By Maria Lombardi/Contributing Writer

On Friday, the 20th of January, a group of 53 women and men from Mobile, from young to old, hopped on a bus headed to Washington, D.C., arms loaded with protest signs and bellies full of fire. I was among that group, and excited to participate in the Women’s March.

The reasons we each felt called upon to attend varied, but we shared a collective desire to mobilize and stand up for each other’s humanity. That energy of love and positivity radiated from the bus ride throughout the march, when our 53 voices suddenly became half a million to form a colossal chorus that miraculously managed to stay in tune.

I spoke to a few of my fellow Mobilians on the bus to find out what brought us together on that day to make the long ride north.

My seatmate, Heather Glass, 30, who works in Student Affairs at Spring Hill College, marched because she feels there is a “tipping point in the country, and also within myself, where, up until now, I didn’t really put in the work for everything that I believe in. You know, I feel this way, I vote this way, but I haven’t actually gotten down and dirty and done anything. I feel like this is the the jumping-off point for that. Now’s the time to put thoughts and words into action.”

When asked about her goals relating to this experience, Glass said her objectives were to network, build the energy for coming back and gather information from grassroots organizations on how to actually get results from elected officials.

Glass is a registered Democrat. When asked if she thought more people should run as independents, she said she wasn’t sure. After some consideration, she said it could be beneficial because more voices could be represented. She also encouraged more minority involvement in politics.

Glass says she herself has no desire to run for office because she doesn’t feel “informed enough,” but would love to see other women get more involved, which is a sentiment I would hear echoed throughout the trip.

One of the younger women, Taylor Scott, 21 and a student at University of South Alabama, said, “I’m marching for equality. Equality for brown people, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, reproductive rights for women. I’m marching for equality all over. I just want it to be equal, for everyone to have a voice.” Her goal was simple: “I want to make sure our voices are heard.”

When asked if she felt represented by our government, her answer was “Not really.” Should more women run for office? “Yes, I feel like we’re missing that.” But Scott said she does not want to run for office because she doesn’t feel qualified.

April Livingston, a Mobile artist in her 30s, had a unique response to why she’s marching. “I’m marching for the ladies during World War II who were working and making the country run while the troops were away, doing the jobs no one thought they could do.”

Livingston she she has no particular political affiliation, and, if anything, considers herself a humanist, “like (author Kurt) Vonnegut.” She described two-party politics as an antiquated system and expressed a need for a reboot. During the march, Livingston dressed up as a Rosie the Riveter-style WWII-era working woman, complete with welder’s mask, gloves, coveralls and requisite face grit.

Patrick Crabtree, a retired schoolteacher, was one of just three men on the bus, the other two being a father and his young son. Crabtree wanted to participate in this march because he believes that “one man’s oppression is another man’s, and being part of a minority in many ways, being gay and having crossed the color line dating […] I see the subtleties of the institutional racism.” Furthermore, he continued, “being an educator, I’ve seen it in the classroom.”

This march was not Crabtree’s first rodeo, as he has been activist for “a while.” He identifies as a Democrat, which he believes to be “the party of the common man.”

Regardless of differences in identity and personal politics, it became clear that the march was a gigantic launch pad for many of us who had never been active for a cause before, along with those of us who had.

We gathered together in great numbers to show solidarity and support for one another, to give each other the encouragement we need to keep us mobilized for our individual leaps forward. It seems to have worked, as many of us on the bus ride home excitedly asked each other, “OK, what’s next?”