Oral History; Brittany Smith
Oral History Item Type Metadata
2400 Chew St, Allentown, PA
Transcription of Brittany Smith Interview
Becca: This is Becca MacKillop in Dr. Taub’s “archives and activism” class, and I am recording Oral History number two. Today, I will be recording Brittany Smith. Brittany is an alum from the class of 2017. Say hi, Brittany!
Becca: Um, cool. So, I’m just going to ask you a few questions. Um, some of them are the same questions I used for the first interview, um, and some of them are specific to you . . .
Becca: Okay so, we’ll start really easy.
Becca: The first question is just . . . tell me about your background and where you grew up, and what your family is like, and just general biographical information.
Brittany: Okay um, so I’m from Hillsboro, New Jersey, which is a very suburban town in central Jersey. Um, and I have . . . (phone buzzes) sorry, someone’s trying to call me, hold on one second . . .
Becca: No worries.
(3 seconds of silence)
Brittany: Um, so I have a younger brother who is three years younger, um and then my parents were together when I was growing up but they’re divorced now . . . still live in the same town um, I grew up with pets, I have a dog currently, um but I’ve had cats and dogs, and like 45 fish. (laughs)
Becca: (laughing) oh my gosh!
Brittany: And then . . .um . . .I danced my whole life but other than that probably not too much that’s very note-worthy.
Becca: Gotcha. Um, were any of your family members at the march?
Brittany: No, my mom really wanted to be but couldn’t take off of work though.
Becca: Gotcha. And you were at the march on Washington, right?
Becca: Okay, cool. Um, so the second question is . . . how did you first hear about the Women’s March and how did you decide that you wanted to go?’
Brittany: Um, well I originally heard about it, I think through social media. Like way before Muhlenberg had even discussed going. Um, and then I don’t exactly remember how I heard that there was a bus going, I think I got an email through like . . . through SRJ or something like that, Students for Reproductive Justice. So, I remember reaching out to my friends and I remember that Hannah Busis said that she was helping out with coordinating it um, and so I had like, contacted a few of my friends over winter break and asked if anyone would go with me um, and several of my friends said that they were going anyway, um so that’s how I ended up getting on the ‘Berg trip, because I knew I wanted to go but, didn’t even know that ‘Berg would have a bus.
Becca: Cool. Cool Beans. Um, had you ever been involved in like, a protest or a demonstration before this?
Brittany: Not . . . that I can remember to be honest. Yeah, I’ve always been interested in like, social justice, and that like, grew when I went to college. Um, but I think I just didn’t really know how to get involved.
Becca: Mmm hmm.
Brittany: And especially through protest I really didn’t know how to get involved with that.
Becca: So this was like, the most accessible version of a demonstration that you were like introduced to?
Becca: Yeah, I think that’s definitely fair to say, across the board for a lot of people.
Brittany: Definitely. And I was, you know . . . well, everybody does different forms of activism but this was the first time that I was like, publicly demonstrating, you know what I mean?
Becca: Mm hmm.
Brittany: So I think things like, um, community involvement or working towards health care, or children’s rights, I think those are all also activism. Or even just like, taking social justice-based classes. But, it’s not as like, direct form.
Brittany: If that makes sense.
Becca: Yeah. It’s not necessarily . . . uh, like a protest or . . . civil disobedience.
Brittany: Yeah, exactly. (Laughs)
Becca: Cool. Um, what’s your most salient memory about the day of the march?
Brittany: I just remember there being so many people there
Becca: Mm Hmm
Brittany: Um, (laughs) which sounds really awful but it was really incredible. Um, because it was at a time that a lot of us were just losing a lot of hope. Um, and . . . because, obviously it was a tough couple of months when we found out that Trump was going to be elected . . . and then actually that actually transpiring. Um, I think that . . . I had just lost hope in so much of the country. And, especially at Muhlenberg, we were just in such a liberal bubble, that it didn’t feel like anybody . . . like it felt like everybody at ‘berg felt the same way, even though that’s not the case but like, the majority of people at ‘berg felt the same way. But, I kind of lost hope in the country as a whole.
Becca: Mm Hmm.
Brittany: Um, so I just remember being like . . . there were times when we were in crowds of people and like, you just genuinely couldn’t move. For like, an hour. Um, and as, you know, frustrating as that was at times, for I think a lot of people in the crowd . . . it was also like wow this many people genuinely care about women’s rights, and just human rights in general. That this many people are gonna travel to D.C. to stand up for rights, which was really amazing.
Becca: Yeah, in that same vein, can you describe your personal process of preparing for the day and then actually making your way to DC? And what that looked like?
