BY ALYSSA LASHBROOK
A police escort, stalled traffic, chants, songs and strong personalities were part of the #MeToo march that wound through the University Ave. and Queen St. W. area on Saturday.
With more than 100 people present, the march began with inspirational and heartbreaking speeches, which then led to powerful chants and songs in the streets to get voices heard by the public.
The march gained popularity on Facebook after an event page was created in October, by Alathea Caroline, which got over 8,000 people interested.
While the #MeToo movement has gone viral, Caroline was inspired to organize a march in Toronto because of the future she wants for her daughter. She also found inspiration in the communities that all are affected by sexual assault and harassment.
“I was inspired by the work of folks in the indigenous community, the work of folks in the black community, the work of all the folks who have worked tirelessly in fighting the patriarchy. The ones who continue to choose to love and fight for our planet and our broken society,” Caroline said.
Speakers that attended included city council members, indigenous speakers, a poet, a White Ribbon campaign representative, and members of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre Multicultural Women Against Rape.
Caroline and her co-organizers all had connections that helped create the march’s diverse roster of speakers.
“We put it out into the world what we wanted; diversity, inclusion, intersectionality, and people offered themselves to us selflessly,” said Caroline.
#MeToo is a social movement that started on the backs of sexual harassment and assault that women, men, and minorities face every day. The movement went viral this fall when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a callout for victims to share their stories. This came after the allegations against Hollywood movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein started to break the news.
But the movement actually started over 10 years ago with activist Tarana Burke in New York. At the time she was a youth camp director, and a young girl told Burke the story of her stepfather inappropriately touching her. Burke later said that she didn’t know how to respond, as she couldn’t even whisper the words “me too.”
From then Burke began the social movement that is now creating a wave of survivor stories in social media and mainstream news.
The #MeToo movement means a lot to many people, but for Caroline, it means many things, all put together.
“It means change. It means being better. It means self-love. It means love for others. It means understanding one another. It means unlearning old ideas, forgiving ourselves and choosing to be better and do differently next time. It means hope,” Caroline said.
This event has been one of the first #MeToo movements in Toronto and Caroline only sees it going further.
“This won’t be over, the work of generations has brought us into the level of awareness and light that we have achieved to this point. And it is not over. We will continue to do this work until we are satisfied,” said Caroline.
While Caroline is currently a stay-at-home mom, she says that she has some plans to make work like this march, her next steps in life.
“I know this is a field of work I would like to get into, it complements all of the things I believe in and I hope that the connections I have made in this process will contribute to being able to continue to be a part of this work in the future,” Caroline says.
Although Caroline might not have her path figured out just yet, she does want others to know that she’s going to be moving forward with this line of work.
“One of my favourite sayings that an old friend of mine coined is ‘stay tuned’. So, stay tuned,” said Caroline.
#MeToo is continuing its prominence in social media and the sexual allegations against public figures are sparking a change in how victims are being treated.
Caroline wanted to victims to have a safe space within the march and she has encouraging words for them as they move forward.
“Your pain does not define you. Your experiences do not define you. They may help form who you are but they do not have to define you. You are exactly good enough as who you are. Trust yourself, trust your intuition, trust your inner voice. You are not a victim, you are a survivor,” Caroline said.