Social Worker Amy Chong, LCSW Shares Her Experience and Decision to Join The Women’s March

January 21, 2017, was a historic day in our country and around the globe. Regardless of personal stances on the Women’s March, never before have we seen the likes of such a movement as the “Woman’s March on Washington.”

How Did The Women’s March Begin?

Woman holds a sign at the Women's March

Photo Credit: OITNB.tc, @tayjschilling

The day after Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote, 60-year old Rebecca Shook pondered on Facebook “Could women march on Washington on Inauguration Day?” Her frustration and need for action quickly went viral. Women around the country began planning to join together to present a united front against the dangers they perceived to be presented by the soon to be Trump administration.

No one could have predicted the number of women, men, and children who would come to our nation’s capital the day after President Trump took office.

But perhaps even more historic is the total number of people who joined the effort in hundreds of cities around the nation and the world.  While exact numbers are impossible to obtain some are now estimating that between 2.5 and 5 million people joined the movement on all seven continents.

Social Workers for Social Justice. Then, Now, and Always.

NASW, The National Association of Social Workers had over 500 individuals sign up to attend the March in Washington, DC before the registry website reached its’ capacity.

Why specifically, would social workers participate for this event?

It is important to note:

“The social work profession was founded in social change. Through the profession’s history, social workers have sought to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources and opportunities that allow them to meet their basic needs.” (https://www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/AdvocacySocialJustice.asp)

The involvement of Social Workers in this unprecedented movement should not be a surprise to anyone. Through the decade’s social workers have taken the lead on pushing through advances in:

  • The Women’s Suffrage Movement
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • The CHIP program or Children’s Health Insurance Program (medicaid.gov)
  • Increasing awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Bullying and School Violence
  • Evidenced Based Practices
  • The Effects of Social Media and Technology
  • And most recently, Strides in Infant Mental Health

Raising Awareness, Activism, and Protection

In a national climate perceived by many to be divisive and provocative, of course, social workers would come together with millions of others to stand up against language that triggered traumatic memories or against proposed policies which threaten people’s rights based on their heritage or religion.

The march at its core was a grassroots movement to raise awareness, activism, and protection. 

While it may have begun as a protest against hateful speech and fear mongering, it manifest as a peaceful, yet spirited rally cry “We are here. We are powerful. We are awake.”

Or as Hillary Clinton famously stated before the march, “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.”

Why I Marched: A Social Worker’s Experience

Washington, DC has special significance to me personally.  It is there where my husband and I bought our first home.  It is there where I earned my Master’s Degree in Social Work and it is there where my two children were born and lived for 11 years.

Why did I march in solidarity with the Woman’s March on Washington?
Because I am a social worker.  I am a mom.  I am a woman. I am an activist.  I am a seeker of equality, of liberty and justice for all.  The real question is “Why wouldn’t I?”

I very much wanted to be a part of the march in DC, however, for many reasons was not able to do so.  I did, however, attend the sister rally in Orlando, Florida where I — with my son, daughter and my husband — joined some 6,000 others in the day of solidarity.

Roots and Core Family Values

I grew up in a loving home with a Democratic-leaning, stay-at-home devout-Catholic mother, who was married to my Republican, defense engineer, atheist father.

Somewhere along the way, my parents taught me that we do not all have to agree on issues related to religion, politics, sexual identity and so called “family values” — but that standing up for the rights of others, particularly the marginalized and the oppressed, advances rights for us all.

Captioned photo of young girl waving an american flag at Lake Eola in Orlando

Photo Credit: Amy Chong, LCSW

I have lived in another country, learned another language, and loved people from cultures different and distinct from my own.  I joined in the march because although I did not disagree with the fact that Donald Trump won the election, I did disagree with the approach, disrespectful speech and tactics he used to garner support.

Protester at Lake Eola in Orlando, Florida holds a sign.

Photo Credit: Robin Frisella

Amy with her daughter (15) and son (13) holding our Liberty and Justice for all poster.

Amy Chong, LCSW with her daughter (15) and son (13) holding our Liberty and Justice for all poster.
Photo Credit: Amy Chong, LCSW

I Marched Because I Wanted

I wanted my children to be present so that they could see the vast number of people who believe that words still matter.

I marched because I wanted to show my daughter that she has the right to demand and expect respect from boys and men.

I marched so that my son would see that strong women respect a strong man standing beside them, lifting them up, and not tearing them down.

I marched not because I personally expect to be negatively impacted by this administration’s policies but because I suspect that those who might – may be the most vulnerable among us.

After the Women’s March: What Comes Next

No matter your political affiliation or who you voted for in this momentous election, it is critical to take an open, honest look at the significance of this immense gathering of voices.

Some who did not attend or who find the protest offensive may be consuming information from media outlets showcasing signs or chants that strike them as vulgar and rude.  Others may feel left out or even prone to criticize the march as “a waste of time and energy” likely not to accomplish much.

While it is my fervent wish and staunch commitment that the next steps might include reaching out to the woman who did not feel inclined to participate and may even feel alienated from the movement, It’s important at this moment to acknowledge what we are currently witnessing.

The Women’s March initiative has already achieved more than could have been imagined: 

  • It has inspired an entire segment of the population through its sheer number of participants.
  • It has introduced a new generation to the power of Kingian nonviolent protest.
  • Furthermore, right now, those who participated or who wished they had are being connected through social media, broadcast emails, phone calls and websites.
  • Action plans are being drawn out with specific guidelines for steps to take in the next 100 days.

As a friend of mine Lauren Muser Cates, so eloquently stated, “Democracy doesn’t happen on a single day in November every four years after which the ‘losers’ take their licks while the ‘winners’ enjoy the spoils. In fact, no matter how it turns out…ever…we all lose a little, and we all win a little.”

In short, the Movement, This Woman’s March on Washington was not a day to come together it was the beginning of a coming together!”

Finally, why did I march in solidarity with the Woman’s March in Washington?

Because I am a social worker.  I am a mom.  I am a woman. I am an activist.  I am a seeker of equality, liberty, and justice for all.  The real question is “Why wouldn’t I?”

Want to share your story about why you did, or didn’t, march as a social worker? Please share it with us in the comments below or contact us to submit your story.

 

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