‘United Sisters Of America’ When Muslim Mothers Marched The Women’s March
Image Credit; ‘AEIOU’ Designed By Shirra Baston & Alissa Kissel
Did you go to the Women’s March?
I love the language used around these marches from the phrase ‘Sister Marches’ used to describe all the adjoining marches around the world stemming from the Women’s March On Washington DC, to the idea that these were not ‘protests’ but ‘Marches’ literally a ‘walking together in unison’. People were marching not to protest but to promote. Promoting women’s rights, immigration reform and LGBT rights and also highlighting the need to address racial inequalities, and environmental issues amongst other things.
As I explained to my six year old – although these marches are organised and led by women, they are not only for women to attend. And by participating anyone can show their support and solidarity with all women.
In Boston Massachusetts an excess of 90,000 women, men and children came and represented. And we went too! I told my son ~ I’m proud of you for walking with me, for coming with me in support of your mother, your sister and your sisters in faith and friendship.’
Here are some photos from the day if you’d like to see along with some awesome things I learned about attending a march or protest with children…
1. Find Your Tribe
Our amazing leader Mama – Waheeda Saif had the brilliant idea of coordinating our collective presence as Muslim women and our allies, (mainly mamas and joined by non-mamas and fathers too) by marching together as a group. She made a facebook group and rallied everyone together. It was a wonderful way to meet even more Boston based Muslim sisters.
2. Assess Safety
Is this a non violent demonstration? Do the police in your city have a history of attacking non-violent protesters? There is a huge difference between protesting when you suspect that there will be a militarized police force in full effect or when the organizers themselves may be concerned or warned of possible altercations.
Thankfully, here in Boston, these weren’t concerns prior to this particular march and it was one of the cities in the USA with the largest turnouts on Saturday and there were no arrests made in relation to the march. A church right on the fringe on the Boston Common had made itself known as a welcome space for us – not only for use of their bathrooms and prayer areas but nursing and changing stations were made available for mothers, along with refreshments. We made sure everyone in the group was aware of this ‘safe place’. Meeting as a ‘tribe’ of like minded people with children was also a built in safety measure for those who chose to bring said children with them as we all looked out for each others kids in crowds that really did get quite overwhelming at times. One astute mama wrote contact numbers on the arms of her children in case of separation.
3. Make Your Intention
Image Credit Sahar Z
Why is it important to go? What do you hope to accomplish?
On the morning of the march we designated a meeting place where we all gathered together to share names and stories of ‘Why I am marching today’. This was a perfect opportunity for everyone to renew and reassess their intentions behind attending.
I was super impressed with one young boy who held his hand up proudly while stating ‘I am marching today so my mom won’t be discriminated against for what she wears on her head’
We were far from the crowds gathering on the common but the energy was still palpable. And when we finally made our way toward the Common there was a strange moment where the gathering crowds seemed to part for us and people were cheering and clapping, it took us all a while to realise who the cheering and clapping was for! For us! Unapologetically Muslim Women. Watch the video here (watch from 2.06)
4. Make Stuff!
Image Credit: Hajar
Some mamas had a sleepover the night before and had a great time making art and banners together with friends. These young girls chose the quote they wanted to use and executed the design beautifully!
Image Credit: Vanessa Leigh
How inspiring for them to see this the next day? Crowds as far as the eye could see, their beautiful message shining bright.
5. Ask For Help
Image Credit: Vanessa Leigh
Don’t try to do it all yourself only to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Baby Eesa (yup that’s him covered in my pink shawl sitting cosy in the MOBY wrap) was officially the youngest little man in our group. He clocked in his first act of activism at just 2 weeks old!
Talking of the baby, I’ve had many mamas tell me they are amazed and surprised by the fact that I managed to leave the house with three kids in tow to make it to the March! Truth be told I wasn’t sure till the very morning of the March if we would make it at all. The night before, during one of the many nighttime feeds and diaper changes for the baby – I made a little prayer that it would be easy in the morning to just – Leave. The. House! When you know, you know! A newborn can add any where up to two hours to your usual ‘leaving the house on time routine!. My MIL would be with us and just an hour before we had planned to leave I enlisted the help of a friend (who I knew was going child free) as a walking buddy to and from the March. It totally helped that she is also one of the calmest and kindest people I know. (Thank you Artina!)
6. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
Image Credit: Sahar Z.
When you are with children, have fun, relax. Along the way we laughed at many slogans, artwork and creativity. Some which had to be censored
‘mama what does DICKTATOR mean?’
‘It means a leader who imposes his laws on people – like the pharo in the story of prophet musa (moses)’ I replied without missing a beat – all the while actually being grateful that he isn’t too hot on spellings yet! And others which elicited a laugh even from the three year old of a humpty dumpty character who happened to be an orange tinged egg with fluffy yellow hair perched on a wall!
Don’t worry if you can’t ‘finish’ the march/protest/demonstration exit whenever it’s convenient and safe for you and your children. We didn’t complete the march but we are so glad, that living in a city like Boston we were able to make use of the opportunity to join in.
Image Credit: Abigail Egan
It was more important for me that my children see the people with their own eyes, that they see and feel that ‘We The People Are Greater Than Fear’.
7. Resistance can be many things!
Image Credit: Hayley Gilmore
Activism is not just candle light vigils and marching in the street. It can be educating your child, making art, coming together in communities, making a new friend, opening your doors to the needy, teaching a skill … so much more!
Did your city or a city near you march? What was it like?