Brittany: Yeah, um. I’m trying to think. I didn’t make signs, I ended up using a sign that um . . . The National Organization for Women were passing out signs . . .
Becca: Mm Hmm
Brittany: Um, but a lot of my friends made signs. Um, and then we all sort of . . . I . . . there was a meeting all of us went to about um, just conduct at the protest and what to do if the press like, approaches you or things like that. Um, I remember just like, reaching out to my friends and family and telling them where I was going. Um, and honestly I don’t . . . the organizers at ‘berg did such a good job that I didn’t really have to do that much to prepare.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Brittany: Um, so I just like, got a lot of sleep the night before because we left at like, 5:30 in the morning the next day. Um, and bundled up and yeah. Um, and then we got on the bus and it was awesome because they drove us like, right to the train station. And then there were even hundreds of people at the train station trying to get on the trains to get into DC.
Becca: Yeah, I remember that early morning train station chaos. (Laughing)
Brittany: (Laughing) Yep!
Becca: Uh, how long was the bus ride?
Brittany: Uh, it was a couple hours.
Becca: Okay . . .
Becca: Yeah, I didn’t go from Muhlenberg and I’m trying to remember how far it is.
Brittany: Yeah I think . . . I think it's only about two and a half or three hours without traffic and I think that there was a little bit of traffic but it wasn’t awful. So, maybe closer to four but it didn’t . . . it wasn’t a crazy amount of time.
Becca: Mm Hmm. Alright! Did you wear a pussy hat?
Brittany: I didn’t! I had . . .what was it? . . . oh my gosh I can’t even remember what I was wearing. I was wearing . . . a sweater . . . I was definitely wearing a hat of some kind.
Becca: (Laughing) Mm Hmm
Brittany: (Laughing) It was so cold. And I didn’t have one, a pussy hat. So I just wore a regular hat, I think.
Becca: Did you know that there were going to be so many pussy hats there?
Brittany: I knew that like, there were going to be some . . . but, there weren’t even that many from the Muhlenberg group, like there were only a couple . . .
Becca: Mm Hmm
Brittany: So I thought it was like a niche group of like, people who enjoyed knitting that were going to be there wearing them. (Laughing) And then it ended up just being like this craziness, it was awesome.
Becca: Yeah, there were so many.
Brittany: So many! It was insane!
Becca: Um, I had one made for me but . . .
Becca: . . . I was like, I’m not gonna wear this. But then I got there and I was like “Oh my G-d, I’m gonna wear this.” (Laughs)
Brittany: Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
Becca: Um. So was there anything about the march that you were expecting to see or expecting to experience that didn’t meet your expectations?
Brittany: Uh, positively or negatively?
Becca: Either way.
Brittany: Uh, I was very positively surprised in how intersectional a lot of the signs were . . .
Brittany: Um, because I know that a lot of the media has focused on the fact that the march wasn’t. And it was very . . . I do think that there was a lot of um, focus on vaginas and that representing women . . .
Becca: Mm Hmm
Brittany: Um, but I was . . . at least among the people that I was with, there was a lot of intersectionality within um, the signs that people were making and the protests that people were coming up with and stuff. Um, and so I was pleasantly surprised by that. Um, I know that’s not the common like, thoughts that came out of that march and as a whole that might not have been the case but . . . that was my experience, at least. Um, I also wasn’t expecting nearly as many people.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Brittany: And I thought it was going to be like, mostly women my age. Like, I expected there to be like, a couple men and some older women but mostly like . . . (sighs) and there were families there . . . there were groups of men . . . uh, like there were . . . everybody was there. It was . . . it was awesome.
Becca: Yeah . . . I felt that also. Um, did you ever feel unsafe during the march or intimidated?
Brittany: No, the only time I felt at all . . . like, when people were starting to get annoyed when we were like, stopped for a while. Um, but I . . . people were just annoyed, they weren’t like, violent or anything like that. Um, I know my friend who’s . . . Shosh is a lot shorter than me and that was . . . I’m pretty tall so that helps with not feeling super intimidated in crowds. But, if you’re shorter that might have felt a little more claustrophobic. Um, but yeah. I didn’t . . . it felt safe to me, it felt like everybody was there for a reason. And there really weren’t like, counter-protesters. At least that I experienced. Um, so I felt like it was we were all there together . . . sort of.
Becca: Did you . . . do you remember . . . seeing any like, police presence at the march?
Brittany: Oh, yeah.
Becca: Or security presence?
