Holding signs with messages like “Black Women Matter” and “If it isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism,” over 50 Binghamton University students and faculty members boarded a bus to the District of Columbia at 3 a.m. on Saturday to participate in the Women’s March on Washington.
The weekend trip was organized by the Intercultural Awareness Committee, the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC), the Student Association vice president of multicultural affairs, the Women’s Student Union and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). The trip also included a Sunday visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Tanyah Barnes, the lead chaperone and interim assistant director of the MRC, said she was overwhelmed by the trip’s immediate popularity.
“I was honestly surprised and overjoyed to see so many students of varied backgrounds embrace our March to D.C. trip,” Barnes said. “We had over 100 students sign up to fill 50 spots. Each student had a different [reason] for coming on the trip — but the passion in wanting to fight for equality and eradicate oppression was clearly evident.”
The group arrived in the District of Columbia at noon ready to march and chanting eagerly on only a few hours of sleep. Students found the crowded streets overwhelming and inspiring. Zoe Shannon, an undeclared freshman, said that she truly felt like a part of history in the making.
“To be able to march on Washington with hundreds of thousands of people in support of women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, Muslims and others was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “Hearing the voices and faces of so many people that want to move this nation forward instead of backward has served as a beacon of hope.”
Bringing some school spirit to the District of Columbia, the group sported BU apparel that attracted University alumni as well as fellow marchers from New York state.
“From the moment we stepped off the bus, we marched; our journey connected us with people of all backgrounds from different parts of the world,” Barnes said. “As we marched, we met so many staff, alumni and friends of Binghamton [University] who were so proud to see us marching. In those moments, I felt proud to have helped create a moment of living history for our students.”
Brianna Simpkins, a sophomore majoring in political science, noted that while the march proved to be a success, it only further proved the need for action.
“While I walked away from the March and this weekend feeling proud and accomplished, I also left inspired and determined,” Simpkins said. “This was a great moment for me to affirm everything that I already believe in, but now work on getting my beliefs to impact my country. I am going to demand that this new administration takes action in supporting women, black people, [transgender] rights, non-binary persons, climate change, people of color, immigrants, refugees, native persons and any intersections of these groups and more.”
Attendees like Jah Davis, a trip chaperone, graduate assistant for BU’s UDiversity program and a first-year graduate student studying student affairs administration, said that they were particularly moved by the march’s inclusivity.
“Overall, this trip was inspiring. It was amazing to participate in the Women’s March and witness diverse groups of people interacting peacefully,” Davis said. “One thing that I will take away from this weekend’s events is that we are more than capable of embracing difference and solidifying alliances.”
Raaga Rajagopala, a junior double-majoring in economics and French and the SA executive vice president, emphasized that this instance of activism must be part of larger action.
“While the turnout was so impressive, it’s important to note that activism does not begin or end here,” she said. “We need to be actively standing in solidarity with people of color, [transgender] people, indigenous people and other marginalized communities in their movements of resistance.”
On Sunday, the group toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture for over three hours. Students like Mikaela Itkin-Weinstein, a sophomore majoring in English, said that the visit was a privilege and added important perspective to Saturday’s events.
“Our trip to the Museum of African American Culture and History truly solidified the trip,” Itkin-Weinstein said. “The museum’s depth regarding the civil rights movement was so relevant and an important reminder that there is so much to do.”
Jose Maldonado, a lead coordinator of the trip and DEI diversity fellow, said that he was impressed by the students on the trip, and that the experience was a great start to the spring semester.
“We were upbeat and in the moment both at the Women’s March on Washington and to our museum visit,” he said. “It was awesome to connect with our students in such an organic way, as a [Division of] Student Affairs practitioner you thrive on these opportunities to see student development up-close and personal. It was an honor and privilege to work with so many bright men and women.”