I’ve never participated in a march or a protest before. Being from Florida with strict Bengali Muslim parents, I was never allowed to. I begged my mother to let me go to the People’s Climate March in New York a few years back, but with school and it being so far away, it just wasn’t possible. So, when I first heard of the gathering taking place on Boston Common on January 21, 2017 as a sister movement to the DC Women’s March, I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t really think it would be big, though. No one did. But come the day of the march, I found myself in the middle of 125,000+ people. People made up of every single skin color and all different religions or none at all and from all the different communities. I was surrounded on all sides by people who were passionate about their rights and others’ rights.
They were open-minded and loving, welcoming and warm, kind and generous — exactly the way the world should be. I marched for them. I marched for my best friend, who is Muslim like myself, and the other hundreds of thousands of millions of Muslims around the world. I marched for my other best friend, who is gay. I marched for the communities who felt alienated and under attack, and I marched for the communities who weren’t. I marched for progress, for freedom, for democracy. I marched towards a world where we will fight for each other no matter what side or even if the person needs it. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said and as my friend Brianna wrote on her poster (pictured below), “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed.”
There were moments throughout the march that I just couldn’t believe that there were so many people that cared so much. I grew up in Florida, where you keep your opinions to yourself and mind your own business. Here, wherever my friends and I walked, people stopped us to compliment our posters and our group, take pictures and give hugs. I laughed with people I’d never met, and I cried at the speeches given by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. As they sent energy throughout the crowd and echoed the sentiments we were all there for, the sheer power and volume of our voices chanting, “Freedom is our agenda!” and shouting back “Yes!” to all the mayor’s prompts couldn’t help but bring tears to my eyes and goosebumps along my arms. Although we stood for hours, our feet cold and aching on muddy, saturated grounds, unmoving because the march had become far too large to actually march. But that mattered to any of us. We were there together, and we would march together. Despite it being rainy and gloomy on Friday and Sunday, the skies were clear and the sun was shining throughout the entire March on Saturday. With even Mother Nature on our side, nothing could stop us from making history.
The Women’s March for America was a protest that will go down as the single largest protest in American history, and an experience that will stay with me until I draw my last breath. From a small-town-turned-big-city girl, thank you to all of you who participated in the March and stood in solidarity with and for those without a voice. You give me hope, the most powerful emotion of all.
Thakur is the founder of The Millennial Times.