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ATL March for Social Justice & Women: Black mothers, daughters, sisters on need for action

Shanell Langham with her daughters Sayuri and Akira; Fanell Sawyer with her daughter Nyaha showing their personalized posters at the ATL March for Social Justice & Women Photo: Peace ATL / AFSC
Kimberly Manning during Atlanta’s March for Social Justice & Women Photo: Peace ATL / AFSC

On the morning following the inauguration of Donald Trump, soon to be marchers of Atlanta’s March for Social Justice & Women woke up to pounding rainfall and gusting winds clamoring against their windows. The downpour flooded nearby towns, felled trees, wreaked havoc on traffic. What it did not do, however, was interrupt the plans of 60,000 mothers, daughters, sisters, and their supporters that would soon swell the downtown Atlanta area that afternoon.

Armed with ponchos and umbrellas, the marchers gathered in peaceful protest of the incoming Trump administration and the threats to women’s rights that are mounting as new forces take control of American government and look to stifle abortion funding, gay rights, healthcare, and human rights.

“I have two black sons and I’m married to a black man,” said Kimberly Manning, a sign-wielding marcher, “and just knowing that I’m in a climate in my country right now where an already hostile place has become more hostile really has me down here to make sure my voice can be heard.”

Manning is a physician at Grady Memorial Hospital, the the state’s single most important healthcare center that is the go-to hospital for the region’s poor and undocumented. “I spend all my time thinking about and working with the people who are forgotten about and disenfranchised, and so far this new administration has not given me confidence that they’ll be thinking about those individuals.”

Shanell Langham, mother of two daughters, showed a sincere focus on her children and their future, asserted, “I don’t want [my daughters] to worry about getting paid equally for doing the same job as a man with the same qualifications. I don’t want anyone telling them or me what to do with my body.”

Langham and her sister, Fanell Sawyer, brought their daughters along with them to the March, complete with crayon-colored signs that read, “Girls Matter 2” and “Women have rights too!”

“We teach them to love all people, and I don’t think the current administration even knows what that looks like,” Langham challenged. “I want [my girls] to be an example of that, no matter what someone’s sexual orientation is, no matter what their race is, their religion, your job is to love them, your job isn’t to judge them or try to change them.”

Fanell Sawyer echoed her sister’s feelings about love and the feeling that Trump is not intent on unifying.

“I want [my daughter] to know what love is and about accepting everybody for who they are,” Sawyer explained. “[Trump] will not be my president until he is a president for all people and all religions and all races.”

Marchers throughout the protest showed signs of solidarity that were inclusive of the diversity of which Sawyer speaks. Chants of “Women’s rights are human rights!” and “Love trumps hate!” carried from the mouths of women black, white and everything in between.

Some appeared as if it’s been some time since they dusted off their protest boots. For others, the experience was brand new and an introduction to the new movement toward human right and justice for women. But they all joined in measured and positive resolve, calmly energizing each other in preparation for the road ahead.

Peace ATL attended the march to document and lift up the voices of African American women—especially those of young women. Capturing the energy of young people is essential to the mission of Peace ATL in empowering the next wave of advocates for social justice.

Two millennial generation attendees of the march, Aleah Bouie and Emilia Ndely, offered meaningful insight to young black girls like the daughters of Langham and Sawyer on the challenges they may face ahead.

“It’s going to be hard, but that’s life and not a reason that you can’t do anything you want to do,” Bouie declared. “Nothing, kid—nothing great comes from just doing things easy, so just do it. It’s going to suck and there are going to be people against you, but find a good support system that can big you up when the world is tearing you down and get it done.”

Good advice for whenever the rain pours.

- Joel Dickerson, program director
Peace ATL



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