Concord yoga teacher travels to Women’s March on Washington for inspiration, action

  • Concord yoga teacher Ray Conner is traveling to Washington, D.C., to take part in Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington. Elodie Reed / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/19/2017 5:53:32 PM

Concord yoga teacher Ray Conner knew she wanted to take a stand the moment she learned Donald Trump would become president.

That was at 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 9, when her partner – an anthropology professor in Australia – woke her up to tell her the news.

“I cried and had this whole-body-sob experience,” Conner said.

Facebook protest groups began popping up over the next few days, and on Nov. 11, the New York Times reported a demonstration planned for the day after Trump’s inauguration. It was originally billed as the “Million Women March on D.C.” later renamed the Women’s March on Washington.

That’s where Conner found an outlet for her post-election emotions. She and hundreds of other Granite Staters are making their way to the nation’s capital by bus, car and plane to walk down Independence Avenue on Saturday. A quarter-million people are expected to attend and march for human rights, equality, or just to protest a Trump presidency.

“There are a lot of folks who think this is crazy and that it inspires them to get to work in their communities,” Conner said of the election. “Like a symbolic kick in the pants. I want to be a part of that.”

Conner, who started teaching at At Om Yoga studio about a year ago, has plenty of experience with community building. The 35-year-old previously practiced organic agriculture in Pittsfield and she worked with both state and federal policymakers to open up lands for beginner farmers.

She’s also worked with youths for over a decade, most recently with the Appalachian Mountain Teen Project in Laconia. The Wolfeboro-based organization looks to help teens facing difficult life experiences through outdoor adventures, long-term relationships with mentors, and other community activities.

Working with youth, Conner said, is about allowing them to find a voice. “Always to help build them up to advocate for themselves in their communities,” she said.

The idea behind going to the Women’s March on Washington is similar, Conner added.

“I’m going down there to do the same work and advocate for myself,” she said. “For me, it’s really important for youth to see a healthy and authentic advocate expressing their well-thought-out ideas.”

Conner flew down to Baltimore on Tuesday, joining her partner for a conference of anthropologists discussing how to proceed under the Trump administration and how to become political advocates.

“We’re legitimizing these things that sound crazy,” Conner said, referencing Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall on the border of Mexico.

Today, on the day of the Presidential Inauguration, Conner hopes to knock on some congressional office doors and lobby for gender equality and other issues.

On Saturday, she’ll march.

“Like a lot of people, I don’t feel much – not much is going to come of the march, me, showing up as Ray,” Conner said. “I’m hoping that it will inspire folks who are shell-shocked to realize they have camaraderie.”

She is looking to hone her own inspiration for doing work “that has long-term impact” back home in Concord. She plans to combine her skills and start teaching yoga to kids in schools.

Conner said she’s also looking to embrace her values while in Washington. Many of the other women going to the march have remained silent about the trip due to their profession, she said.

“It frustrates me,” she said. “We can be in healthy dialogue with where we stand as individuals despite our professional hats.”

Sitting in her darkened yoga studio adjacent to the open theater space in Phenix Hall on Main Street, Conner said the more open people are with their values and political stances, the more they can engage and learn from each other.

“I’m not putting a Hillary sign on my door,” she said. “But I’m also not hiding who I am in the context of engaging with this community I’m in.”

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)

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