By CATHERINE HILLMAN | Special to the Atascadero News

There are as many reasons to attend the Women’s March SLO as there are attendees. I attended my first March in 2017, and while I have been civically engaged throughout my life, I was not sure what to expect. But I hoped for a good turnout that would lift my spirits and reconnect me with my community.

Mitchell Park was filled with people carrying signs, laughing, carrying children, talking and smiling. I saw many people I knew, and the crowd grew to the point I could not catch up with those I recognized. The diversity of the attendees and their messages made a powerful impression on me. I saw nurses advocating for healthcare. I saw fellow educators championing our local teachers. Everyone hushed as the speakers began inspiring us with their words and songs, and I was reminded of the kindness and warmth that our county is known for, and how much we are all working toward similar positive goals.

The speeches were over, and then it was time: we slowly poured into the street to march together. I was in the middle of the long line, and I remember a profound moment as we reached Chorro Street, and heard a roar that startled me: it was the front of the marching line! They had already turned down Broad Street and were heading back via Higuera, and it was their cheer of recognition as they saw us in the street’s gap between the buildings. It was as if we were meeting old friends again, and it was delightful.

I asked others to share their experiences as well:

“You experience a sense of solidarity at the marches that allows you to remain cautiously hopeful that these weird and perilous times will, in fact, eventually pass. It helps.” -NB, Grover Beach, CA

“The two Women’s Marches that I have attended have left me with a feeling of hopefulness for the future. The resources available at the march are valuable, as I was able to register to vote at the 2018 march. Something that I noticed was the abundant presence of young people, like myself, willing to put themselves out there in solidarity.” ZB, Grover Beach, CA

“The first Women’s March, in 2017, was empowering and inspirational, especially coming so soon after the inauguration. We were so close to electing the first woman president. Women across the country came together in cities everywhere to voice our priorities and to promise to work to elect officials who will work for families and women. The marches are instrumental in proving that women are part of a strong network with the power to vote in our best interests.” -BH, Arroyo Grande, CA

“The Women’s Marches give me hope that social and political change will occur and that today’s youth will live in a world where there is no question that women’s rights are human rights.” -MG, Arroyo Grande, CA

“The amount of diversity in age, race, and gender coupled with the number of resources available at the marches were comforting because I feel that this is what America should be all about: love, acceptance, and community. Being present helped me to not only become more hopeful for the future of this country, but the rest of the world, too. It seems that the needs and safety of marginalized groups may finally become prioritized.” -KB, Grover Beach, CA

I hope to see you at a Women’s March soon!

Getting through this together, Atascadero