On January 21, 2017, I dragged myself out of bed much earlier than any college student would prefer on a Saturday morning. My friends and I began our journey meeting at the archway on Arcadia’s campus, groggily slogging up the hill to Glenside Station, colored posters tucked under our arms and over our shoulders. Our first encounter with other activists was when a car came whizzing by us, its horns blasting, disturbing the peace of the still-sleepy town. But the passengers in the speedster car didn’t look like your usual hot-rod hooligans—two jolly-faced women in bright pink hats, both at least my grandmother’s age, excitedly waved at us. Like us, they were making their way to the Women’s March on Philadelphia.
Our encounters with activists were just getting started. At the station, amid the college students with colored hair and piercings, were women with babies strapped to their chests, women holding the hands of their children, women with canes and walkers. When we stepped onto the train, cheers erupted from the sea of pink filling virtually every seat on the train. Luckily, all of my friends made it on—the next two trains were too full to take any passengers from Glenside Station. I managed to score a spot next to a family—a grandmother, a mother, and her 12-year-old daughter, three generations crammed into a rickety SEPTA seat. The grandmother turned to me, excited to see so many young faces in the crowd, and told me how “back in the day” (the 60s) she also went to marches as a young woman. Nodding thoughtfully, she added, “Still protesting the same damn thing.”
Once we reached the city, finding the march wasn’t difficult. The highway of pink hats stood in stark contrast to the dark greys of the cityscape. When we finally made it to Logan Circle in downtown Philadelphia, the sight was incredible. Thousands of people filled the street and spread into the nearby park, pooling and chatting with one another. We weren’t even there for a few minutes when a young girl excitedly approached me, noticing that my sign was a reference to a popular cartoon, Steven Universe, and wanted to get a picture with me. Our trio of signs were noticed by all ages as we meandered through the park, with adults commenting on insightful quotes my friends were displaying, and children gleefully recognizing the lyrics to their favorite Steven Universe song. One boy ran up to us, not because of my sign, but because he noticed the Pokemon charm on my friend’s bookbag. We had a lengthy conversation with him on how to advance in his new Pokemon video game, while his activist mother stood patiently, having failed to pull him away three times already.
Once we starting walking, the footsteps of generations melded together for one cause. Surrounded by my peers and community, I had never felt so empowered and confident in my entire life. On the way home, I sat parallel to a group of older women who were saying the same exact thing. One of the women, as she grabbed her walker and began to shuffle out of the train, gave a toothy grin in the direction of my group and said how she’s thankful that there’s someone whom she can “pass along the baton to.”
I feel as though activism is an integral part to the college experience. Maybe each day isn’t like Berkeley in the 60s, but when I came to Arcadia, I was looking forward to all the opportunities I would have to express my voice. The most rewarding part about the Women’s March wasn’t just being able to live up to my college activism dreams, but realizing that one’s desire to change the world doesn’t dwindle with graduation and fade away into suburban life. People of all ages, from children to their grandparents, have the spark to make a difference.