Notes from the Common

I was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The streets of the Greater Boston area have been my stomping grounds since childhood, my home. Still, as with any city, this place is big and full of busy people leading busy lives, and the bustle of urban living can make connection difficult. I only know a few of the families who live on my very own street, and I pass dozens of strangers on the sidewalk each day without exchanging a single word. It makes me sad sometimes to think of how separate our lives all feel.

Then, every once in a while, I’ll witness a moment of unity—a group of people dancing to the music of a street musician, strangers exchanging ideas on the subway—and my faith in our community is restored. That feeling of togetherness, while rare, is invaluable, particularly in the context of the chaos unfolding in our country today.

On January 21, our city came together in solidarity like I’ve never seen before. The Boston Women’s March was many things—a bold act of defiance, a fierce defense of our rights and values as American citizens, proof of our longstanding resilience as women—but most of all, it was a mass outpouring of love and support for one another.

From the moment I stepped outside in the morning to the moment I reentered my home in the evening, I was surrounded by women and men with bright pink “pussy hats,” handmade posters, and feminist T-shirts. They poured from every building and sidestreet, increasing in number as I walked across the bridge from Cambridge to Boston.

The Common overflowed with protesters whose signs called for peace, acceptance, equality, and change. Little children, teenagers, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, friends, and family—everyone was there for one another, people of every shape, size, color, sexual orientation, and class. There was cheering and singing, a beautiful uproar, and the voices of local politicians and social justice activists  booming through the loudspeaker in solidarity. Slogans like,“My body my choice,” “This is what democracy looks like,” and “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here” echoed in choruses of call and response. Even the policemen seemed happy in their stations.

Through it all, there pulsed an undercurrent of raw human energy—a tangible determination and passion I had never witnessed on such a large scale before. Everyone was smiling. We marched together, crowding the streets, moving forward.

The day after a man who stands against my core values was sworn in as president, I imagined the world would feel like a darker place. Instead, I experienced one of my proudest days as an American. While there may be misogyny, racism, homophobia, climate change denial, and xenophobia in the White House right now, my America is standing up against hatred, just as it has since 1776.

Here in Massachusetts, we upheld our historical legacy as citizens on the forefront of change-making and boundary-pushing, and marching in that crowd, I felt a swelling pride for my city. I am so lucky to be among those who care for one another and the world, who are impassioned and compassionate. They give me hope for the future of our country and humanity’s natural instinct to do good.

Now, walking down the street, I think I’ll feel a bit closer to the people I pass. We may only exchange a glance, but I’ll know that we have each other’s backs when it comes to things that really matter. I feel a sense of mass-empathy for people across the country.

This unity will be critical for the next four years. Women, minorities, LGBTQ people—all of us—will be fighting for our rights, and no matter which battle we’re fighting, we will have strength in numbers. After watching marches across the country and beyond, I know that these strong numbers exist and that we will continue to come together and put them to use.

We must resist the forces that divide us in our daily lives and, especially today, that seek to divide this country. I want everyone to feel the power of unity that I felt on January 21. Now more than ever, this city feels like home.

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