Brittany: Yeah, definitely. And even at, especially during the part when all of us were like, stopped at like, a certain point. When people were like, trying to climb over the police car to get on the other side of it. Um, and there definitely was a police presence but I didn’t ever get the feeling that we weren’t welcome.
Becca: Gotcha. Did you see any police officers in pussy hats?
Brittany: Yes! (Laughing)
Becca: (Laughing) You did?
Brittany: Yeah! I think it was such a unique protest . . .especially for like, this time period um, because it was so supported by local business owners, supported by like, police officers, and I don’t think we see that same response for like, Black Lives Matter protests, which is interesting . . . um, and problematic. Um, but I think that was also very unique about this march.
Becca: Do you have any idea why we were so welcomed? I mean, I don’t think there’s any one answer, but if you had to suppose?
Brittany: I mean it was predominantly white women um, so I think that has to do with it. Um, and white women . . . tend to be seen as innocent um, and I also think that for some reason like, throughout Trump’s campaign despite like, the hateful remarks he made to like, almost every group of people besides white, straight men, white women seemed to be the only group he couldn’t attack without the Republican party stepping in. Um, so it seemed to be a pretty unanimous like everyone was mad at him for this, including Republicans. Um, whereas racial slurs and homophobia and making fun of disabled people wasn’t . . . didn’t sort of have the same . . . backlash that . . . I mean not saying that he should talk about sexually assaulting women without that being an issue but it was, it was a unique sort of backlash.
Becca: Interesting . . . That is such an interesting point. And very true, I think. Um, so you kind of already answered my next question . . . but it was . . . So, my overarching theme for my section of the archive, because we each have a kind of section we’re responsible for, my section is intersectionality . . .
Becca: So, I’m looking at um, readings. Most of them aren’t scholarly. Most of them are like, journalism um, sources. Looking at like, criticisms of the march . . .
Becca: . . . that it wasn’t um, necessarily intersectional . . .or that intersectionality came into the game like, too late in the organizing process . . .
Becca: Um, but I mean, like you I did notice like, a lot of intersectional attention paid on the part of the part of the marchers if not the organizers. I don’t know if you know anything about that?
Brittany: Yeah, I had . . . I didn’t really even think about the fact that um . . . well, and I think it has to do with Trump’s comment about like, grabbing people by the pussy, but I didn’t think about how that could be transphobic also, making all of the signs about uteruses and vaginas and stuff like that. Um, and associating that with being a woman. Um, which I think was a lot of feedback also that didn’t even occur to me. But . . . I thought that the march was intersectional, at least from my experience.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Brittany: Um, I felt like . . . um, marchers in general represented people of all different races, ethnicities, socioeconomic status. Um, but also signs that people made were um, I thought very intersectional and like I said, I held a sign that was from the National Organization for Women um, and since in grad school I’ve gone to a talk that they held, actually with Kimberly Crenshaw. Um, which was incredible. Um, but they were passing out signs which were very intersectional. So like, my sign said “End Voter Suppression” and they had like “Protect LGBT Rights” um so I think it was . . . even if it wasn’t within the planning process, among the marchers, that was definitely a big focus, I think.
Becca: Alright. Um, were you able to, from where you were standing or where you were marching, were you able to see or hear any of the speakers that they had? Or performers?
Brittany: No unfortunately.
Becca: You weren’t.
Brittany: I was, I was back by like the police car and everybody was standing, just trying to figure out where everyone was talking.
Becca: Yeah (laughs) no, it was definitely not an intuitive path we were marching on.
Brittany: (Laughing) Yeah, not at all.
Becca: Did you . . .where did you guys start and then where did you kind of end up? And was it far from where you started?
Brittany: It was very far from where we started. Um, I can’t even remember where either of them were. Um, but I remember trying to get back but we were like . . . my group was like the furthest in apparently at the march and it took us like, two hours to get back to our bus.
Becca: Oh my goodness.
Brittany: . . . which nobody was super happy with us but we did what we could. Um . . . I can’t even remember, there was a . . . there was a designated beginning so I know that that’s where we started . . . but I can’t remember where we ended up. There was like, we were in the middle of a bunch of buildings, just like on the street, packed. (Laughs) And there was nothing that like, anybody could do.
Becca: (Laughs) Are you familiar with D.C., relatively?
Brittany: I’ve been to D.C. a couple times but I’m definitely not as familiar with it as other cities
Becca: Okay, gotcha.
Brittany: Yeah. Unfortunately.
Becca: So maybe that even compounded the (laughs) stress of (laughs) . . .
Brittany: Yeah well I had . . . actually that might have been my first time ever . . . that was my second in D.C. in general because I went over winter break right beforehand . . .
