Athens women return energized from D.C. march

Wow. What a powerful time in D.C., road tripping and marching with my Athens friends. Great quotes in this Athens Banner-Herald story from Laulea, Penny, Bridget and Jessie. Pixel & Ink is mentioned.

Many Athens women were among the hundreds of thousands of people who joined the Women’s March on Washington in the nation’s capital Saturday, one of a number of marches across the country that saw an estimated 3 million people in the streets.

Washington was the hub of the women-led marches that spread to hundreds of cities across the globe, and the city was so crowded that one group of women from Athens traveled for three hours on the Metro, the capital city’s public transit system, just to get to the back of the march.

Tracey Wyatt, team leader for the East Georgia Women’s March on Washington, said the event was just the beginning. The women’s group is planning to take action throughout the presidency of Donald Trump to protect the rights of all minorities, she said. The marches in the United States and around the world came the day after Trump was inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president.

“We are tired of the ignorance of discrimination in all its forms. We have every intention, and it has already started, to split off into these areas of discrimination that are our strongest passions and organize and begin with daily action,” Wyatt said.

Laulea Taylor, who co-owns Pixel & Ink, an Athens print and design studio, took her 13-year-old daughter to the women’s march after she and her three children were reeling from the election of President Donald Trump.

“I was pretty horrified about the election, and there was kind of this sense of mourning that just was everywhere in the community,” Taylor said of the presidential contest that pitted the Republican Trump against Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady.

“Watching the election, with my son especially, was like watching the villain and the good guy. And you’re certain that the good guy will win. Having to wake my kids up the next morning and tell them was a traumatic experience,” Taylor said. “All of the kids cried.”

Taylor and her stepdaughter, Penny Merva, were committed to getting to the march and offered extra seats in the family van to anyone from Athens who wanted to go.

Merva said Trump’s “sexist and offensive” comments angered her during the presidential campaign, making her want to get involved in efforts to speak out.

“One of my favorite things about it was everyone there was just so supportive of each other. We all came together to support a common cause,” Merva said. “One reason I wanted to go and one main thing that made me really mad was that more people wanted Hillary (Clinton) than him.”

Bridget Dooley, a Ph.D. student in creative writing at the University of Georgia, rode with Taylor.

“I’ve been feeling sort of despondent and powerless since the election and very worried. This is a great way to funnel that energy into something productive,” Dooley said.

Dooley said she’s been working since the election to call or write to her representatives expressing her views. The march helped her remember she is “part of something bigger,” she said.

Jessie McClellan of Athens, who works for WUGA-FM and New Urban Forestry, agreed that the march was energizing.

“It was amazing to see that many people who shared a similar goal and a similar viewpoint and who refused to accept hate,” McClellan said. “We set out not just to march but to make a lasting change.”

McClellan said she felt the need to take action in protest of Trump’s election.

“I felt like I needed to not just sit on my couch and be angry but actually find ways to use that anger to do something positive and influence other people,” McClellan said.

Another Athens woman who attended the protest in Washington, D.C., was Kami Wood.

Wood said she’s never been to a protest, and she met many women on the bus ride north who, like her, had never been active in politics.

“I would never have gone if it was going to be like a protest because that’s just not who I am. I went to be part of something bigger, not just talk,” Wood said. “I don’t agree with everything that everyone said, but that’s not the point. The point is we were there together.”

The packed city streets were filled with positive energy, Wood said, with no acts of violence or aggression — something she found inspiring. According to official reports, no arrests were made during the Women’s March on Washington.

“Women led this whole thing, and I think that came through in the event, that we’ve all got each other’s backs,” Wood said.

Laulea Taylor