One Girl’s Perspective
ChangeFest: A Climate Mobilization
By Alysha Fonseca
I’d like to start by saying that I am not someone that most people would look up to when it comes to going out and standing up for what I believe in. I’m more of the stay at home to organize events and donate money type of person. Not to say that someone can’t be a great force from home because I know I’ve helped people, but going out to ChangeFest: A Climate Mobilization (and being around so many men, women and children participating in Women’s March on Sacramento) was an invigorating experience that will no doubt drive me to get out of the house more to make a difference. I feel stronger and wiser and have so much more respect for women. I was ignorant to so many struggles that other women have had to face. I still have so much to learn.
Now you might think that it’s weird to say that I have more respect for women. I can clarify that for you. I am not a victim. I’ve never really been bullied. I was always the tall, skinny white girl with blonde hair and a pretty face. I’ve ALWAYS had people around me that have supported my every decision in life and been there to pick me up when I needed it. I have always felt loved. My life has been pretty easy going. I am in the minority.
As I get older and have become more open to trusting at a higher level, I’ve met people that will change my life forever. I’ve met strong women that I look up to. I’ve met survivors and mothers. I’ve met women just like me that haven’t known how to help, but want to. I’ve met young girls learning about their bodies and the world and that they can grow up to be strong powerful women. I’ve met men and boys who know and love and support these women and girls. I met many of these people at ChangeFest.
I am currently 20 weeks pregnant with my first child. A little girl. I want so much for her to know these people. I want her to know that her parents will be there for her no matter what. I want her to grow up and be strong. For herself and for those who don’t have a voice. I want her to be like all of the little girls I saw at ChangeFest holding signs and asking questions. I want her to know that it is okay to ask questions and to not know all of the answers, but that she should always keep searching for them. I want her to be a friend to anyone who needs her. I want her to never feel like she has to be someone she doesn’t want to be. I want so much for her.
As I stood at the V-Day Sacramento booth at ChangeFest feeling her kick, all I could do was take it all in. There were SO MANY people. People of every race, age and gender. There were straight people, gay people, trans people. There were survivors and advocates for survivors. I always thought that being in a position where I was expected to talk with this many different people would be overwhelming. I’m fairly shy and kind of modest in these situations. Not once did I feel overwhelmed. I felt lucky to be there talking to people. I loved every second of working along side my Pussy Posse peers to share the word about V-Day with all of these wonderful people. I was so tired at the end of the day, but so so happy. A few of the people I interacted with that day will always stand out.
The women of Sacramento Take Back the Night were (and always are) fantastic. They do so much. I can’t even remember all of their names, but I promise I will try harder. I also can’t even remember to list out everything that they do for V-Day, for volunteers as individuals and for the community. There’s always someone there with a smile to help however they need to, though.
What stood out this past weekend for me was their “Why We Resist” banner. So many people wrote on the banner that by the time I walked over to add to it, there wasn’t any room! It was packed with so many responses. It was powerful. The banner will be carried at their annual Take Back the Night march in October. I hope I can be there for it with my little girl. Sacramento Take Back the Night also had a sign making booth which was a hit. I’m telling you, they are so creative with how they help the community. I’ll always be proud to partner with Sacramento Take Back the Night in any way I can.
I also met a woman and her daughter that asked about participating in V-Day Sacramento’s production of the Vagina Monologues. Now, I don’t have kids yet, but as I get closer to welcoming my first child, interactions like this have become super impactful. The woman asked if her daughter was old enough to be in the cast. Her daughter was maybe 8-10 years old and obviously already a strong little woman. The youngest person to audition, that I am aware of, was 16 years old and had parental approval. I didn’t know how to answer this woman. I hadn’t thought too much about younger girls participating because the monologues can be quite race-y. Then I thought more about how I was taught about my body and realized that I wasn’t really taught about my body to the extent that the monologues cover. I mean, women in my family talked to me about it and I remember one health class where I learned about my reproductive system, but that wasn’t until I was much older. I don’t know how different I would have felt growing up knowing more, but I did start to think more about how I want to approach the topic with my children. This mother just wanted her daughter to feel empowered to ask the questions and to represent herself and others. I can get behind that thought. I’ll remember them both for a long time.
Another little girl stuck out to me. This time it was because of her mom’s total mom-response. We had a serving dish on the table that had 3 sections. The first section held bracelets representing one of our beneficiaries, SWOP Sacramento. The second section held candy (every kid’s favorite section). The third section held condoms. Condoms in different packages and bright colors. No kid had really been drawn to this section before this little girl, but this girl sure did want to get her hands on one. She immediately asked what they were. I made eye contact with her mother and then with my Pussy Posse peer and we all shared a quick smile. Her mom, without skipping a beat, said “ You don’t want one of those”. We decided to let her handle the situation completely. The girl then asked the famous kid question, “but why”? And her mother just replied that they were “for grown ups”. And that was it. I think this interaction stands out to me again because I’m growing my own little baby and have these conversations to look forward to. I related to this mom. I think I’d respond the same way. I guess we’ll see some day.
I spoke to men, women and girls of all ages about the Vagina Monologues and helped give out shirts with any donations. We had so much attention that we ran out of both flyers for our production AND merch within the first hour and had to rush to get more flyers (thank you times one million to one of our Take Back the Night peers). Our red “V” that we collect donations in was completely full by the end of the day. Seeing so many people interested in wearing shirts that represent our cause was such a positive experience. Seeing kids come up and ask questions and donating was powerful. Seeing so many people asking how they can help and donate more was a reminder for me to keep representing the cause. I’m so glad to have been a part of this.
The last little bit I want to share will be familiar to many of you. The signs. There were so many great signs! Since there were marches going on all over the world on Saturday, I started seeing signs pop up online Friday evening. Awesome! On Saturday, I woke up wondering if I’d see a sign reading “Who run the world?!” as I channeled my inner Beyonce. I saw an elderly woman holding a sign that said “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit”. I saw men holding signs for their daughters. I saw tons of “Pussy Grabs Back” themed signs. I saw “Men of quality aren’t threatened by equality” signs. I even ended up seeing a little girl stroll past our table holding the “Who Run the World” sign I was hoping to see. There’s still signs popping up online that I find so powerful. I love the signs.
This post is only one girl’s perspective. I don’t have some of the life experiences that others do that have brought them here, but I feel lucky to be able to know these people. I feel grateful to be able to talk to them, learn from them and help as I can. I feel grateful to have been able to be out in the crowd and see and talk to so many of them. I didn’t expect to find as much meaning in the experience as I did. I didn’t mean to write a 2+ page blog about it. I did, though, and I challenge anyone out there reading this to step out of your comfort zone to find meaning in something. Anything. Go pet the dogs at the shelter. Go talk to women and girls that are victims. Go talk to a veteran. Learn their stories and appreciate their experiences. We don’t all go through the same struggles. Be a good listener. Really try to understand. Be a voice. Be a helping hand. Do what you can to make someone’s day just a little bit brighter. You may make more of a difference than you ever thought you could.