Days before I drove to St. Louis for its Women’s March, I was challenged by a young girl who told me she thought voting was “stupid.” While her comment may seem asinine, it is one of many I have heard within the last year, though adults tend to tack on, “I did not like either candidate, so I did not vote,” which is somehow supposed to explain their decision. Since the election, research has fired back and corroborated these comments. According to the Washington Post, an approximated 100 million people chose not to vote in 2016, which leads me to believe that Americans undervalue their right to vote.
On the morning of the march, this young girl’s voice repeated in my head, and as I pulled on my sweatshirt emblazoned with the words “I miss Barack,” I was reminded how important it is to vote. Invigorated with determination and hope, I looped my camera around my neck, helped my family and friends secure several handmade posters in the back of the car and was ready to embark on my second Women’s March.
It was beautiful weather for a Saturday in the middle of January, and Market Street was flooded with people clad in pink hats and clutching vibrant posters. Glancing through the crowd, I was filled with an inexplicable feeling of unity. It is the feeling of an unspoken support from strangers who share my same sentiments about the political disarray that has taken place within the last year. Women and men of a multitude of ages, races, sexualities and genders joined together to peacefully protest. Among my favorites was a boy planted on his scooter, sporting a sign displaying the words “Gender Defender” and a woman who had taped to her wheelchair a poster which read, “At 81 … If I can make it to the polls, so can you.”
The March began promptly at 10 a.m. and with great exuberance, a nearby group began chanting the classic, “This is what democracy looks like.” We thrust our posters in the air and started to make our way to the lid in front of the Gateway Arch.
A few minutes in and I had already scaled a construction dumpster to watch the myriad of marchers and gain a perspective of the crowd’s size. Although the turnout was not as immense as the previous march, the sea of people managed to feel tremendously powerful. On my rather questionable perch, I knew I was in the right place. The last year had imprinted immense negativity in my head, and now I was surrounded by individuals who understood what I have been fighting for: equality. They, too, understood the tireless campaign for social, racial, gender, political and economic equality and the desperate need to preserve the rights citizens can exercise.
After darting down blocks of marchers while snapping countless photographs, I slowed down to soak up the experience, find my friends and family and revel in the creativity I saw everywhere. When I rejoined my group, I gladly discovered a woman who told me she adored the sign I had made, which was a witty riff off the book Goodnight Moon. She mentioned she was 74 years old, and I was inspired by her spunk and keen determination. She was among one of the thousands of inspiring marchers I was privileged enough to be surrounded by.
We continued marching down Market Street, passing Union Station, the Old Courthouse, City Hall and Luther Ely Smith Square. Once the crowd of people pooled by the lid, the "land bridge" connecting the Arch to downtown St. Louis, the lineup of speakers commenced. Admittedly, it was a strain to hear the speakers over the whir of a nearby generator, which later influenced our early departure. Even though we cut our Women’s March experience short, I was satisfied with and proud of the display of unity by St. Louis.
Overwhelmingly, St. Louis’ 2018 Women’s March reinforced the importance of encouraging and nurturing voter education in not only the eligible public but also the young and impressionable. We need to show American youth that voting is not “stupid.” Rather, it serves to maintain our precious, fleeting rights and helps make vital decisions to strive toward equality.
Edited by Brooke Collier | firstname.lastname@example.org