On Saturday, January 21st, an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 people took to the streets of the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington. The event, which called for an end to gender-based violence and the promotion of women’s health, environmental and social justice, religious freedom, and civil, women’s and LGBTQIA rights, came on one of the country’s most divisive weekends in recent memory.
Among those in attendance were Olney Friends School students, faculty, parents, and alumni, with nearly one third of the student body making the 5+ hour voyage to Washington. They joined activists from across the nation, many of whom were also representing Friends schools and meetings. Regardless of background or affiliation, however, a sense of unity, an atmosphere of sharing and a culture of peace were experienced by many of our students.
“I made lots of friends,” said Arlene Belock, an Olney 11th grader. “I met acquaintances in the streets, protesters on the metro, people who wanted to take group photos and others who shared buttons and support. I met a mother with her two children that shared their spot in line, their food, and their stories with me. I met women who shared strong words of encouragement for my future. There were no fights. We saw no violence. It was as if America’s greatest people came together to support each other and it was magical.”
Cat Owens, also an 11th grade Olney student, had a similar experience. Considering the massive, passionate crowd, the march was far different than anything experienced on the school’s quiet, 350-acre campus; however, the event allowed attendees to encounter some of the school’s core values on a monumental stage. “In the middle of all this chaos, there was a feeling of unwavering support and love,” said Cat.
While the portrayal of any major event with far-reaching social and political implications is subject to interpretation across the world’s various media platforms, the take-away for Olney’s visitors was that the Women’s March on Washington was well attended, well represented, and well worth the trip.
“The march was glorious, hilarious mayhem: it didn’t seem to me like a protest so much as a positive affirmation of respect for women, minorities, and scientific truth. I feel like we made a half million friends,” said Phineas Gosselink, the school’s Curriculum Coordinator.