By Micaela Cisneros-Nuñez
Fifty. I expected maybe 50 women. I wasn’t even sure of that. But if I could get 50 women to march a mile with me, I knew we could get at least a little bit of attention. I didn’t expect any men, or any families even. I thought 50 women. That’s my goal.
I had heard about the marches that would be happening in Washington D.C., around the country and the world before. I had hopes that some Central Valley organization would plan one and that I would be able to attend. I sat and patiently waited. I checked the Women’s March website daily, hoping something would pop up. But on Monday, January 16, 2017, around 10 a.m., something changed in me, and I decided it was time to take action myself.
I walked into the living room and told my mom that I was going to head up a local march. She gave me a concerned look before asking a number of questions leading up to: “What are you going to do if no one shows up?” She was worried for me. Worried that I might be disappointed or let down. But I said no matter how many people (or lack thereof) were there with me, I would still rally for women’s rights.
I went back to my room and sat in front of my computer, typing away. I looked for locations and times that would be appropriate and impactful. I looked up local activist groups, searching for anyone who might be able to help me. I sent email after email looking for help, and everyone just pointed. They pointed me to Peace Fresno’s planned demonstration. They told me to take my “organization” over there. I was told to collect money from my “group” and the name could be featured on their flyer. Told, “We haven’t heard about any women’s march from anyone else.” Told to change the time and location of the march to fit theirs (which I did), but told: “We don’t want a march in affiliation with our event.” I was discouraged. I was frustrated.
I sat at my computer, being a “keyboard warrior,” because I knew later that week, I would be an actual activist. I explained time and time again that I am not an organization. Whoever joins me may march. I copied and pasted link after link trying to make them understand what this global movement was, and was met with resistance.
Then I got my first email from an attendee. An older woman, asking me questions about accessibility and numbers. I was nervous to say “You’re the only person I’ve heard from.” But she said she was excited and thanked me for setting up the event. That’s when I gained more motivation. I finally realized I was not alone in this, so I pushed on. I set up the Facebook page. I knew this had to be much bigger than me. I waited. And waited.
And then it happened.
The next day I woke up and I wasn’t just seeing 10 people RSVPed. It had turned into 200. Day after day the numbers went up to 400 and 650. I got messages from women saying they would help me with anything I needed. Cassy Abbott asked if we could take donations for feminine hygiene products for homeless women. Ariana Martinez Lott used her organizational skills, voice, and connections to aid me. As the week progressed and the event got closer, I continued to get more and more questions I couldn’t quite answer, but I searched for them.
More women stepped forward. Liz Arrendondo and Destani Walker offered to sell different shirts in association with the event and donate any proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Allyson Shaidnagle Smith did the same with the Pink Pussycat Hats. The march I set up on a whim became something bigger than I ever imagined. I reached out to find people willing to be leaders to help me facilitate traffic and lead chants and was met with so many open arms. Someone offered a megaphone, another to bring supplies for people unable to make posters beforehand. Suddenly, the people that were originally dismissing me were interested in collaborating, and I let them. I worked with them. When I wasn’t in class, I was online working to make this march the best it could be.
The night before, 1,000 people had RSVPed on Facebook. But there was potential for rain. I still wasn’t expecting much.
On Saturday morning, I was excited and anxious to see how it would turn out and how many people would attend. I was nervous that people would disrespect the laws we needed to follow because of the permit we couldn’t attain. Captain Reid with FPD assured me that they would be monitoring to ensure no one was in danger, but that they would not interfere. I still didn’t know what to expect.
When 2 p.m. finally came around, I was blown away. I was filled with hope for our future. I never anticipated a crowd so large. I was elated. We had women, men, families, older people, and young children. We had members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We had people from the Black Lives Matter movement. We had pro-life supporters and people who are pro-choice. We had people of every age, size, color, gender, sexuality, and belief. We had people from every community present and it was so, so beautiful. It couldn’t have been more astounding.
The president of Peace Fresno, Dan Yaseen said, “The Women’s March/Peace Fresno Post-Inaugural protest on January 21 was a huge success. The energy and enthusiasm of the participants were encouraging. I congratulate Women’s March organizer, Micaela Cisneros-Nunez, for her decision to hold the Women’s March in conjunction with Peace Fresno’s “Organize for a Better Future” demonstration. The success of the event shows that we are stronger together!
The Women’s March was a mix of spontaneity and nationally coordinated 21st-century digital organization. Peace Fresno’s demonstration reflected local, grassroots organizing, planning, and experience. It brought out 36 groups representing issues related to peace, social, economic, racial, and environmental justice.
Peace Fresno distributed 500 copies of a document listing the name, contact information, and mission of each of the 36 groups that participated. My hope is that the energy of Saturday’s event will motivate more people to engage with local groups and that all groups will work together effectively in the future.”
As things were winding down, I positioned myself on the last stretch of the originally planned route to thank everyone for coming. I got some strange looks and comments like “Thanks, I love how you decorated the place.” It was fine, I didn’t expect anyone to know who I am. But I continued to thank them anyway because I still couldn’t believe it. Then a few women started asking me “Are you, Micaela?” “Are you the organizer?” And with a smile on my face, I was happy to say, “Yes, of course.” I don’t think I’ve ever hugged so many people or taken so many pictures in my life. It wasn’t the fact that people recognized me that made me so happy. It was that the people thanking me needed this march, too. And they were just happy I took the initiative to make it happen.
Events like the march are why we need feminism. The women and men who helped me are what feminism advocates for. The peaceful march we held with people of different genders, sexualities, sizes, races, and religions is what feminism in action looks like. After the march, all I want to talk about is how wonderful it was. When I am asked to present myself by name, age and interesting fact, I proudly say, “My name is Micaela, I am 18 years old, and I am a proud feminist.” How do you choose to introduce yourself?
Micaela Cisneros-Nuñez is an 18-year-old freshman at Fresno State where she studies Political Science, Pre-Law, and Criminology. She plans to attend law school upon graduation. The Fresno Women’s March is the first demonstration she has ever participated in or organized. She plans on continuing to be an activist in the Fresno area.