“Testimony” is a peculiar word to use about my experience at the Women’s March. The word derives from the ancient Roman tradition of men ceremonially grabbing each other’s testicles when taking an oath. One would think that, in 2017, the grabbing of genitals would be over, yet long before President Trump told the world the pleasure he took in sexually assaulting women, I knew that going to college would likely result in someone assaulting me. I knew that one in four college girls are sexually assaulted. I knew that native women had a 50% chance of being sexually assaulted. I knew that more than two thirds of hate crime homicide victims are transgender women, especially black transgender women, and that they are 1.8% more likely to suffer sexual abuse. I knew that to the white man’s dollar, Asian women make 85 cents, white women make 77 cents, black women make 63 cents, and Latina women make 54 cents. Black men make less than the white woman, and hispanic men make the same as black women. Conversion camps take LGBTQ+ youth and destroy them to their very core until they are so traumatized, they have no choice but to say they are straight. Muslims are feared just for wearing cloth on their heads or praying on a rug instead of in a pew. Hard working people are kept out of this country every day because they are seen as terrorists or rapists or drug dealers. Toxic masculinity and dehumanized femininity plagues our society with gender roles.
President Trump and Vice President Pence did not create these problems. They did not cause people to become racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or to have any other kind of prejudice. Those prejudices were already there. They elected our current president. Even if those who voted for him would actively say they did not hold these prejudices, President Trump’s hate for the aforementioned minorities was not a deal breaker for his voters. I didn’t see the Women’s March as something that came about because of the events of 2016 and early 2017, but as the breaking point of endless suffering.
Prejudice has always been a part of society, in one form or another. I am often asked, “How can an individual change things?” My answer is that I don’t think an individual can change things alone. I think the Women’s March is an example of the route to effecting change—not alone, but together, with our experiences, oppression, and privileges unifying us into a group stronger than those in power. “United we are strong” is the truest mantra. It is hierarchy within classes, races, genders, and other identities that allow those who are power to be in power. Those hierarchies are there to divide us. By uniting in our differences we can change things. That unity is what the Women’s March means to me.
The trip to South Africa was not a vacation. It was not voluntourism. It was journey and experience in which we listened and observed. We helped local charity projects, but we did not run them, we did not do anything out of our skill, like building a house. The most involved missions were deliving food, which was actually done by the church group, and we simply listened in on their home sermon, and helping at a Chinsta soup kitchen, in which we played with children and cut vegetables. We visited Calabash tours, our tour groups, work in the local school, and the private institution of Ubuntu, an impressive and sexy building, filled with skills classes, clinics, and dance groups. Sounds like we did not do much, huh? This trip was not about how many children we could feed, how many groceries we could deliver, or how many schools we could visit. This trip was not a pat on the back for good work to help those little poor brown children in Africa. This trip was a learning opportunity to hear the stories of those in South Africa affected by the Apartheid, affected by poverty in their townships, and those who wanted to see change in their own communities. We learned about how these people were helping their own communities, and how from what they are doing, we could learn how to serve and help our communities. Their actives would have continued on whether or not we had chopped those vegetables or delivered that rice, they would have been feeding those people, giving their own communities support if we had come or not, and so we were honored to have been able to see these people fight for each other first hand. It was an honor to hear the tragic and painful stories of those young and old in a country struggling to patch up intense racial tension and segregation, just like our own country. It was an honor to see history that happened as recently as 20 years ago, and only as long ago at 100. It is an honor to bring these teaching back to our community here.
On the 21st of September there was a climate march from 81st street and central park west to around the U.N. This march was to encourage the United Nations to make laws and regulations to stop climate change. More than 300,000 people attended the march, including several positions and celebrities. I attended with our school and some other school connected to the Religious Society of Friends.
Although it was tedious while it took several hours for our group to actually start marching, this allowed for the excitement to build. As we waited there was a moment of silence for two minutes, and everybody put their hands up, something almost reminiscent of Ferguson. There was a deafening roar, as the silence ended and continued all the way up the line of people until it reached us. We began our walk at about 2 pm, marching forward with our school’s banner. Eventually we opened up a large parachute, with the words “I love our earth” written on it and the image of an earth in a tree. We had a very large, inflated ball that looked like a globe which we put in the center of the parachute and bounced up and down. Several people we did not know came and helped us use the parachute. After several hours and several miles, I went home, though the march continued. It was amazing and inspiring to see so many people together for one cause.
Early World History
My group decided on the social issue of early childhood education. We saw the combination of illiteracy, high school dropout rates, family trouble, and poverty could all be fixed by having programs that involved early childhood education. We researched all of the different causes of lack of early childhood education, and came up with poverty as the main cause. We saw that impoverished children were more likely to be behind in their grade level, and this would often lead to them dropping out of school continuing the cycle of poverty. We realized that if we could help a foundation that started their program at the beginning of a child’s story, then we could create a better ending.
We choose the Children’s Aid Society, an organization that deals with many different programs that help children and their families in the most impoverished parts of New York City. We focused on their early childhood program, of which Moria Cappio is vice president. We visited her at the offices, and interviewed her about their programs. She taught us about how they slowly incorporate different skills, such as planning, reading, and focusing into the games that the children play everyday, so that the children can be more successful later in life. Their children, by the fifth grade, were doing better 93% of the time than the children that had not gone through their programs. It was great to see the programs we think are so important being put to work.
This project was extremely rewarding, because even if our non-profit was not chosen, we could rest easily knowing that there were other social issues and people in need that are being helped with the funds. I feel like I have helped in the community, by spreading the word about Children’s Aid Society and also helping to choose GEMS to win the grant. This project definitely helped me with my presentation skill. It helped with both the creating part and oral parts of presentations, along with helping me work better in a group.