Think everyone who marched on Saturday was a liberal coastal elite? Think again.

Rebekah DeFreest was holding court with four of her fellow Women's Marchers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, when five college-age men with Trump signs taped to their chests came by looking for a laugh — or a fight.

The standoff rapidly devolved into a screaming match. But DeFreest was determined to get into their heads.

"I pulled all of the men aside and we talked for probably half an hour. Some other protestors came up and encouraged the conversation, thanked them for coming out," DeFreest says.


DeFreest talks with Trump supporters. Photo courtesy of Rebekah DeFreest.

Bethlehem isn't Washington, D.C., and DeFreest isn't a Democrat. She voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. But her concern about what a Trump administration might do for the environment and Planned Parenthood, which saved her life by detecting her cervical cancer twice, led her to her local Women's March — in a city of 75,000 in a county that barely went for Hillary Clinton in the heart of coal country.

Attendance at Saturday's Women's Marches across the country — totaling around 3.2 million, according to a FiveThirtyEight estimate — surprised even many of the event's organizers.

Early reports of high turnout in D.C., New York, and Los Angeles prompted snap accusations that the march was a vanity project for "wealthy coastal elites." Unsurprisingly, the rally generated its biggest crowds in large urban areas in states won by Clinton.

But the proliferation of smaller rallies in red states — from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Sarasota, Florida — where marchers didn't have the luxury of preaching solely to the like-minded, are a signal that the movement has surprising strength and organizational seeds beyond its urban core.

Retired educator Linda Houston helped organize a march in her hometown of Wooster, Ohio — population 26,384.

Houston, a longtime Democratic activist and former local officeholder, was surprised at the turnout in a town she describes as leaning red.

"The last time I remember that many people was during the Vietnam War, so that was a long, long time ago," she says.

Houston (right) with the Wooster march planning committee. Photo courtesy of Linda Houston.

Some attendees were motivated by issues with particular local impact.

"Utah is gorgeous. It’s absolutely beautiful here. We have amazing outdoors, but we have some of the worst air quality in the entire country," says Katie Dabling, who marched in Ogden, Utah, despite a snowstorm that shut down roads and transit in the area. She worries that the Trump administration will gut environmental regulations and make health care less accessible for many in her state.

Utah is one of 19 states that refused to implement the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, stranding many of her friends and leaving members of her family trapped in the law's "gray area" — with an income too high to qualify for traditional Medicaid but too low to afford insurance on the ACA exchange. She fears the government won't patch the hole.

Some marchers in these small heartland towns and cities saw them as life rafts for their neighbors who might feel like they're the "only one."

Dabling, who grew up Mormon and has many friends and loved ones who have come out as LGBTQ only to lose their faith community, marched to remind them and America that her state and hometown aren't homogenous.

The Ogden rally, which had to compete with a snowstorm. Photo courtesy of Katie Dabling.

"Don’t count the little states out, or the red states, because definitely there’s people like me here who are angry, who didn’t want what’s going on to happen, and there’s just a lot of work to do," Dabling says.

"Do I have hope? Only if we continue with this," Houston says.

Houston is already organizing with a group of local residents to lobby their congressman against repealing the ACA. Traveling to his office will require securing care for her husband, who has Parkinson's disease, but she believes the stakes are too high to skip the trip.

Rallygoers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Rebekah DeFreest.

"I have a granddaughter that I worry about constantly. And I keep telling her, ‘You’re important for who you are,'" she says.

DeFreest hopes to continue talking to the Trump supporters she met at the rally. After a wide-ranging debate over birth control, abortion, and public welfare programs, she invited them to join a Facebook group she started called "Finding Common Ground." The rules: Be informed and back up your points with facts from neutral sources.

All five joined.

"The next step is dialogue, and not hate or bashing," she says. "And if we could have good constructive conversations, like we did with them, we’d be able to break down so many boundaries."

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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The Holderness family has made quite a name for themselves creating fun parody songs, but they may have just outdone themselves. As the world awaits the premiere of the filmed version Hamilton's original staged production on Disney +, the Holdernesses have released a "Hamilton Mask-up Parody Medley" that perfectly captures inane mask-wearing debates in the musical mastery of Hamilton.

As of now, it's only been up for six hours and has already been shared more than 35,000 times. Hamilton fans love it, recognizing familiar tunes such as "Aaron Burr, Sir," "My Shot," and "You'll Be Back." But even people who have never seen or heard Hamilton before will appreciate the cultural commentary on mask-wearing—an issue that has the U.S. struggling as it attempts to manage a pandemic in a highly individualistic society. As the video points out, public health isn't a partisan thing, and mask-wearing to protect others certainly shouldn't be something that angers people.

Check it out:

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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