One of the largest protests in US history started with a single woman, one who had never been much of an activist.
Angry after the 2016 presidential election, Teresa Shook, a retired lawyer in Hawaii, invited some Facebook friends to march on Washington around the time of the inauguration.
Her event turned into an intersectional movement that became larger than she had ever anticipated, one that has since both grown and fractured.
In this new documentary in partnership with America Uprising, some of its core organisers — Paola Mendoza, Carmen Perez, and Nantasha Williams — look back on the beginnings and history of the Women's March in light of its one-year anniversary.
Refinery29 spoke with Mendoza, the artistic director of the Women's March, about what's next for the movement.
As a filmmaker yourself, how has filmmaking been a healing process for you, and how can art be healing for women now?
"As a filmmaker, I truly believe that with our stories we have the power to heal and inspire and educate. With our stories, we have the power to organise and change the world... We ended 2017 with arguably the largest social media mobilisation we've ever seen, started and led by women — #MeToo. 2018 will be a year when we hear more women's stories about sexual violence and sexual assault. Sharing stories is a healing process and it's part of the cathartic process of change. We're sharing not just to share, not just to heal, but to change things."
The Women's March started with a single woman and turned into the largest protest in the history of the U.S. What does this mean for women who aren't sure how to get involved?
"How the Women's March started really gives proof to the concept and the idea that no action is too small. A woman in Hawaii who was angry posted on Facebook and that post led to the largest demonstration in the history of the world... That's an incredible story. What that should say to others is that every action you take can make a difference...that no action is too small."
What are some concrete steps women who want to get involved can take now, one year after the March?
"What we need right now is people donating to grassroots organisations, we need people to register to vote and go out and actually vote. Donald Trump won the election by 77,000 votes... We saw in [the Virginia House of Delegates election], Democrats and Republicans were tied and they had to pull the results out of a hat... You cannot say your vote doesn't count. With the midterm elections coming up this year, we decided to launch Power to the Polls, [an initiative to register new voters and elect more women and progressive candidates]. You've got to make those calls, you've got to show up, and you've got to show up for communities that are not your own."
As mentioned in the film, according to Emily's List, 2017 marked a 2,100% increase in women expressing interest in running for office. How will you harness this power in the coming year?
"We are seeing that already you have thousands of women running for office, across all identities, all races, all ethnicities, all religions, they're embracing the power they have. As we saw in Virginia in the special election, so many women ran for office because they're inspired by their sisters across the country. I've heard so many stories of women who weren't involved in politics, who voted because their husbands voted a certain way — both wealthy and poor — and they're saying, 'No, no more.' I think that's how we will win in 2018."
There is a unprecedented wave of social protest across the United States. Divided Films is partnering with Refinery 29 on America Uprising, a journalistic documentary project telling stories of protest through first-person perspectives. It examines the tactics they are using, the policies they are protesting, and the policymakers they are resisting.