I’ve lived in Ojai my whole life, and, to be honest, I have lived in a bubble. Being a white female with a steady home life and living in a small, progressive California town, I’ve never truly witnessed the hate and the struggle that too often occurs in this country.
I knew that sexism, racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, and other unprogressive views still ran rampant throughout the nation. But, under the presidency of Barack Obama, I was sure that as a country we were making progress.
Now, with a new political administration, I don’t believe that’s the case anymore.
When Donald Trump was elected as our 45th president, I was bewildered and disappointed. How could a man who I believe to be so unprogressive, ignorant, inexperienced, and disrespectful possibly be elected to run the “Land of the Free?”
After the election, the bubble that surrounded my life popped, and I’m grateful for that. I was finally exposed to the harsh fact that while our country has come a long way towards equality and the dissolution of hate, we still have much more progress to make.
So, last Saturday, I drove to Los Angeles to do my part.
I was one of the millions to take part in the Women’s March, one of more than 600 protests across the globe held the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration.
By some estimates, those marches drew more than 4 million people worldwide, people who gathered together to fight not only for women’s rights and reproductive rights, but to call for an end to racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and homophobia. They also were a call to action on climate change, environmental activism and a multitude of other causes important in the world right now.
As I drove down the streets of LA, heading towards Pershing Square, I was surrounded by a sea of signs, t-shirts, hats, and banners, all moving in the same direction. The square could not contain the sheer, unstoppable size of the Women’s March, which by some estimates drew as many as 750,000 people to the streets of Los Angeles.
People were scaling billboards while waving their posters. Protesters shouted chants through megaphones, helicopters flew overhead trying to get footage of the event, and newscasters and cameras were abundant.
There was cheering, yelling, singing, clapping and dancing, and that was before the march even started. This was a congregation of people with the same goal, and the same hopes, all gathering together to send a message to our current political leaders, and the world.
I was one voice among so many, but we were all saying the same thing. I was one voice from Ojai, but it turns out even there I was not alone.
I came to find out that even at my small high school I was among several Ojai Valley School students, teachers and parents moved to participate in this event, some going all the way across the country to take part in the main Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
Though we did not attend together, we all stood in solidarity, no matter where we marched.
Joining an estimated 2,500 other people, Nishiya said it was important for her to be counted in the numbers of people who stood for women’s rights, human rights, immigrants, LGBT and other groups who have been marginalized, and who are at risk due to the new administration’s stated mission and potential policies.
“It was important to me to take action, to do something to show my support for equality and human rights, as well as show that I will not stand by and be apathetic when I see things around me that I do not agree with,” Nishiya said. “It was important to teach my children the same values, and to show them how people can come together to make change in the world.”
With so much at stake, Nishiya said it was especially critical that she do more than just complain and voice her concerns on social media, and then go back to her busy life.
“The minimum that will be accomplished is awareness that there are millions of people who will resist, protest, and stand up to make change in the world when they see things happening they do not agree with,” she said. “I wanted to make a statement to the new administration that we will not stand by, we will actively resist.”
Caitlin Cooper, barn manager at the Upper Campus, also attended the Ventura Women’s March with her mother and friends, who went to show their support for civil rights, reproductive rights, affordable healthcare, and religious freedom among others.
“The main takeaway for me was that it became very clear that thousands of people, men and women, share my feelings and beliefs,” Cooper said. “The most amazing thing to me was how positive and uplifting everyone was. I read a statistic that there were no arrests at any of the Women’s Marches in the U.S. I think that says it all. It wasn’t about anger, it was about resisting an administration that seems to be pushing us backward.”
Wearing matching pink hats and carrying protest signs, OVS parent Kirsten Stoltmann and her daughter Violet, a seventh grader at the Lower Campus, joined the hundreds of thousands who packed the streets of Washington, D.C. for this past weekend’s Women’s March.
Stoltmann said she decided she was going to take Violet to Washington the night Donald Trump was elected president, knowing there would be organized backlash against the new president and his views on such issues as equal pay, reproductive rights and climate change.
“I just knew there would be some response, that it would be historic and that we needed to be part of it,” said Stoltmann, who in particular was offended by what she called sexist and demeaning language that came from Trump during the campaign.
“I cannot let her grow up in an environment where this language gets normalized,” Stoltmann said. “I need her to know that it is absolutely not ok to talk like this. I also wanted to inspire her to stand up for her rights and to be progressive in politics.”
The pair left Thursday for the nation’s capital and drove into Washington from Philadelphia early Saturday morning, passing hundreds of buses packed with marchers along the way. They parked in Maryland to take train into the capital, and squeezed on board with hundreds of other protesters destined for the same location.
“We were packed in,” Stoltmann said. “If we had been three stops up, we wouldn’t have been able to get on the train.”
Once they arrived in DC, it was more of the same.
Trying to make their way as close as they could to the main stage, they quickly learned that they were unable to move at all, stuck in a sea of humanity that was both suffocating and stimulating, generating an energy unlike anything Stoltmann had ever seen.
Mother and daughter had made signs the night before the march, and proudly carried them to the event, where in the end they joined a pile of other protest placards. One sign said “Environment Does Not Equal Business.” Violet’s sign read: “A Leader Not A Tweeter.”
Violet said the Women’s March was an incredible event, and that it was amazing to be part of a movement that attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the nation’s capital.
“It was cool because so many people showed up for the same reason,” said Violet, who has attended OVS since fifth grade. “I think it’s important to have showed up because it shows that you support this cause.”
Violet may have missed a few school days, but her mom believes that her experience outside of the classroom provided one of her most valuable learning experiences thus far.
“I want her to realize how proactive we need to be when we see things that are not right and when we see people who are not being treated right,” Stoltmann said. “We need to write letters, we need to march. I want her to be able to stand up for herself and to realize that’s what you do when things are not right.”