To the women’s marchers across the Central Coast, thank you.
Without your consistent drive to make positive change, your commitment to showing up time and again, and your constant encouragement of the mission of Women’s March SLO, I would not have been chosen to attend the State of the Union address.
While I was the invitee, I am only one person. It’s not actually my efforts that make the real difference, but yours. Without you there is no way that I would have ended up in the room with the 45th president of our United States, alongside many true heroes. You are the backbone of this movement, and my moment is your triumph.
There is no doubt that attending this State of the Union was contentious. I heard from people who thought I should boycott, and others who felt I was “selling out.” In addition, there were many who protested by watching without sound, or not watching at all.
What I believe is that in these tumultuous times, attending is one of the most important things I have done. The experience was a mixture of both absolute devastation and incredible inspiration, and one I would never take back.
Listening to a president paint immigrant people, like my friend Neofita Valerio Silva who was deported from Grover Beach without a criminal record, as violent and dangerous left me broken-hearted. Hearing that coal is at the center of our energy future made me scared for our children. Seeing the sea of red pins honoring Recy Taylor, and the ocean of black outfits, while hearing nothing about ending sexual assault made me know again how high the hill to unsilencing truly is.
There was so much left unsaid, and so much said that wasn’t factual. But this is not what leaves the most lasting impression.
I’m sure you’re wondering what could have been inspirational to a woman who is clearly fighting to create a more positive and just world. At its core, it’s the sheer fact that our ongoing work was recognized, uplifted and shared in such a symbolic way. People have asked if I would rather have attended a different State of the Union. My answer is a clear and resounding “No.” I am proud to have attended this specific address because I know that my being there was an emblem for standing strong in the face of mounting odds. I will not ever look back wondering if I did, or said, enough.
It’s important for you to know about the genuine appreciation for your participation in the Women’s March San Luis Obispo movement. Congressman Carbajal made this clear with his invitation that was extended based on two things, civic engagement and our opposition to the deportation of Neofita.
When I think of the 708,744 people in our district, I know the congressman could have highlighted any number of critical issues. The fact that he chose Women’s March SLO gives voice to those that have been the subject of abuse and degradation over the past year including our LGBTQIA+ community; our immigrant community; our people of color; our victims of sexual harassment, abuse and violence; and all who are fighting for an equitable society and clean environment. This one invitation speaks volumes about the significance of our movement.
I add to this the many interactions I had with House Representatives. While I met numerous powerful people, of all genders, what stands out is those women who showed gratitude. With each introduction, the congressman said, “This is Dawn Addis, she organized the Women’s March SLO in my district.”
From whispers in my ear, to hands held a little longer, to directly looking into my eyes, these House members thanked me for our work. Some told me how long they have been fighting, while others simply uttered the two words that let me know we matter, “Thank you.”
When I look back at this State of the Union, what lasts won’t be what the president said or didn’t say. Instead I will be thinking of you, of our power in numbers too large to ignore, and of the work we must do together. The future is ours for the taking. How we do this will be up to each and every one of us.
Dawn Addis is a lead organizer with Women’s March San Luis Obispo.