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United We Are Strong

Thoughts from the Women's March in NYC

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On Jan. 21, a sea of humans, called “We Make America,” arrived at both Manhattan’s Grand Central Station and Washington—and across the country. I am one of the founders of “We Make America,” a group of artists and activists.

We wove ourselves through the fabric of marchers led by a giant “liberty” torch carried by a small woman. When we made it to the starting point of the march in New York City, we were right next to Planned Parenthood. We waited for two hours until the march slowly reached us. We all felt uplifted. It took two hours to start because there were more of us than anticipated by the New York Police Department and march organizers.

For weeks I had struggled with whether to be or not to be in the Women’s March, but I knew that it was historic and that I could not remain passive or silent. As an undocumented woman, my lawyers have advised me to avoid anything that might result in my arrest, even for civil disobedience.

The Women’s March was organized by women and forever will stand as a statement of values and goals by them—a fact that will forever angry Trump and make= me happy. I carried the torch of liberty for eight hours.

The torch is about 15-feet tall. I felt that big, too. I was proud to represent women, people of color and immigrants. In that moment I was a giant, respected and accepted by all in the march. To me the risk of being at my first march was worth it. While I started my activism a long time ago, that march and what brought me there with “We Make America” will further define my future.

As an “Illegal’ Immigrant, I face the loss of my university teaching job, my home, but never my drive to march, protest, and be proud. Some people were critical of the march because it was all this or that, or did nothing. I think we are teaching each other how to organize, how to mobilize and how to convey our values and goals. Never before have we acted collectively on this scale. That takes determination and practice.

Most of the criticism comes from people who do nothing. To those I say, “I am a feminist, undocumented, brown, an Illegal human and an artist! Do something before you say something.”

The women’s march was a community moving in one direction toward a better future. It was also so much fun! Me encanto, but yes, it was just the beginning of the real work. United somos fuertes!

Maria de los Angeles is an artist, academic and Deferred Action for Childhood Action (DACA) dreamer who lives in Brooklyn.

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