by Suzanne Button
Two women meet at their child’s school. Mothers and daughters become and stay friends, even though one family moves far away– from Alaska to Virginia. This longstanding social connection leads, through a series of other social connections, to 21 women, ranging in age from 9 to 93, spending the weekend marching in Washington, D.C., along with many others who stood up and marched for unity, connection and caring.
The march itself sprung up out of a longing for social and interpersonal connection and their potential to ameliorate societal fracturing. One woman in Hawaii woke up after the Presidential election in November and pondered how our country might respond to polarized rhetoric by calling upon the strength of its women. She created a social media page focused on bringing together women from across the country to march on Washington D.C. She envisioned the march as expression of solidarity, unity, and caring with and among communities of women and all other groups who face marginalization and are vulnerable to discriminatory action. Quickly, people from many communities across the world responded to her call for unity. Through a network of postcards, social media messaging, and even the knitting and sharing of pink pussy hats, Pussy Hat Project, led to sister marches across the country and around the world.
The 20 women that I was with on Saturday were just a few of the estimated 500,000 people marching in Washington, and of the many more marching across the United States. Friends of friends, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, sons, husbands, and brothers arrived from all corners of the country. What we marched to express, ultimately, was the strength and importance of unity and community connection. The tone of the march, despite the large crowd, revealed the strength in connection, community, family ties, and collaboration. Children were cared for in the tight space, wide paths made for wheelchairs, and the march went safely and calmly on even though the number of marchers far exceeded the amount of street space planned for the march. Marchers and law enforcement and National Guard members greeted one another and interacted warmly and kindly. Even counter-protesters were greeted with compassion and curiosity.
In the TCOM suite of tools, interpersonal skills, and both youth and caregiver connectedness to community are actionable items that identify the capacity to build or capitalize upon existing social connection for a young person or family. Interpersonal skills – those skills that the marchers used to connect with and care for one another on Saturday – are needed to build effective connection to community life. Social connectedness and consistent engagement with community lead to better outcomes for youth and family, because all individuals can capitalize on their social and community connections to ameliorate their areas of struggle. The positive capital of social engagement was palpable on Saturday, as women and men of all ages, colors and sexual/gender orientations marched together, cared for one another, and created momentum to combat disconnection, fracturing, and alienation across the country.
Interpersonal strengths and their resultant community connections, are among the most powerful strengths for those with whom we work, and for anyone facing marginalization, struggle, or deprivation. As 6-year old Sophie Cruz, the youngest activist who spoke at the March, said, “Let us fight with love, faith and courage so that our families will not be destroyed. I also want to tell the children not to be afraid, because we are not alone. There are still many people that have their hearts filled with love. Let’s keep together and fight for the rights.”
After the March, as women in my group traveled home and continued to text and email one another, the fruit of our connection was clear. Women on trains, planes, buses, and at highway rest stops were talking with one another about how they planned to continue to stand together and with those who face discrimination and the depletion of key supports like health care and equitable education opportunities. Small interpersonal and community connections linked together to create a national web of connection, and the results of that will be felt in the coming years.