Historic Triangle women feel empowered after D.C. march

For many women, the Women's March on Washington was a chance to take a stand for what they believe in. And many plan to harness that energy to propel them further.

A Williamsburg–based health writer, Natalie Miller Moore is going to run for office. Eight-year-old Elia Belluzzo will be more aware. Lesley Henderson plans to volunteer more and "put (her) money where (her) mouth is," and College of William and Mary senior Pallavi Rudraraju wants to mobilize others.

The women — and Elia — joined millions around the country Saturday marching for any number of reasons: women's rights, human rights, civil rights, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, disability rights, the environment and sexual and domestic violence, to name a few.

Although it wasn't explicitly to protest President Donald Trump a day after he took office, many demonstrators expressed anti-Trump views.

What next? Optimism

The march attracted a diverse crowd.

Elia's father, Nick, brought the Matthew Whaley student up from Williamsburg Saturday morning, her homemade sign in tow. In a large sketch at the top, she drew girls equal boys.

"I'm here because I don't think that women are treated equally," Elia Belluzzo said.

When asked what she was going to do about the inequity, she said, "I'm here to protest so that our President doesn't do bad things."

It was Nick Belluzzo's idea to come. He wanted to show her that despite what she hears, there are people working for what she believes in.

"She knows what's going and what the issues are, but I think it's important that she see that there are lots of people supporting her and that believe in the same things she does," Belluzzo said. "So as she sees pessimistic news stories she can take hope in the fact that everybody's working to improve things."

Moore is one of those people hoping to change the world Elia is growing up in.

What next? City Council

Moore said being in the nation's capital surrounded by hundreds of thousands of protesters and demonstrators was simultaneously exciting and overwhelming.

Her feet carried her 5 or 6 miles around the National Mall, and while she didn't don one of the iconic pink hats, her shirt read "Hear me roar, women's rights are human rights."

She didn't think it was a single issue march, but rather an opportunity for people to pick what they care most about and make a statement.

"My heart is full. … This is like the epitome of people showing up," Moore said. "It would be a shame to get all of that effort together and not have it go anywhere."

Moore, 36, owns her own business, is on the board of trustees at the Williamsburg Regional Library and is active in a local group trying to combat homelessness.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth spoke at the march in D.C., encouraging women to run for office. Moore heard her and took that to heart, solidifying her plans to run for Williamsburg City Council in 2018.

"We need to have a stronger bench; the idea that we need lots of women to pick from has become more important to me, rather than finding one perfect candidate," Moore said. "There's never going to be candidate you totally agree with, so you should go advocate for the issues you want, or run for office yourself."

She said women should lead on issues they care about, not leave it up to someone else.

Women make up 50.4 percent of the U.S. population, according to the World Bank. In Congress, they only amount to 19 percent. Moore would like to see Congress' numbers catch up.

What next? Be active

Lesley Henderson works at the College of William and Mary. She wants to make a difference lower down the food chain by volunteering in her community and donating money where she can.

At the march Saturday, Henderson was one of the pink-hats dotting the National Mall. She sported a homemade sign that read "no one is free when others are oppressed."

For those who couldn't participate, Henderson wore a ribbon emblazoned with their names. Moore donned a similar ribbon Saturday.

"The march has inspired me to volunteer more and put my time and money where my mouth is going forward — writing to representatives in government and finding areas of the community that I can support," Henderson said.

What next? Encourage others

Already active in the political and activist community on campus, William and Mary senior Pallavi Rudraraju, 21, hopes to continue that work in her post-graduate career, ideally at a nonprofit organization.

The continuation of the march means calling representatives and being involved in political activism. Participation in the march wasn't just to boost the numbers, she said.

At the college, she's planned workshops to encourage political activism, and doing some of her own, like calling her representatives.

"The Women's march was a great way to unite all kinds of people who are dissatisfied and to send a message," Rudraraju said. "That message wasn't just to show up, it was to continue doing these things. ... This was to show force and continue that momentum."

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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