Marching beyond streets and moving forward

Those passionate chants, blistered toes, and pink cat hats are a distant memory, now. The Women’s March is over. However, some marchers can’t help but question “what’s next?”

In January, for the second consecutive year, women empowerment and togetherness saturated the streets of uptown Charlotte. Although great numbers walked the streets, uniting their voices of dissatisfaction, I believe it’s important now not to become idle. These sentiments must go beyond the streets and move forward.

Zuri Guzman, a sophomore political science major, senses it: “My entire education is based on wanting to see a political change, but I wish I was doing more outside of school.” Guzman’s guilt is inevitable as she struggles to find time for activism amid school obligations.

So, what are we to do as college students? What does “forward” look like to us?

It can often be discouraging when one’s efforts to make a difference hardly seem noticed. But Kathryn Mahan, a leader of Charlotte Women’s March, disagrees, saying she finds power in smaller efforts.

“Well, it appears that Donald Trump has, in fact, made America great again,” said Mahan, a Queens alum and leader of the group’s Racial Justice subcommittee. “Look at us. We’re getting lots of exercise marching. We’re all getting reminded how the legislative process works. We’re all out voting, protesting, speaking up, and talking to our elected officials in ways that we have never before.”

Mahan says change is inevitable, but it does not come overnight. Until then, it’s college students’ “duty” to start dialogues, be present, and “vote with your feet” by being active and contributing citizens. Mahan also urges young voters to work at staying informed, even if ignorance appears more blissful.

In fact, it’s the news that started this movement locally. Autumn Watson, disappointed with not being present at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., watched the event on TV with her husband over a glass of wine. As they watched, she thought to herself, “Why don’t I create a march in Charlotte?” So she did.

These local activists suggest that being an advocate isn’t just about applying political pressure and waving signs that depict your best illustration of Donald Trump’s hair. Mahan and Watson insist that your individual advocacy is just as effective.

Last year, Mahan and 39 other ambitious activists crowded onto a bus to march in Washington D.C. the day after President Donald Trump was inaugurated. Since then, Charlotte Women’s March has expanded from 40 motivated individuals to 2,400.

Local organizers say this is more than a march. It’s a movement. The group is made up of eight subcommittees that focus on immigration, education, women’s health, LGBTQ rights, racial justice and more. Together, they have already hosted many events in Charlotte, among them the March For Our Lives event for gun reform, a forum on sex trafficking in Charlotte, and the Charlotte Pride Parade. They hope to educate residents on a variety of progressive issues, as well as give the unheard a voice.

Asked what “forward” looks like in Charlotte, Watson said, “Awareness. People are very keenly aware of what happens within their own personal bubble. A lot of times people turn a blind eye to things that happen outside of their personal bubble.”

As for Mahan, she insists we cannot move forward without developing a deeper empathy for people who are marginalized. “What motivates me is the sense that we’re all in this together” said Mahan. “Lord, help you. If you don’t feel compelled to help the people around you… I’ve seen real people suffer real things. Anybody that thinks that they don’t know people that suffer real pain needs to get out more and pay attention.”

So, seek what’s “forward” is to you.

If you’d like to join Charlotte Women’s March, a non-profit organization, you can sign up through an online form.

How you can get involved on the Queens campus:

* Join a club on Queens that highlights where you stand in solidarity or start your own! Queens has several inclusion clubs and safe spaces such as LASO (Latino American Student Organization), Muslim Student Association, Black Student Union, SAFE and Hillel, among many others. To reach these organizations or start one of your own, consult Rabbi Judy Schindler or visit the Queens DICE (Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement) lounge, located in the basement of Sykes.

* Have open-minded discussions with those that share and oppose your political views.

* Watch for the many deliberative dialogues held on campus throughout the year.

* Contact your local representatives. Here is who represents those who live on and around the Queens campus:

US Senate
Thom Tillis (REP)
9300 Harris Corners Pky, Suite 170
Charlotte, NC 28269

US Senate
Richard Burr (REP)
151 Patton Avenue, Suite 204
Asheville, NC 28801

US House of Representatives District 9
Robert Pittenger (REP)
5970 Fairview Road, Suite 430
Charlotte, NC 28210

Roy Cooper (DEM)
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699

Attorney General
Josh Stein (DEM)
9001 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699

Dale Folwell (REP)
325 North Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27614

NC State Senate District 39
Dan Bishop (REP)
16 W. Jones St., Room 2108
Raleigh, NC 27601

NC House of Representatives District 104
Andy Dulin (REP)
300 N. Salisbury St., Room 609
Raleigh, NC 27601

District Attorney
Spencer B. Merriweather III (DEM)
700 East Trade St
Charlotte, NC 28202

Board of Commissioners At-Large
Pat Cotham (DEM)
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Board of Commissioners At-Large
Trevor Fuller (DEM)
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Board of Commissioners At-Large
Ella Scarborough, Chair (DEM)
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Board of Commissioners District 5
Matthew Ridenhour (REP)
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Irwin Carmichael (DEM)
700 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Board of Education – At-Large
Mary McCray, Chairperson
PO Box 30035
Charlotte, NC 28230

Mayor, City of Charlotte
Vi Lyles (DEM)
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Charlotte City Council At-Large Mayor Pro Tem
Julie Eiselt (DEM)
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Charlotte City Council At-Large
Dimple Ajmera (DEM)
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Charlotte City Council At-Large
James Mitchell, Jr. (DEM)
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Charlotte City Council At-Large
Braxton Winston III (DEM)
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Charlotte City Council District 1
Larken Egleston (DEM)
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.