I clicked “attending” on the Take Back the Night Facebook Event, not certain I would.
When asked if I could cover the event for FUSE, I said sure. But as the event grew closer I found myself increasingly bothered – I’d covered this event more than a decade ago, and attended it several times since.
I’m not sure if it’s been identified by any medical professionals, but I completely felt like I was starting to suffer from protesters fatigue.
I definitely should have clicked “maybe attending.”
When I arrived at Victoria Park the crowd seemed smaller but more diverse than what I remembered from previous years. The crowd swelled as speakers took their turns at the microphone, starting with Fatima Muhamed, who sang beautifully prior to Deshkan Ziibi Native Women’s Association’s opening the formal part of the event.
But as a member of the Women’s Events Committee spoke of coming events – a Memorial to the women who were killed at École Polytechnique and victims of domestic violence, International Women’s Day and Pridefest – I thought, “How many times must I stand in a park and march in the street before we move beyond talking points to real change?”
As the speeches went on though, I felt the power in the women who spoke and shared poetry. Leslee White-Eye spoke eloquently of the need to have male allies work with women to understand our worth. Michif Anishinaabe poet Awāsis performed two original works of poetry and had the crowd raising their fists and echoing the cry, “Take back the night.”
I felt the solidarity of women, mothers and children, friends and colleagues, sisters in our shared experiences and our desire to see change come.
An estimated 500 to 1,000 people participated in the march, and the crowd was greeted by shows of support from allies all along the route.
Men against Violence Against Women took up the street corner at Wellington and Dundas.
Shop workers and security guards came out of their places of business waving and cheering.
Drivers waved and honked their horns in support.
The irony of how that honking horn would have invoked a completely different feeling in me were it to happen when I walked alone was not lost on me.
Tears were shed, slogans chanted and space in the streets was taken. Throughout the crowd people carried signs – “My body,my choice,” “Down with the Patriarchy,” and my personal favourite, “Cats against cat calls.”
I found myself being buoyed by it all.
There is something oddly comforting in having a community who share similar bad experiences – who are equally frustrated.
I threw away any earlier thoughts that I would be unbiased observer recording the event and joined the chants.
“Women unite! Take back the night!”
“No more silence! No More Violence!”
“Hey Hey Ho Ho! Patriarchy has got to go!”
As people returned to the park, night had fallen.
The crowd dissipated once again, leaving only the chalk messages of hope and resilience, defiance and power.
It dawned on me that within an hour or so the park might once again feel unsafe.
Until that changes, I will continue to join my allies and friends marching to Take Back the Night.