I kindly interrupt your normally student-led programming and casual Sunday drive to gush about the literal and figurative magic seen + felt at yesterday’s Women’s March on Washington, held in our nation’s capital. I hope you’ll join me as I wax poetic for few moments on the immense privilege it was to be joined by nearly 40 JMU students in what felt like dancing inside of a moving, breathing, epicenter of change.
At the end of the Fall 2018 Semester, I was approached by (now veteran) ShoutOut! Bloggers regarding the Women’s March and the hope that I could help coordinate logistics + arrange for transportation to and from the march. In our wildest dreams, we thought, surely with the new JMU Unleashed Campaign afoot and the push for viewing our campus as a model for Civic Engagement our efforts would be met with glad tidings and full monetary support.
Although we were met with concerns that our attendance at the march would be both “partisan” and “controversial,” we were finally privileged to receive partial funding from Political Science on behalf of the WGSS Learning Community, and that allowed us to keep dreaming + scheming about making our voices heard at the march.
I want to stress that both the initiative and desire to attend the march were student-led efforts, from a diverse coalition of student groups on campus, across disparate and multiple political ideologies. Our efforts did not stress uniformity of thought, but unity of spirit, and the celebration of difference as our strength.
And so, with the knowledge that we could potentially afford a trip bus, we distributed an online sign-up form to gauge student interest outside of and beyond our ShoutOut! circle. In a matter of 72 hours, our sign-up went from having 9 students attending, to 40 students and a wait-list. Our list went from a handful of current and former ShoutOut! Bloggers to students from Women of Color, the Honors College, CARE, the WGSS Learning Community, The Feminist Collective, SOGIE, and more. When you consider the size of our student body, this may seem like small potatoes, but like a pebble dropped in a pond, I would ask you to look at the ripples generated by this drop.
As an educator, as a person who cares deeply for others, and particularly those who have been told to wait for their turn, or who have never been given a seat at the table, the enthusiasm and desire shown by this small and mighty segment of our student body cannot be ignored. Our students are begging for opportunities to participate in civic actions that can change policy, and it is our responsibility, as faculty, staff, and influencers on this campus, to string together the resources and cast out the lines that will enable our students’ engagement.
All this to say, we made it to the march.
With a nearly full 41 passenger bus, fueled by snacks procured and funded by sister faculty @alisonaurelia and former ShoutOut! blogger @alwaysovaryacting, we hit the road bright and early, with our trusty driver Tim, ready to face whatever the day might bring.
The day was humbling. The day was inspiring. The day was brimming with joy and teaming with reminders of the hard work that lies ahead of us in envisioning and carving out a world that is daily more fair and just than the last, particularly to the folks that have long felt the weight of this world’s unequal distribution of power and privilege. I reveled in the opportunity to listen to our students speak: To sit quietly and observe in awe the still vibrant pockets of resistance being sewn into this generation, coming up in an era of discriminatory policies and fear-mongering.
What’s more? I wasn’t the only one who wanted to hear what our students had to say. CNN, NPR, and NowThis featured our very own JMU Students in live segments, photo stories, and tweets from the march.
JMU, your students are signing-up and signing-on for change. Are you ready to unleash their power for the common good?
Thank you to every student who expressed interest in this march. Thank you for putting your body on our bus. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for doing the work. I speak for myself and for our fellow faculty in tow when I say, we are wholly inspired by you, and entirely privileged to be your teachers.