Teacher experiences women’s march firsthand
February 6, 2017
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English teacher Jolynn Walek found the perfect opportunity to practice what she preaches.
On Jan. 21, she participated in the Women’s March on Washington by boarding a bus in Kalamazoo with her best friend, her best friend’s sister-in-law and hundreds of other women.
“I wanted to show my two sons that their mom is strong and will fight for them, our family, and what’s right,” Walek said. “I decided to participate because I am always talking to my students and sons about doing the right thing – asking the question ‘What would you do?’ I felt as though I wanted to be someone who stood up for what I believed in and not sit back and let others do it for me.”
In Washington D.C., approximately 500,000 people marched, and there were also marches all over the world, including Lansing, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and 12 others in Michigan.
“The atmosphere was empowering,” Walek said. “I found myself emotional many times throughout the day as I looked around me, surrounded by men, women, children (of all walks of life) who were there as I was to stand up for the rights of all human beings – regardless of gender, sexuality, religion, race, ethnicity, etc. And every single person was positive and kind.”
Walek said she held a sign that said, “Women Won’t Back Down.”
“My message overall was about human rights and that we have come so far in our fight for equal opportunities, and we need to continue moving forward, not move backward in America,” she said. “I love that every person I encountered had a positive message. The entire day was filled supporting the various people we fear may lose their rights they have gained and deserve.”
The amount of people gathered together made for close quarters, Walek said.
“I literally couldn’t move for 3 1/2 hours. It was shoulder to shoulder. One way I looked, I saw the Capitol Building, and the other way was the Washington Monument. It was absolutely phenomenal I couldn’t see the edge of the crowd in any direction,” Walek said. “It was uplifting to see 500,000-plus people all there to support someone and something beyond just themselves.”
Walek said the most eye-opening moment for her was when she made it home.
“As Breslin [Walek’s son] looked through my pictures and we watched the news and saw the number of people who stood up, not just in Washington but worldwide, and he said to me, ‘Mommy, you were a part of history! How many people can say they marched on Washington? That’s so cool.’ And his face just beamed. He was proud of me,” Walek said. “It made me tear up because I could see he got it. He truly understood the magnitude of January 21, 2017 — a day where people came together to show support for their daughters, granddaughters, friends, neighbors, and even strangers.”
Walek said that she hopes people understand she and million others marched.
“I hope everyone saw that we weren’t there out of hatred for one person or the system, but we were there to unite, stand up, and say we don’t want to live in a country filled with intolerance. We desire an America of fairness, acceptance, freedom, and opportunity regardless of anything at all,” Walek said. “I want everyone to say, ‘I see you, I hear you, I am with you, and I will fight for you no matter who you are.’”