What was there to do?
The presidential election results had been a punch in the gut for some, a searing, sickening shock to expectations that perhaps should have never been so expected, so assumed.
It had been more than just one candidate losing to the other, more than just another derailment of a woman’s rise to the highest office in the land. That glass ceiling was not shattered, but to some it felt the country was.
“It was like everything we hoped and believed in was suddenly shaken,” Lindsay Conover said.
The Santa Fe psychology student and astrological counselor said the election results devastated her.
“I actually was shocked at the response I had,” she said. “I didn’t think I would be that emotionally affected by that.”
Lauren Meiklejohn, watching the election results in Albuquerque, felt equally stunned.
“I had the feeling of being overwhelmed with sadness,” she said. “But I also started to think it was a call to action.”
Maybe it was time to get up, get out and get about the business of cleaning up the whole mess.
It was time to rally.
One woman in Hawaii posted an idea on Facebook about how women from all walks should gather together in the nation’s capital Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration, to march in support of causes and concerns that were feared to now be at risk under a new administration.
Within hours, some 10,000 had signed up. Today, the Women’s March on Washington is on track to become the largest anti-inauguration demonstration that weekend, with an estimated 200,000 expected to attend.
Meiklejohn wanted to be one of them.
“But I felt conflicted,” she said. “I thought if I removed myself from here, I’d be just another anonymous person who shows up there and leaves, not connected to that community instead of committing to where I live. I thought I owe it to Albuquerque to make a deeper connection right here.”
She heard about a meeting in Albuquerque for women interested in organizing a local march – a sister march – in conjunction with the D.C. event. Like most of the women there, she had never endeavored to organize or participate in a rally of this magnitude.
This, though, was different.
“We did not know each other until we started this,” she said. “We just came together out of sheer determination and a willingness to work hard.”
The group of about a dozen women organized loosely under the name Albuquerque Women’s Network and elected members to lead steering committees. Besides Meiklejohn, the others include Mariam Salas, Liv Marie Baca-Hochhausler and Rylee Escalada, a diverse group of women of different colors, creeds and backgrounds.
“We wanted it to be very democratic,” said Meiklejohn, mother of two.
While the Albuquerque women began organizing, a Santa Fe march was further along in the planning stages – one of the first sister marches to be formed.
Conover was the organizer.
“Honestly, something changed with the election,” she said. “It was like a fire was lit under me.”
Currently, more than 280 sister marches are planned next Saturday in all 50 states and in more than 55 cities around the world from Nairobi to Sydney – an estimated 600,000 participants, all told. According to Facebook figures alone, more than 2,700 have registered to go to the Albuquerque rally and more than 1,300 to Santa Fe. Rallies in Las Cruces and tiny Fort Sumner are also planned. Men and children are also welcome.
The organizers say that although it was the election of Donald Trump that inspired them to come together, the event is not about him. Instead, the demonstrations plan to focus on causes that are especially important to women – racial and LGBT equality, reproductive rights, worker rights and concerns about the environment, poverty and immigration, among others – that are especially vulnerable now.
“We don’t want this rally to be about Trump or his incendiary ways that really thrive on the negative,” Meiklejohn said. “I am grateful, actually, to him because he is laying it out really clearly that we cannot depend on the government to champion the things most important to our values. Had Hillary Clinton won, we just would not have felt the same drive to organize.”
The Albuquerque march will also feature more than 20 tables of representatives from numerous local activism groups and causes. In that way, Meiklejohn said, rally goers can connect with the organizations to keep active in the causes of their choice after the march is over.
Conover, too, said she hopes the march instills a unifying empowerment that endures.
“I think many of us felt like we are all kind of waking up and saying, oh my gosh, we’ve got to use our voices to effect change,” she said. “Maybe we didn’t realize until now that we had to – or we could.”
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.