On Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, members of the Richmond, VA community gathered for the March on Monument. The event was described by the event organizer a “social justice march” where attendees “peacefully assembled as one diverse and inclusive community to send a message that Richmonders are standing up for those in danger of oppression and being marginalized.” Groups of families, friends, colleagues and individuals of all races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic status, etc., marched alongside one another, some carrying creative or poignant signs expressing their disappointment and anger at the state of the country. Regardless of the obvious passion the attendees displayed, the event remained peaceful- a clear message that hate truly does not drive out hate.
The march, which drew upwards of 1,000 participants, ran for eight city blocks, beginning at the historic, yet controversial, Robert E. Lee statue and ending near Boulevard. Local organizations, such as Equality Virginia, Health Brigade and the Richmond Peace Education Center provided march goers with the opportunity to learn about their efforts and were a powerful force behind raising awareness for the countless issues that plague America today. The sponsors marched alongside the public, eagerly chanting the numerous march cheers like “This is what democracy looks like!” in solidarity with their organizations and the people they serve.
The March on Monument, in addition to hosting several of Virginia’s most liberal nonprofits and organizations, also boasted appearances by several notable Virginia political figures including newly-elected state senator Jennifer McClellan and Congressman Donald McEachin, who both offered words of encouragement at the march’s culmination. Additionally Rebecca Wooden Keel, a 2016 candidate for Richmond City Council for the 2nd District served as the grand marshall for the march. McEachin spoke poignantly; he advocated peace by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., yet also was blunt and honest, assuring the crowd that, in order to achieve their desired equality and social justice, it was going to take some hard-fought effort. Fortunately, the crowd immediately cheered, assuring everyone in attendance that they would not back down.
The March on Monument was especially important to many Richmonders, as it provided a local platform to express their shared grievances and, as a group, join together in hopes of a better tomorrow. Additionally, the event marked a gearing up point for many, as numerous attendees planned to march during the Women’s March on Washington, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. The march’s date falls within 24 hours of the controversial inauguration of President-Elect Donald J. Trump, which will no doubt be a hot topic for discussion, signage and discouragement leading to marchers’ empowerment.
One of the most important things to take away from the March on Monument, in addition to the unity and strength of those who are oppressed or marginalized and their allies, is that the event, as successful as it was, was facilitated by a group of Richmond moms. The message therefore, is this; no matter who you are or what you believe limits you, anyone can make a difference in their community.