After Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration last January, I — like nearly 500,000 other women across the country — traveled to our nation’s capital to take part in the inaugural Women’s March.
I was lucky enough to travel to Washington, D.C., last year on a bus of other women from my hometown to peacefully demonstrate against issues we believed were prevalent during Trump’s campaign.
One of the event’s most special moments was getting to travel and attend with my mom, as she is one of my biggest female role models.
Although each of the women and men at the 2017 Women’s March and sister marches across the globe participated for a reason specific to himself or herself, many of the prevalent areas of concern included both sexual and racial discrimination, climate change and environmental regulations, and varying degrees of distrust for the Trump administration as a whole.
This year, I was lucky to be able to take part in my second Women’s March.
Although the energy of being in Washington last year was incredible, there was something very motivating about being in Erie this time for a “sister march” among community members and students I have grown to know and love.
This year, the national Women’s March organization supported “Power to the Polls” events, the largest of which was held in Las Vegas on Sunday.
“Power to the Polls” focused on beginning a large-scale voter registration movement that will truly seek to convert the energy of peaceful demonstration into a concrete strategy to implement change in voting booths during this year’s midterm election cycle.
Erie’s march was also held Sunday and modeled on the “Power to the Polls” theme. The event was held in partnership by Keystone Progress Erie and Erie County United.
The event featured speakers who covered topics of health care, immigration and women’s and LGBTQ rights. Attendees also had access to information about upcoming elections.
On the stage in Perry Square, numerous speakers took to the microphone to give inspiring monologues about the past year and what is to come in the year ahead.
Alayna Gallagher, president of the Erie chapter of Keystone Progress, spoke first and introduced Paige Bosnyak, a representative of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.
Bosnyak recounted numerous statistics that emphasized the important health care services that Planned Parenthood provides for both men and women statewide including STD testing and treatment, cancer screenings and sexual education.
Taking the stage next was Molly Brechtel, who represented Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Brechtel spoke about the importance of workers’ rights and the impacts of workers’ benefits such as health care on families.
She was followed by two Mercyhurst University students — Luis Flores and Megan Quiones — who currently work at an undisclosed law firm and specialize in immigration law. They spoke from personal experiences on difficulties and complications that surround legal immigration in the United States, and many in the crowd were shocked to hear how expensive such a process can be.
Flores and Quiones were followed by Dr. Rhonda Matthews of Edinboro University, who read a touching letter that detailed her family lineage, tying back to a relative who was a former slave.
Matthews emphasized the importance of voting and called the crowd to reflect on those who had fought before them for a right that many take for granted.
Tyler Titus came to the stage next. In November, he made history as the first transgender man in Pennsylvania history to be elected to office. Currently, he serves on the Erie Public School Board.
Joined on stage by his young son, Titus reminded the crowd to be kind to others and to pursue what you want, even when others try to bar your attempts, as many did when Titus wanted on the ballot.
The final two speakers of the morning were Marty Nwachukwu and April Weis. Nwachukwu represented Erie County United while Weis was a representative of the Official Women’s March organization.
Although the day was cold, being able to attend the second Women’s March was worth every second of standing in snow covered Perry Square.
The future may feel uncertain — especially given the recent government shutdown — but I will still hold onto positivity given the amount of motivated men and women who were able to join us on Sunday afternoon.