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Chicago Women’s March January 21, 2017

As we moved into the main march, we saw large numbers of Muslim women, a socialist group, and a sea of pink pussy hats.

Sonia Yaco

Here's why I marched and who marched with me.

Why did I march? For a family member who is an abortion provider, to thank her and protect her. For a cousin who was able to get an abortion when she was 14 so could get an education. For my Muslim friends, whose safety was jeopardized when Trump held a rally in Chicago near my campus. For our Muslim students who wear hijabs and are increasingly targeted in hate crimes since his election. For my Temple, whose members have vowed to register as Muslims if Trump implements his database. For my cousin whose mother was imprisoned as a child during World War II because she was Japanese-American. For African-American women in Chicago whose families are disproportionally arrested without cause, imprisoned, killed by police and killed by gangs. For my colleague whose classroom of Hispanic 3rd graders sobbed the day after the election out of fear for their families. Because all of us are at risk if we let Trump rule unopposed.

Who marched with me? A diverse crowd of 250,000 women, men, and children. Arriving early at our temple’s meeting place, the Buckingham Fountain, I met a group of teachers from the Illinois Education Association who passed out signs supporting funding public schools and calling for an end to violence against their students. A man with a “Protest Chaplains” banner said he was waiting for other chaplains or the League of Women Voters. Mujeres Latinas gathered nearby. Purple balloons and t-shirts made it easy to identify the Service Employees International Union group. Teenagers from my Temple arrived followed by older members, having been delayed by the overwhelmed transit system. As we moved into the main march, we saw large numbers of Muslim women, a socialist group, and a sea of pink pussy hats. Speakers spoke in favor of a living wage, against sexual assault, and for the safety of sex workers. During a pause in the program, I walked around and meet a group of actors, including a childhood friend. Later I realized that my first day of school in her neighborhood was the day of Nixon’s inauguration.

What was missing? Full diversity. While one of the main speakers was from Black Lives Matter and people carried their signs, there were few African Americans, at least in my section of the march. Absent also were veteran’s groups and lower income whites.

Being part of the march gave me hope for our country for the first time since the election. Hope that we are not rushing headlong into repeating the errors of the past. Had the speeches included a strategy to reach out to women and men who voted for Trump, I would have even more hope.

Sonia Yaco is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been an activist in anti-racism and education since junior high school when she ran for Board of Education taking the case to the US Supreme Court. She now works with groups in Virginia, Alabama, and elsewhere to recover the history of school desegregation.

Photos: Selife by Lori Ashikowa; Sonia and friend by anonymous.

Copyright © Sonia Yaco. All rights reserved.