I recently came across this photograph from the 1963 March on Washington and haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Who are these women? Where are they from? Where are they now, 50 years later? The more I study the photo and reflect on these questions, the more it seems to be teaching me.
1. If you want to be taken seriously, dress accordingly. These women were marching for a cause and they look like they mean business. I can’t imagine that they were as comfortable as they could be, but the way they present themselves makes it hard for anybody to simply dismiss them as rabble rousers.
2. You don’t have to start the movement to make a difference in it. While it’s great that we live in an age where it’s easier than ever for folks to set up non-profit organizations or use social media to raise funds for their pet causes, there is something to be said for unity of purpose. These women may not have known the people walking around them but they carry the same signs and walk the same path toward making a difference. Sometimes it can feel like you have to come up with a new and unique way to save the world, but it’s okay to pick up a sign that somebody else made and join a movement that’s already in progress. Adding your presence and your voice to a cause can be just as important as bringing something new to the table.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Make History. History is happening all around us so don’t hesitate to jump in! Whether it’s by volunteering for a political candidate you believe in or helping to build a park in your neighborhood, you should strive to leave your mark on history. These women may have come to the March, gone back home and faded into anonymity but this moment, when they weren’t afraid to be an active part of history, will keep their legacies alive forever.
4. Grab a Girlfriend! My favorite part of this photograph is the woman in the center of the shot leaning in to hear what her friend is saying. I wonder if one had second thoughts about attending the March that morning and the other said “C’mon girl, let’s go!” I wonder if their friendship survived and years later they finished each others sentences while retelling their shared “I was there” tale. I may never find that out but this reminded me that everything from working out to volunteering is better when I’m doing it with a friend.
5. Wear sensible shoes. ‘Nuff said.