at Planned Parenthood of Lincoln.  I saw the need for women to have affordable health care, birth control counseling, and pregnancy option counseling without being judged.  I marched because I fear that funding for Planned Parenthood will continue to be reduced and women will not have an option for free or affordable health care, that a woman’s rights to control reproduction, and that their right to have a safe and legal abortion will all be taken away.

In 1986, I started working as an Independent Living Advisor at the League of Human Dignity.  This involved advocating for the rights of students with disabilities to see that schools were applying the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  So many individuals with disabilities are still facing huge barriers to live independent lives without being judged by society based on the fact that they have a disability.  I am a woman with a disability and felt like my voice needed to be heard at the Women’s March.

I marched because the LGBTQ community faces barriers in regulations of employment discrimination, bias in hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, and compensation, as well as harassment on the basis of one’s sexual orientation.  I marched because I fear their rights with marriage equality will be stripped.

I marched to fight for the rights of woman to receive equal pay.   Women still are not receiving equal pay for equal work, let alone equal pay for work of equal value. This disparity not only affects women’s spending power, it penalizes their retirement security by creating gaps in Social Security and pensions.

I marched because of race discrimination.  Martin Luther King is one of my heroes and I marched for him.  I marched for Margaret Sanger, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony and every person who has fought for the rights of all the causes that I believe in.

I marched because I want our voices to be heard!

Equality for all

I marched to stand in unity with my brothers and sisters world wide, fighting for equality for ALL! Specific issues that resonate with me are unequal education rights, infanticide of baby girls, genital mutilation & gang rap practices, lack of voting/driving rights, arranged marriages of underaged girls and a lack of laws against domestic violence. These issues are common in many countries (China, India, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Pakistan, Mali, Nepal, etc). In addition, issues that plague the U.S., such as human trafficking, the woman tax, the gender wage gap, unconstitutional legislation in regards to women’s reproductive rights, lgbtq rights, racial and ethnic issues surrounding women globally.

Equal Rights, Love of Country, and Hope

I marched for a million reasons and some that can never truly be expressed through words.  I marched to have my own voice heard, but also to be the voice for others who can not speak or may not know they need to.  I marched because I believe in civil liberties, human rights, black lives matter, LGBTQ+ equality, My Rights to Choose, Love Trumping Hate, Free and Decent Education, and yes – love of my Country.  I marched because I have Hope over everything else.

Equal rights and protections for all people

I marched for my two sons (and I marched alongside my older son), so they know the strength of collective action and understand the importance of equal rights and protections for all people.  I marched for my mother, whose reproductive health has been supported by Planned Parenthood and other organizations over several decades, and who taught me to stand up for what I believe.  I marched for my sister, who serves in the armed services and faces sexism and harassment by men who are supposed to be her comrades.  I marched for my students, to protest sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus, and to support their ongoing right to an open, equal, and scientifically-based education.  I marched to show my support for family planning funding; for immigrants’ rights and protections; for full equality for LGBTQ individuals; for people of color who still face both subtle and overt forms of discrimination in many areas of their lives; for women who face discrimination in education, employment, reproductive health, breastfeeding, childrearing (or choosing not to have children at all), and even while walking down the street as they are subjected–as I myself have been–to harassment and fear of assault.  I marched to support the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid, to provide necessary health coverage for all individuals regardless of preexisting conditions, income, age, and other characteristics.  I marched for reasonable gun control to keep our schools and public spaces safe, and because no child should be afraid to go to school or be distracted by the presence of guns in their schools.  I marched because I love the State of Nebraska, I love my community, and I love my country.  I marched because I believe in the promises made throughout our history of freedom, equality, justice, and protection from persecution and harm, and I believe our future can be more civil, more equal, more welcoming, more supportive, and more forward-looking than our present.  I believe in the Nebraska state motto: “Equality before the law.”  Let’s get to work achieving that equality.