Looking back on the Women’s March…a movement that is still making waves, I want to share my experience and why I marched.
On President Donald Trump’s first day in office, there was the Women’s March, the largest global political protest in America’s history, led by women of color. Could this be Trump’s nightmare with millions of women standing up in opposition of him? People marched in more than 600 locations around the world, on every continent, even Antarctica. From protests there are past, there are lessons in what works. Even the most conservative estimate — 3.3 million marchers in the United States — would make it the largest protest in the nation’s history. There were marches on every major city in our country including marches spread throughout my home state, sprinkling gatherings in Asheville, Boone, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, and more. D.C. was the pinnacle though.
I was one of those marchers. My friend Pattie’s friend Rachel had posted online that she had a spare bedroom in her Maryland apartment and anyone was welcome. We took her up on it. Pattie drove from Boone to Raleigh, where she picked me up, and then we headed north on that Friday evening of the inauguration. That night, we sat up talking and making signs. We got up early the next morning to have a nice breakfast filled with protein, in great preparation from Rachel. Pattie, Rachel, Rachel’s boyfriend Erick, and I made our way to the metro only to discover that the line was backed up.
Thankfully, Rachel still had a city parking permit so back to her house and off to the city we went. Traffic was surprisingly easy to navigate. We were outfitted in our feminist garb, pink pussy hats, and warm durable clothing for a long day out in the cold. I wore a ring with my sister’s and Mom’s pictures inside of it since they could not be a part of the Women’s March.
The people slowly filled the streets. The people in pink hats — even men wore them! — and feminist garb, with smiles on their faces, were everywhere.
The Newseum touted signs of welcome to the new president, while also promoting the First Amendment. On we went to get closer to the crowd and encountered many excited people with their signs. There was even an impromptu dance party in the streets with costumed people and people goofing off with a celebratory mood among the crowd.
The signs excited us and fueled the mood.
“The Future is Nasty” “You haven’t seen Nasty Yet” “Love Not Hate Makes America Great” “Ladies is Pimps” “Girls Just Want to have Fundamental Human Rights”
We gladly took pictures with our own signs. “America Should be the Role Model for Human Rights” “She is a wife, sister, daughter, mother…PERSON” “All Voices Have Equal Value” “Females are Strong as Hell”
Then, there we were in the thick crowd, all of us moving along slowly trying to get to the stage where the rally and speakers were. More signs, group photos, and selfies. While this was not meant to be an “anti-Trump” March, many turned out in defiance against the new president, who only a day earlier had delivered an inaugural speech filled with anger and nationalism rather than inspiration and unity.
“It’s more crowded here than yesterday.” “Dump Trump! I’m so angry I made this sign.” “The Carnage Begins with Trump”
I relished in the enthusiastic happy crowd rather than fearing the numbers. Some were overwhelmed and panicked due to the crowds, but to be in the company of hundreds of thousands was empowering. There were so many excited people to talk to! I met Asian-Americans, gay people, black men, Latinx activists, and people from Mexico. I told some of them about my work with RESULTS Raleigh and RESULTS. Most of the group was women, but it was diverse with plenty of men there to join their friends, sisters, mothers, wives, daughters, and people they care about.
More signs. Most amused and inspired. Few were offensive.
“Mr. Rogers would be disappointed.”
“We shall overcomb”
“Education not deportation”
“#Love Thy Neighbor: No Exceptions”
“Honor Our Foremothers”
“Make America Think Again”
“First They Came for the Muslims, but I Did Not Speak Out Because I was not a Muslim…”
“We Cannot All Succeed When Half of Us Are Held Back — Malala”
“Love Wins. Black Lives Matter”
“Patriarchy is for Dicks”
“To All the Little Girls Watching This, Never Doubt That You Are Valuable and Powerful — Deserving of Every Chance in the World.”
“Stop the Trump Agenda! Inaugurate the Resistance.”
“Gay rights are human rights.”
Around 2:15 pm, after hours of no service due to the overload of phones and people, a news alert flashed across my phone from The Washington Post.
Apparently, there were nearly half a million people gathered in Washington, D.C. and 750,000 in Los Angeles. Chicago’s turnout was too large for a formal march as well. NYC had 200,000.
At this point, the crowd had been tired of standing and not moving anywhere. We wanted to march. So, we directed the people in front of us to shift to the right, down a street, and to the right towards the Mall. We chose to create our own Women’s March modified route!
As we made our way along, there was more room to move and talk to different groups spread out in the crowd. I asked many people if I could get personal pictures of them holding their signs. Proud women. Proud fathers and daughters. The people were proud of their voices and their presence. I was proud of them too and we celebrated all of our victorious gathering with chanting and singing.
Eventually, we deviated from the formal route march, which meant we occupied streets not designated to be closed with the permits. The police did come along on horseback, but kindly redirected the group. It was a day full of cooperation, peace, and victory.
It was a day that many more found their voices and the boldness to show up, speak out, and burn brightly. We will keep doing so until all voices do have equal value and there is, hopefully, less hate.
Whether you are black or white, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or Muslim, American or immigrant, Democratic or Republican, in poverty or in the 1%, I stand with you and Marched for you.
I marched for my Grandmother who is nearly 96 and may never see a female president. I marched for my Mom who was with her dying father. I marched with my sister about to have her first baby. I marched for my unborn niece and all of her potential. And I marched for myself, what I believe in, my hopes, my dreams, and my rights.
At the end of the day, we tried to find a place to get food, but it was nearly impossible to get into a restaurant, even if we had a reservation. Finally, we entered a Safeway to get some food and take back to a new friend of a friend’s friend and eat there. We sat around the floor sharing a meal together and were suddenly surprised to see “Breaking News” on the TV. Was this news celebrating the gatherings?
The new Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, was there angrily throwing a tantrum about the dispute in inauguration attendance. It seemed to be rather disturbing that breaking news would be about inauguration attendance, later with “alternative facts,” rather than something relevant and necessary. Apparently, our gatherings around the world really did get the White House’s attention and they couldn’t stand that so many of us stood up and outranked the numbers for the inauguration. How sad that our new leadership wants to waste press conferences about their version of attendance numbers that just weren’t so.
That’s fine. We’re superheroes rising up.
And we’re on fire, here to stay. You can’t intimidate us with your hate and anger. We got this.
The next morning, I faced the loss of my Grandfather. It was hard to process and I’ve done a lot of reflection on lessons from loss and his words to do today what you cannot do tomorrow. And I knew he’d be proud that I had joined a historical movement.