3 women in red states explain why they're marching in their hometowns on Jan. 21.

Josette Belant has never planned a protest before. Much less one that might draw thousands of people to the streets of her hometown.

Belant, a scheduler at a primary care clinic, was eager to lend a hand when her friend invited 15 people to a women's march in their hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, on Jan. 21, in solidarity with the larger women's march in Washington, D.C. She joined the steering committee along with two other friends, and buzz swiftly, unexpectedly spread far beyond the tight-knit group.

Photo via iStock.


As of January 11, over 6,400 people have indicated they're going to the Madison rally.

"We were angry. I mean that’s what a lot of it comes down to — is being done with it. Needing to do something is a very powerful feeling," Belant says.

While thousands of Americans are marching in Washington, D.C., thousands more are planning to attend "sister marches" in their home states across America.

Many of the sister marches are being helmed by first-time organizers.

Women's march organizers state that nearly 300 solidarity rallies will take place around the world on the 21st.

"I’ve never really been political or an activist really up until this past year," says Billie Mays, an organizer with Women's March Cincinnati. When one of her fellow organizers created a Facebook event to send a local delegation to Washington, D.C., she was the first one to volunteer help. The committee, which was soon joined by half a dozen others, came up with the idea to hold a local rally in addition — which they planned over four 18-hour days between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2.

The weekend was a crash course in event planning for Mays — figuring out how to secure permits, raise money, and acquire insurance, among other tasks.

"So many people feel like this, and they’re fearful, and they’re scared of what’s going to happen to themselves, their families, their friends, their coworkers. And it’s just been a growing movement," she says.

Mays, an administrative assistant, explains that she was disturbed by a campaign dominated by hateful, racially divisive language and was motivated to push back in person — after a series of frustrating experiences trying to do so with friends and family on social media.

Many say they're looking to the platform that was recently released by organizers of the D.C. march as a guide to what they're protesting for.

The platform is a wide-ranging document that calls for equal pay and an end to sexual violence, as well as criminal justice reform, a renewed push for union organizing, and an elevation of domestic care work, which is frequently performed by women of color.

A poster for Women's March, Madison. By Josette Belant.

Still, for many of the local organizers, the motivation to get involved in planning these rallies is personal.

Sheli Weis, a member of the planning committee for the Tucson, Arizona, march, doesn't know if she'll be able to join in person. As a disabled woman who suffers from extreme allergies and often has difficulty leaving home, Weis sees her role on the planning committee as a chance to make her voice heard from behind the scenes.

"A lot of what causes me problems and many people problems is the environment," Weis says. "It’s the cars, and the manufacturing, and the damaging of the soil and the air and the food, and we have to do something. I can’t lay in bed and do nothing. I have to go. I have to do something."

Many involved in the sister marches are especially eager to make sure the message of the march reaches their local politicians.

"It’s a little bit different, potentially, for Scott Walker to sit in the capitol and see a bunch of Wisconsin men and women marching in D.C. than it is to have all of us show up on his front door," Belant says of the Madison march.

Ohio Governor John Kasich. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

"Our lovely state government was just trying to pass a six-week heartbeat abortion bill," Mays explains. Though Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed that bill, the state went on to pass a ban on abortions after 20 weeks.

Beyond providing a platform for those who can't afford to travel to D.C., organizers said the local marches provide an opportunity to start discussing ways to affect change from the ground up — and to let like-minded locals know they're not alone.

“It’s important for us not always to look toward Washington," Weis says. "Not that we aren’t supporting the march, but it should also be in our town. It should also be between our neighbors. We should also be able to stand together as a community and help one another."

More importantly, these freshmen organizers see their marches as a beginning, rather than an end.

The Madison march is set to travel nine-tenths of a mile from Library Mall to the state capitol building, but Belant hopes it — and the other marches — won't end there.

Photo via iStock.

"They’re a kicking-off point," Belant says. "They’re saying, 'Here are all these people who agree with you, who also see that things need to change and need to be different.'"

For these organizers, whose lives have taken on a surprising new dimension in recent weeks, the thousands planning to swarm the streets of Madison, Cincinnati, Tucson, and dozens of other cities across the country aren't just proof of their newfound skills. They're vital allies for what comes next.

On Jan. 21, they'll finally make contact.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less