Brittany: . . . um, to visit a grad school but then I was in a limited area then . . . and then I went to D.C. . . .yeah, I guess that was my second time in D.C. ever so . . .
Becca: And you’ve been back since?
Brittany: I’ve been back once since, yeah.
Becca: (Quietly) Cool.
Brittany: (Quietly) Yeah.
Becca: Um, so . . . we talked a lot about preparation for the march and day of . . .
Becca: Um, what was your experience of seeing media coverage of the march? Did it surprise you? Were you impressed/disappointed?
Brittany: Um, I was kind of amazed as to, just looking at that overhead picture of all the people who were there. Um, especially when it was compared to Trump’s inauguration crowd was the funnies thing . . . um (laughing) that was pretty priceless. Um, I was . . . there were, there was such cool stuff on instagram. Um, I remember just going on my explore page and just like, looking at all of the things that people were doing. Um, and I think there was . . . the cool thing about this was that there’s been continuing coverage. Like, there’s an instagram page for the Women’s March. And like, there continues to be um, different conferences and stuff by the same organizers. So I think that it’s cool that there was a lot covered on that day but not . . . it didn’t just end on that day. Or like, one hashtag.
Brittany: It continued, yeah.
Becca: Cool beans.
Becca: I didn’t even realize that it was that ongoing.
Brittany: Yeah! Yeah, they have a facebook page and it shows up in my explore page sometimes. Um, and then I saw they were planning some event too
Becca: Like another march event?
Brittany: No it was some sort of like . . . conference sort of thing.
Becca: Like a more academic type of thing?
Brittany: I think so. Yeah, I like looked at it briefly but it seems more like, “let’s figure out solutions together,” in a sitting sort of situation. Much more of a conference than like a march . . .
Brittany: . . . which is interesting also to me, but . . .
Becca: . . . yeah . . . it is interesting. Um . . .
Becca: I guess, what my final question to you, I guess would be . . . or . . . not even a question but inviting you to consider why the word march was chosen. Why not protest, why not demonstration, not movement . . .
Brittany: Yeah, um . . .
Becca: . . . not riot.
Brittany: Yeah, I think it kept up this image of peaceful protest like . . . peaceful protest. Um, and I mean it also ties into historic events like the March on Washington and stuff but, I think once again like you look at the demographics of who’s marching and what we consider to be a peaceful demonstration and what we consider to be a riot is very, very different. Um, cause there’s been very peaceful Black Lives Matter protests that have been shown on the media as being riots in the streets, um doing basically the same things that the Women’s March did. But I think, um, I do think it was intentional in order to . . . maybe to draw a bigger crowd of people who aren’t as politically active and were just upset but don’t necessarily consider themselves like, protestors . . . um, just to make it more mainstream potentially.
Becca: No that’s like a really, that’s a fair point. “March” is definitely like, a more inviting term . . .
Becca: . . . “march” isn’t as polarizing (laughs)
Brittany: Yeah, I think that even . . . cause like, I think that people who like, would be drawn to a protest would also go to a march but I think that there’s a group of people who are like “Oh no! I don’t like the political scene, but I’m not like gonna go out in the streets about it,” . . .
Becca: Mm Hmm
Brittany: . . . So . . .
Becca: Yeah. March maybe has less of a commitment associated with it.
Brittany: (Laughs) Right! Like you can just kind of walk . . .
Becca: (Laughs) Right . . .
Becca: Well, thank you Brittany!
Brittany: Yeah! Thank you.
Becca: Do you, I mean, do you have anything you feel like we didn’t cover?
Brittany: I’m trying to think . . . not really . . . also like, I’m sure this will be documented elsewhere but like, ‘berg people who were marching in Philly and New York City and a lot people went to D.C. Um, and I also know a lot of young alums were marching in those cities as well. So, a lot of my friends who had previously graduated were out as well.
Becca: Good to know . . .
Becca: Women? Men? Both?
Brittany: Yeah, I think generally more women but both
Becca: Good to know. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed! It’s so awesome to . . .
Brittany: Oh, of course! I’m so glad you guys are documenting this, it’s such a good idea!
Becca: Yeah! And I, uh, I have a website . . . called “Archives and Activism” where I will be posting this and then . . . and I’ll send you the link for sure . . . um . . .
Brittany: Okay cool
Becca: And then it’s also going in the Trexler Library Archive.
Brittany: Okay, cool! And I’ll send you the forms ASAP.
Becca: Thanks, Brittany!
Brittany: Thanks, Becca. Good to talk to you.
Becca: You too! Bye!
Brittany: Have a good night, bye!