This past Saturday we saw women rise up. Millions of women (and men) marched across the world. In cities and small towns, even Antartica showed up to have their voices heard. I watched the stories roll in across all social media platforms and my eyes filled with the tears that can only come from pride in humanity that bursts the heart. They were some of the most moving, positive pictures I have seen in my life. People everywhere got together for a common cause. The last time I remember this feeling was 9/11.

I chose not to attend the march, but I have not chosen silence. Silence is complacency, silence is siding with the status quo, silence has gotten us here. Preparing for my class this week, I could not ignore the historic moments we witnessed. I make the best effort I can to create a safe environment for all students in my class. It is not for me to judge their ethics or morals or clothing choices. However, there are times when I feel compelled to say something, in the name of justice, love and equality – three things I believe that are encompassed by yoga.

One way I continually bring messages to my classes are through music. Music has been a form of protest for years, a way to relay messages, a source of catharsis. When I was a child, my parents sang to me every night. One of my favorites was “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. I was reminded of the strength of this song while watching the marches and decided to research it’s origins. I feared the worst. Would it be about white supremacy or something equally terrible? I was surprised.

I was surprised by what I found. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was penned by poet Julia Ward Howe during the Civil War. While traveling with friends during the war, the troops could be heard singing a popular marching song, “John Brown’s Body”. One of her companions suggested that Julia write new lyrics for the tune. That night, Julia woke from her sleep the words fully formed in her head and put them to paper. The story itself is interesting, but even more amazing is that this popular song is the work of a woman whose husband preferred that she be a housewife and mother, while she had aspirations to become a write. She published a book of poems anonymously after her honeymoon about her tumultuous relationship. These things seem small, but these are the women who paved the way for the march.

I previously shared a playlist with a conscience. This week I put together a protest playlist filled with voices of women and men who saw the potential for change and did something about it. I included classics such as “What’s Going On?” and “Blowin’ in the Wind”, some of my other favorite songs as a child. I chose not to include “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as it has a primarily Christian outlook, but I did share the story with my class. It is important to shout out our history as women. So many have been forgotten or left behind. Women of color, women with disabilities, LGBTQ women (and men), women at home, women at work, women with children and without, they have all felt the sting to greater or lesser degree of being left out, told they were less then, being forgotten.

We must keep fighting for a change. Visit the Women’s March website for further actions you can take to keep the momentum going. Keep speaking up and speaking out. Tell your stories. Be unafraid. We need each and every voice to come together and fight for the rights of humanity. Women, RISE UP!

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