I am still processing the unbelieveable things I witnessed at the Women’s March on Hartford. People of all races, religions, nationalities, and identities stood together on the lawn of the Legislative Office Building (LOB); voicing their concerns about the future and finding solidarity in each other. It was a peaceful but powerful demonstration that left me awestruck.
Why I March
I felt compelled to march Saturday because of a cause very close to my heart: mental health and disability rights. My lived experiences have shown me that people with mental illnesses are people first, and the stigma associated with having a mental illness compounds the pain of the illness itself. The challenges people with disabilities face are incredible: the ARC finds that most people with disabilities are either unemployed or underemployed. They also face similar stigma to those with mental illnesses.
The events of this political season shocked me to my core and made me worry about what would happen to the people I’ve encountered throughout my life. As the weeks and months have gone by, it’s become increasingly more apparent that now is the time to stand up for what I believe in. Prior to Saturday the urge to be “active” (as it were) came in whispers, shrouded in anxiety. But now is not the time to be afraid.
“This is What Democracy Looks Like”
My friend and I got to the rally around noon after parking at the Hartford Public Library. It was a gorgeous (albeit chilly) day, and we were charged to see the swarms of people descending upon the LOB through Bushnell Park. Once we reached the LOB, we were fortunate to find spaces where the two of us could stand. We ended up next to a family with three girls; one seemed to be around eleven, another six, and the youngest no older than four. The parents had made signs encouraging support for the environment, and the girls had made drawings on them. Watching this family participate in the rally was interesting; while the youngest girls might not have understood the magnitude of what they were witnessing, their faces showed interest and excitement. This is something that I saw throughout the rally – families coming together to experience history.
The main events kicked off at one, with numerous speakers igniting the crowd. Rally organizer Sharlene Kerelejza spoke first, sharing how a traumatic experience from her past inspired her to take action and run the rally. Then, Victoria from the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence led a rousing and interactive reading of the six principles of Kingian nonviolence. After, Governor Malloy, Senator Beth Bye, Comptroller Kevin Lembo and Hartford mayor Luke Bronin pledged to fight for women’s healthcare and paid family medical leave, and to support the rights of all Connecticut residents. Governor Malloy even pronounced January 21 as “Women’s March on Hartford” day!
My first foray into political activism was impactful and inspiring. I am looking forward to finding other ways to raise my voice during these turbulent times.