Rain-soaked, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, wives, lovers, and friends all marched on Charleston in support and in demand of women’s rights. Converging on the waterfront at Brittlebank Park, more than 2,000 voices bled together into a single, unified cry for equality and freedom. Though each person felt the call to march for their own specific reasons, women from across different races, faiths, social classes, and genders stood together, their faces kissed by rain and their clothes soaked through, to say they will not allow America to slip backwards under the presidency of Donald Trump.
Charity Summers, principal at Garrett Academy in North Charleston, marched with her two young nieces by her side. Summers says that as an educator she tries to instill confidence and strength in her female students. Looking to this next generation, Summers wants her nieces and the students she leads to know that they cannot be held down by someone else’s fists, thoughts, or actions.
“I think that one of the things that our society has done is made us feel inferior and tell us what we can’t do, tell us what we shouldn’t be doing, instead of supporting us in all the things we can do,” says Summers. “I have made it by business to teach the girls that I encounter every day that they are important enough to use their girl power, to do the things that they want to do, and not fall prey to someone’s perceived power over them.”
Holland Jones marched with a small American flag outstretched in her hand. She described President Trump’s rise as one of terror, but during Saturday’s march she found an uplifting sense of hope and unity.
“I felt very alone, especially being a Southerner. I felt isolated, but to see all these people that have the same ideals and beliefs as I do, it’s really comforting,” Jones said. “It makes you feel like there is still hope for the next four years.”
Saturday’s sister march in Charleston was one of more than 600 taking place in every state across the country. Ali Titus, advocacy and awareness program manager at the Center for Women, believes the march served as a reminder for many women that they are not alone, but also provided those marching with an opportunity to figure out what the next steps are to be to ensure that women’s rights are protected.
As is evidenced by the massive turnout in not only Charleston, but throughout the United States, Titus says these marches have provided an accessible way for all women and those who care about them find ways to have their voiced heard and join together to improve their communities.
“There are a lot of giants of activism and wonderful organizations that have existed in this community for a long time working to solve social problems,” says Titus. “My biggest hope is that all these people here today who are feeling inspired will find a partner.”
Shelli Quenga marched out of a concern for the health of others. As her profession, she helps people sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which President Trump has placed on the chopping block. For the last four years, Quenga has met with people who rely on the Affordable Care Act for lifesaving treatments that they otherwise would not be able to access.
A self-described Air Force brat, Quenga has moved around all her life. For her, after growing up all over the world, the gaps in health care that many Americans face is unacceptable.
“I’ve lived in many countries where everyone is taken care of and I don’t understand why we can’t have that here. But there are people here who care enough about everyone to do that,” says Quenga. “Throughout the election, all of my friends who are involved in enrollment around the nation have all been messaging each other. My colleagues are marching in Florida, in Washington, in D.C., in New York, in Texas, in Kansas, everywhere. We’re all marching.”
Melody Shemtov had planned to join the half a million women marching in Washington, D.C. As a filmmaker, Shemtov is currently working on a project about the rise of the women’s movement following Trump’s election. While her crew is currently filming in the nation’s capital, she was unable to join them. That is part of the reason why the sister march in Charleston was so important to Shemtov.
She believes that many women are seeing the rights that they have fought so hard for over the decades are being dismantled. Though those old battles seemed to be won long ago, there now exists the fear that the progress that the nation has achieved is being lost.
“Right now, as a woman, there is no option to not march. We see things that are unjust. We see things that are unfair. And women in a group, I think, are extremely powerful and want their voices heard,” says Shemtov. “Today is an opportunity for women to do what they are always doing, which is speaking truth to power, speaking out against injustice, standing up for their rights, and rejecting oppression. The million things that women do every single day, today is just a small piece of that and part of a much bigger movement.”
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