Photos by Anaika Miller
At least five buses from Christiansburg and Radford will ferry local women early Saturday morning to the Women’s March on Washington, joining about 10,000 other marchers from Southwestern Virginia who are descending on the capital for the event.
“We believe that it is women who can lead the way to unifying the country and healing the wounds of past partisan politics that has been gridlocked for the better part of the past decade,” said Laura Brown, a member of Virginia’s state coordinating committee for the March. “This march is bigger than any one political party.”
Over 200,000 people have said they will attend the March’s Facebook event, and an additional 254,000 have expressed interest in attending. According to the March’s official website, 386 sister marches around the world will be held on Saturday.
To prepare for the March, Brown organized a sign-making event at the Radford Library Sunday. About twelve local marchers attended, including Radford High School English and journalism teacher, Tina Tapp, who is bringing her two daughters with her to the March.
“I teach my students not to be bystanders, and that if they do, they are complicit,” Tapp said, explaining how her classroom experience teaching the Holocaust is one of the reasons she decided to become involved in the March.
Tapp said this is the first time she has ever attended a march, and that she feels obligated to become more active after the presidential election.
“I feel like my generation has been very lazy because we thought things were better than they are,” Tapp said.
Brown agreed, saying that she feels like she has relied on previous generation’s work for the rights she enjoys.
“I’ve just coasted until now,” Brown said.
Lisa Gardner, of Christiansburg, is a bus captain for one of the Christiansburg buses. Gardner said she has been involved locally in fighting for more progressive values. Last year, that came in the form of running for the open Montgomery County Sheriff position. She lost.
“Of course I didn’t win,” Gardner said. “But what’d I do? I put a little crack in that glass ceiling.”
Gardner, who sported an original Equal Rights Amendment pin at the sign-making session Sunday, said she remembers the women’s rights movement during the 1970s, but that she didn’t know very much about it until much later.
“I was too young last time, I had no idea. But now I know. It’s up to us, my generation, to reignite that flame and pass it down,” Gardner said.
Caitlyn Parker and Phelan Tinsley, both graduate students in the English department at Radford University, were marching for different reasons.
Parker said she is afraid that there will be funding cuts to higher education under the Trump administration.
“Without grants from Pell and other funding, I would have never been able to go to college,” Parker said.
She said she is also concerned for her students of color, who she fears may face more discrimination in the coming years.
Tinsley said he is marching “for healthcare and my fellow queers.”
“As a gay man with a disability, Trump is more of a danger than anyone right now,” Tinsley said.
Tinsley said he is especially concerned about losing health insurance provided under the Affordable Care Act. Prior to getting health insurance, Tinsley said he had been using the Carilion Charity Care clinic, which often had long waiting periods to see a doctor.
Though he said the clinic was a good service for people seeking basic care, Tinsley said he needed appointments with specialists that became much easier to get after buying insurance.
“To have that hope that, ‘ok, I have insurance now, things are going to be better,’ and then a few weeks later the GOP repeals it,” Tinsley said. “I’m going to be left with nothing again.”
Regardless of their reasons for attending the March, attendees at the sign-making event Sunday were looking forward to the March.
“I can’t wait to look around and see thousands of women, as far as I can see, coming together for our country and for equality for all,” Brown said.
Gardner, too, is excited.
“I don’t think I’ve been more excited about anything in my life, it’s right up there with my wedding, and my children’s birth,” Gardner said.