By Jill Campbell
A bus filled up to the brim with hope, strength, and unity departed from Springfield College in the early hours of the morning. The destination? Change.
On Saturday, Jan. 21, 45 members of the Springfield community embarked on a trip to the Boston Women’s March. An email had gone out to members of the faculty and student body over winter break providing information about the event, and seats filled up faster than anyone could’ve expected. This left many students to find their own transportation to the march, but they didn’t care. They knew it was a small price to pay to partake in such a worldwide movement.
“I’ve always called myself an empowered woman, and I’ve always been someone to empower other women, so when I heard what it was about, it was exactly what I’ve always wanted to do,” said senior Kayla McCarthy. “I just jumped on the chance.”
And as the sun began to peek out of the cool winter clouds, the Boston Common welcomed the first of its guests. They traveled in by the dozens equipped with signs, banners, and an indestructible spirit. The final count weighed in at somewhere around 175,000 marchers.
Words of empowerment circulated through the air in the form of speeches and chants, as Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” echoed from the speakers. Children sat perched atop their parents’ shoulders, peering out through innocent eyes at signs reading “I’m doing this so my daughters won’t have to” and “Hate has no home here.” Some youngsters even chose to make posters of their own. One sign scribed in 7-year-old handwriting read, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” Another had a more simple message: “Girls Rule.”
The name “Women’s March” did not deter fathers, sons, brothers, and husbands from showing up to join the movement as well. Freshman Camden Spear was one of many men present.
“The biggest reason I joined is because I feel that all women and minorities of the world should feel empowered by, not limited by, their government or social system,” said Spear. “We are obligated to join women in this fight.”
Several men carried “I’m with her” signs, followed by arrows pointing at all the women in the surrounding crowd. Those three words of support and camaraderie encompassed the true meaning of the march.
“Feminism isn’t about one gender over the other, it’s about equality. And to me, the men being there just said ‘I agree. We should all be on the same playing field.’ I found that incredibly moving,” said McCarthy.
This message rang true at the various other marches, as people from all walks of life came together as one under a united cause. Sophomore Jess Kosciuk represented Springfield College at the Women’s March on Washington, which she attended with her mother and their church.
Social media played a pivotal role in spreading the word, as Kosciuk first heard about the event from one of her Facebook friends who said she would be attending.
“It was definitely different than if I was to go with someone my age because it was multiple generations marching together,” said Kosciuk. “Everyone was running around giving updates about how many people were there. It’s going to be in the history books someday, and I’ll be able to say I was there.”
For some, this was not their first march. Erin Placey, a graduate student at Springfield, took part in the 2007 march in Washington D.C.. Placey considered returning to D.C. for this year’s event, but the opportunity to stay in closer proximity at the Boston March was more convenient. Even so, the experience was something that will resonate with her forever.
“The energy was palpable. It was incredible to be marching with people who were marching for the first time as well as people who have been marching for decades. I’m really glad the Office of Multicultural Affairs was able to put that together. As a student at Springfield, it was definitely one of my most proud moments,” said Placey.
As the day came to a close, and the participants returned to their prospective homes, they knew the job still was not done. It would take that kind of passion and that magnitude of voices to make a difference, and it would take time. But still, the outpouring of love that was felt in the community that day was enough to reignite the spark of possibility. Junior Cassidy Cetti walked away feeling exactly that.
“Because of recent issues, I kind of lost a little bit of faith in humanity. But then going there and unifying with all of those men and women who felt the same – it was empowering. And for that to have happened in every state and other countries, that in itself makes me so hopeful that people do care about change and that we are going to make change happen.”