Continuing a Legacy of Marching for Equality

Both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Women’s March on Washington are this week. In this essay, Lauren Landau explains the beauty of that coincidence, why she’s joining the march, and how her participation feeds into a legacy of political activism.   

by Lauren Landau

Photo by Warren K. Leffler Crowds surrounding the Reflecting Pool, during the 1963 March on Washington.

Photo by Warren K. Leffler
Crowds surrounding the Reflecting Pool, during the 1963 March on Washington.

The last time members of my immediate family marched on Washington, it was August 28, 1963. My father was just four years old, so the decision to travel from New York to our nation’s capital in support of civil rights was hardly his. But my grandparents understood the importance of social justice, as did the hundreds of thousands of people who attended the rally.

There is no question that members of JWI, then B’nai B’rith Women, were among them. BBW was the first Jewish organization to back the Equal Rights Amendment in 1971. According to Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, that decade saw the nonprofit’s transition to that of an “activist feminist organization, campaigning for such issues as free choice in abortion, equal Social Security benefits for women, assistance for the displaced homemaker, women’s and infants’ health care, and reducing teenage pregnancy.” 

To this day, advancing women’s health, equal pay, and ensuring safe, affordable abortion access for all are major aspects of JWI’s work, along with ending violence against women. I am immensely proud to work for JWI, an organization that upholds the bonds of sisterhood and stands on a deep history of political activism. This Saturday, I will march alongside thousands of women in support of equality and the work we do 365 days a year. 

Skimming through my Facebook feed, it’s clear that many of my friends will also be in attendance. I hope to spot some of them in the crowd. There will be politicians and numerous celebrities there as well. But while it would be pretty cool to march alongside Cher and Amy Schumer, I am more excited to walk side-by-side with two women in particular: my mother and my boss. 

Most people would probably prefer not to see anyone from the office on the weekend. But as a young woman, I understand the vital importance of JWI’s work to ensure women and girls are safe, supported, and in control of their futures. As such, it is impossible for me to extricate my personal life from my professional one.

Frankly, I feel blessed to work for an organization that fights for my rights. Every day I’m part of an effort to create a better world for my community, my mother, my sister, my friends, myself, and my future children. It’s a powerful feeling, one that I imagine I’ll feel tenfold this Saturday when I’m surrounded by thousands and thousands of likeminded individuals. 

Half a century has passed since my dad marched on Washington with his parents. This week, I will march with one of mine. My mother is one of many coming to our nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington, and I feel supremely blessed that we will experience this historic event together.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as we prepare for Saturday’s events, I can’t help but think about that historic day 53 years ago when the reverend said, “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

Despite the best efforts of those who wish to turn back the clock, we will not stand for it. We will keep fighting, and marching, and calling our representatives. We will not be satisfied until women’s safety is a priority, until we receive equal pay for equal work, until our daughters are supported on campus, and until our right to choose is fully protected. 

The Women’s March on Washington’s platform states: “We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. This is the basic and original tenet from which all our values stem.”

This is why we march. Despite what some media outlets frustratingly lead readers to believe, this is not an “anti-Trump protest.” With 200,000 attendees, that may be true for some. It may even be true for many. But the stated goal is to come together in support of justice, equality, and an end to gender-based and racial violence.

As Reshma Saujani recently wrote in The New York Times , this march is about sisterhood and solidarity. “The march isn’t an end but a beginning,” she says. “It starts the work of mending relationships across political divides and building sisterhood at a time when we desperately need it.”

I have no interest in telling Donald Trump that he’s “not my president.” The fact is, by this time next week, he will be. As the leader of the United States of America, Trump is about to be entrusted with the safety, security, and future of our nation—and the many women who call it home. 

We know that moving forward, there will be many challenges. Women need the president to have our backs. This Saturday, we’ll affirm that at least we have each other’s, and that’s no small thing. 

Lauren Landau is JWI’s manager of marketing and social media.