Yesterday, I was one of 64,000 people to line the streets of Atlanta, Georgia in support of women’s rights and global equality. Quite honestly, it was one of the most epic experiences of my life, and not just because it was the largest crowd I have ever seen or been a part of, but because it was also the most diverse and unified. I say that because, in many ways 2016 was a divisive year. From the countless murders of Black & Latino men at the hands of law enforcement, to the Orlando city shooting that targeted gays, to the varied infringements on women’s rights all over the world, there was no shortage of things to disagree about or rally against!
What I didn’t realize until yesterday however, was how unintentionally segregated each of the aforementioned spaces had been. Let me explain. As a person that stands at the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality, I have had many moments of private protest over the past year—there were times when I felt misunderstood or left out of fights that impact me—but don’t exactly cater to my needs. For example, the poor LGBT representation during #blacklivesmatter initiatives, mirrors the poor Black representation within LGBT spaces. And when I find myself advocating for parity within the outdoor community, or speaking as a representative of the alternative faith community, I am usually one of less than 3 people of color. And almost always the youngest.
Yesterday, however, I saw no such division. Yesterday, I saw all causes represented on the pavement. I heard White women chanting “Black lives matter.” I saw heterosexual men advocating equal rights for the LGBT community. I saw young families calling for reproductive justice, and I saw police standing guard FOR us—greeting the crowd with smiles and accepting hugs and “thank yous” from passersby. I saw Christians holding hands with Muslims and children of all ages, and races entreating the crowd to “March for Me.” I even saw a couple of “Free Melania” signs, that while humorous and a tad bit condescending, still demonstrated some sense of female solidarity with her. I’ll admit I was choked up multiple times. Partially, because of the sheer magnitude of the crowd, but mostly because of the energy of the message. In moments of presumed conflict, it is so easy to want to blame an amorphous “other” for the issues that we are experiencing. It’s much harder to stretch out your arms and not only ask for help, but accept it when it is given. What I experienced yesterday was a representation of what true unity looks like.
For that reason, The Outdoor Journal Tour has recommitted itself to being an organization where literally every woman is welcome. Our goal is to increase mindfulness and mental health among women. To give each of you an opportunity to do something different, with someone different-- for a unified cause-wellness. As highlighted yesterday, the wellness of women is integral to the wellness of this world. Women are the historic and universal life givers of this planet. It is our compassion, and innate ability to not only create life, but to care for that life that makes us uniquely suited to carry on the torch of equality. The earth is our mother. She feeds us. She creates the environment needed for us to grow, and then gives us a safe space to pursue that growth. She is our most appropriate teacher—and I challenge each of you to be a humble student. None of us know what the future holds for this country, and so many of us (especially those who find ourselves in any sort of minority group) have real fears about what pending changes could mean for our lives. What I do know however, is that women have had, and will have a remarkable impact on how this world is shaped for the next generation. Because of that, I feel personally compelled to not only participate, but innovate and cultivate in each of the spaces that define my life and love. What will you do?