Since the 21st of January, there have been marches abound. Globally and locally.
I could focus on all marches and movements, but for this piece I’ll share what sparked for me at the Women’s March, since it led to a rush of reactive rifts that are still alive today.
Two weeks ago, millions of people came together to collectively draw a line in the sand for our new president.
It was as if everyone received a universal, mandatory call to come out from behind our status updates and literally stand up for what we believe.
Seeing and experiencing that many people speaking up and out for peace and justice was profoundly powerful to me.
I held my homemade sign high next to my sister and mom and listened to Wendy Davis’ inspirational speech in Austin, TX. Throughout the day, I felt waves of hope rush over the crowd.
That being said, as someone who coaches and facilitates engagements on racial equity for a living, I saw the cracks and gaps in the movement days and weeks prior. Big cracks.
So, I wasn’t surprised by the predictable barrage of bashing and blaming that began soon after the march.
The wave of judgment collided with the wave of hope and unity, and we’ve found ourselves in a rush of reactive rifts. One after another.
From the denouncing news-feed posts, to finger-pointing, to hashtag shouting matches…all the energy focused on hate exhausted me (and still does).
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate constructive critiques. It’s the blaming and the inability to listen to the other side that really gets me.
Regardless of whether you agree with the way the March was organized or not, I think we can all agree that we need change.
My partner, Lia, and I even made a short video reflecting on why women should come together days before the march (I’ll share more about it in part-two).
Bottom line: I long to see people really listen to one another.
I yearn to hear about people pausing and listening to what’s happening within.
I believe the way through all this anger and pain starts with self-reflection.
So, last week, I pushed pause and tuned-in to myself.
What surfaced during that time were 3 letters I wrote to former versions of myself.
I hope that, by sharing my most vulnerable thoughts and experiences, that you might be able to get in closer touch with what you feel is worth fighting for—and why.
I also hope to start a different conversation…
A conversation that normalizes growth, change, and development as a natural part of the human experience.
A conversation that busts-open binaries and creates space for truisms to be shared honestly and openly.
Because, in sharing our struggles and triumphs, I believe we see the humanity in one another. We are able to turn down the volume of reactivity and turn up the volume of empathy.
And it all begins within.
As the brilliant Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “All meaningful and lasting change begins on the inside.”
So, let me begin.
What follows are the letters I wrote to myself, at three different stages of life, about why I marched for women’s rights, and why I will continue to march for the rest of my life.
Dear Teenage Rachel,
I march because you have no idea how lucky you are, or what obstacles your classmates are fighting against, and this is problematic.
I think that if you knew, you would start marching right now.
I wish I could show you the look of confusion when your African American friends see a box of “flesh colored” Band-Aids as kids and don’t see their skin-tone represented.
You never spare a thought for Band-Aids. They were designed for you. Along with the makeup-lines, hair products, and everything else that you obsess over with your friends at slumber parties.
You don’t see that the young women of color in your class didn’t have products designed for them until the 80’s.
Your privilege blinds you in many ways.
But I’m not here to blame or judge. You were taught to be “colorblind” in school, and you went along with it. You internalized the message your teachers shared that: “talking about race isn’t good”…so of course you avoid it.
But there are so many inequities that you, and everyone around you, are not seeing.
When you are grown, you will start to hear stories that break your heart.
You will understand why I have to march now.
I march for all the times you drove over the speed limit on the freeway and got warnings, for all the times you jay-walked without getting stopped, or the times you walked past a security guard at a door smiling and not opening your bag—all without being racially profiled once.
I march for all the times you walked into a fancy restaurant and didn’t get stared at.
I march because my friends and colleagues in the present—and your classmates in the past—deserve access to the same opportunities that you have taken for granted.
I march because the playing-field isn’t level (and hasn’t ever been).
I march for you, because you are my story.
I can’t change you, because you are in the past.
But my eyes are open now. Not guilty, just open.
I march because I wish you had been marching all along.
I march for you, because my journey of unpacking my privileges (and becoming a more aware citizen) is a lifelong one.
My Dear, Dear Rachel,
With a heavy heart, I march for you. Your body. Your voice. Your rights.
I march for the day you woke up more scared than you ever had been. I marched for your broken body that held your flesh and froze your soul. I march for that night back in 2005.
You experienced the rudest awakening you could have ever imagined. That night the intruder came into your bed unwelcome.
I know reliving the scene is painful, and it’s something you’ve shared with few people, but I need you to know that I fight for THAT version of your body. That broken, delicate, scared, confused, hurt version of your body.
