Newaygo County Women March in D.C
By Alexis Mercer
On her Facebook page a week ago, Stephanie Barrette posted the following:
Lansing or DC?
Same cause. Same purpose. Same value.
But how amazing will it be 40 years from now to reminisce about the Women's March on Washington!?”
Her reminiscing begins today as she and friend Samantha Steinhauer get back in the car to travel home to Newaygo after...
...having participated in one of the largest organized protests in history. According to NBC News, nearly 3 million people marched worldwide.
Stephanie Barrette graduated from Newaygo High School in 2006 and immediately served four years in the United States Marine Corps. She has had the opportunity to travel to many countries, and has lived in Okinawa, Japan. After her service in the military, she earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work and now works in the community where she grew up.
Barrette feels that her travels and experiences have allowed her to take in and appreciate true diversity. “As a white woman I am far more advantaged than many and have an obligation to use my experience, my platform and my voice to be inclusive of all and stand up for social justice,” says Stephanie, when asked what led her to the decision to attend the Women’s March.
So it was these factors that led her to make the long trek to Washington D.C. with her friend Samantha, and her younger brother Russell, who is, according to Barrette, an anti-Trump republican with a soft spot for women’s issues, who drove and supported them on the journey but who didn’t attend the event itself.
In the interview below, Stephanie answered questions about the event as well as her future plans to continue in the democratic process.
N3: What is the main reason for you to feel the need to join in the protests?
SB: The word protest has been a point of contention. The March on Washington is not an anti-Trump inauguration protest but a rally, a movement of woman and allies standing in solidarity to say that women's rights are human rights. The main reason I attended the march is because of all of the inequality I see and experience. Enough is enough. In good conscious I cannot sit back and allow people to be dehumanized and mistreated. The inequalities in our country based on gender, color, religion, country of origin, and other factors are embarrassing and devastating. The marginalized need a voice and simply voting is not enough anymore. Defending the most marginalized is defending us all.
N3: What was the overall mood of the crowd?
SB: The crowd was beautiful. People were in good spirits, smiling, unified and proud.
N3: Did you think the march was about many issues including education, racism, freedoms of all sorts or more focused on women?
SB: In DC the platform is that women's rights are human rights, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, gender, sexual identity, economic status, age or disability. The event brought attention to the importance of affordable health care, including the continued funding of Planned Parenthood. People spoke of a woman's right to her body and to make her own decisions. We stood to end sexual violence. We rejected the administration’s proposal for a Muslim registry. White women were confronted with the reality that historically our movement has left out women of color and that will be tolerated no more. We stood up to end violence against people of color and people in the Muslim community. The march supports black lives matter. The march discussed immigration policies. We even had the honor of hearing from nine-year-old Sophia Cruz and the story of her family.
N3: Ashley Judd is in your photos. What was it like to hear her message?
SB: Ashley Judd is a personal hero of mine. When I was 13 I saw a photo of her wearing a shirt that proclaimed, "THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE". I had no idea what that meant so I did some research, read the Feminine Mystique and haven't looked back. She is also a woman that uses her celebrity to raise awareness. She is an advocate for women, a political activist and a global humanitarian. Ashley shared a poem, Nasty Woman, from 19-year-old Nina Donovan in addition to her own words. She shared the poem and spoke with a fiery passion. The experience was highly emotional for me and really spoke to the issues I am most passionate about. I was also able to thank Ashley Judd as she passed me in a sea of people. After the second time I finally had the nerve to say something to her.
N3: What was the best part of the whole experience?
SB: Aside from exchanging words with a personal hero, the best part was being with a large number of people who shared my beliefs and passions. Coming from a 'red' community I often feel like an outsider and it can be lonely. Knowing that there are literally a millions of others who belief in equality across the board in the way that I do gives me hope.
N3: Do you feel the goal of the march was met?
SB: I do. Our message was shared not only in DC and in America, but across the world. This movement is more than just a little ol' protest, it was he world saying we will not go back, and we won't. People are people. Love is love. And our differences make us beautiful.
N3: What do you plan to do now?
SB: I plan to continue to let my light shine, no matter how difficult that might be in a sea of difference back home. I plan to remain active in the political process. I plan to refuse to sit back down. The Women's March has a 'Ten Actions for the First 100 Days' to do list that I am participating in. Action one: writing your Senators about what matters most to you, and what you are going to do to fight for it. Specifically I will be following the 10 steps/100 days message. In addition I will continue to attend rallies in our home state, support the ACLU and PP, speak from a place of love and refuse to accept hate in any form. I will keep an open mind in hearing from those whose opinions differ from my own. I will educate. I will be an ally. And most importantly, I will take steps to see what more I can do for the community in Newaygo.
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