I march for the shock, sadness, and disbelief that permeated your family’s faces the night you stopped being scared silent. After eight years.
I march because no one should have to sleep with clenched fists, ready to defend.
I march for you, Rachel.
I march for the voice that was buried, the spirit that slept for years.
I march for your awakening.
I march for the part of you that thought it was your fault. I march for the part of you buried in so much shame and guilt that you convinced yourself you did something wrong.
I march for women like you whose beautiful, pure bodies have been tarnished, torn, and trapped.
I march for fearful, silent women like you who need a judgement-free safety net.
I march for the counseling and support you received at the clinic during one of the most dreadful times of your life.
I march for the women whose bodies reacted differently than yours and ended up with a positive sign on a stick.
I march for your ability to choose what to do with your body—especially after experiencing a traumatic event like rape.
My heart beats fast and heavy as I march for you.
I march because you trusted the man who did this to you. He would have never publicly talked about grabbing or groping a women’s body, and he turned out to be a monster.
I march for women who have monsters like him in their lives.
I march because our President has displayed all signs that he is a monster, and the way he openly treats and talks about women is not right, not normal, and certainly not presidential.
I march because monsters cannot and will not silence us.
They need to see us marching through the blazing fire. They need to see us rise.
I march every single day to ensure fewer monsters hurt women like you.
Your heart beats to a new rhythm now, and I feel it growing stronger.
I see you.
Your education days teaching Spanish and leading a school made your voice stronger and your stance for justice steady.
Your eyes opened wide when you started doing racial equity work, and I see you holding your head up higher and speaking up louder.
I see you.
And yet, I also hear your voice tremble when you talk publicly about your identity and your whiteness.
So, I march for your silence, AND I march for your voice.
I march because two things can be true at the same time: Your voice can tremble and your heart can guide you.
So I march for your heart.
And your love.
The day you fell in love with Lia everything changed.
Your relationship became an outward-facing symbol of something larger.
I march for this “Loving” themed Facebook banner framing our love, and all that that means.
You have always marched through life for love, and now the pace has shifted.
I now march for all the days your feet ached, your muscles grew, and your heart beat faster—as you found your rhythm.
You once felt trapped and afraid, but I see you finding your voice.
And now, I march because I no longer have a choice.
I march because you need to know that being in a same-sex, interracial relationship comes with judgments, hatred, and stares. It comes with de-friending, confusion, and scars.
And that’s life, but that darkness cannot and will not dim your light.
I want to make sure you hear that.
Because your love for Lia shines bright like the sun.
And I march for your bright future together.
I march for your ability to choose to marry some day if you are so inclined.
I march because I know you want children someday, and I never want you to be told you have to legally adopt a child that is biologically yours.
I march because the eyes of the Supreme Court are upon you, and they’re not neutral.
I march because I can’t not march for love.
I also can’t not march for the future of the next generation.
You dedicate all of yourself to your students, and I march for the hope that you represent.
I march because your students deserve a quality education and access to opportunities that allow them to have a positive life trajectory.
I will never ever ever ever stop marching for them, because ALL your students deserve to feel safe, seen and heard in school. Regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, zip-code, or skin tone. No. Matter. What.
I march for them.
And I march for you.
All of you.
I’ll close by saying this:
We can make life hard on ourselves by staying stuck in the past…
OR we can march forward, ready to learn from our past, listen to our present and create a future that’s grounded in awareness and loving action.
I choose the latter.
I choose to acknowledge that we can feel pain, frustration, and devastation about what’s going on in the world (and happening TO us), AND we can hold up the mirror and reflect on what’s going on WITHIN us…in service of a better tomorrow.
Here’s one thing that is definitely true: I cannot march alone.
Will you join me?
If you hear me and feel me, (and you think others might too) I invite you to kindly share this with loved ones, friends, and whoever else you choose.
I would LOVE to hear from you as I walk on this new path of vulnerability…
Just comment below, and let me know what it sparked for you.
Also, feel free to share your own letters with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d prefer to share them anonymously.
Part 2 of this blog-series will shine a light on the importance of staying in dialogue, and listening with fearless, courageous curiosity…
…so stay tuned!
Rachel Rosen is a coach, a facilitator, and the Founder of SPARK! For Humanity, the game where everyone belongs, because she sees a need for it. SPARK! For Humanity serves to facilitate three things that Rachel cares deeply about: building empathy with others, raising-awareness of how one’s’ identity impacts their experience in the world, and slowing down to connect in meaningful ways. Interested in purchasing your own deck or learning more about it? Awesome!