Author’s Note: Apologies that I waited two weeks to write this, but, you know, life. And also apologies for how long it is, but it was a pretty profound event, so it deserves more than the media soundbites you’ve been seeing.
Author’s Second Note: It’s only been two weeks!! God, it feels like we’ve been fighting for a year already.
My journey to the Women’s March on Washington started in the days immediately following the election. I hadn’t yet heard that others were calling for a march, but I knew I needed one. I wanted to stand with others who felt as I did that this was a tragic moment in American history. One that would be looked upon as a mistake, though it is yet to be seen if it is a footnote or a travesty of human kind. Either way, I wanted to be firmly on the side of justice in a fight I know will last 4 years.
When I heard that some women were organizing a march, I knew I needed to be there. I was already formulating justification in my head so I could convince my husband that my daughter and I needed to go. I knew he would be with me in spirit, but in pocket book he might have some reservations. Especially since I’d already decided to go to a writer’s retreat in March, something I’d never done before. But after the election, I knew I needed to sacrifice that trip for this one.
Then my husband’s favorite cousin called to ask my daughter and I to join her and her daughter in DC. She had a place for us to stay, we just needed to get there. The call came on Thanksgiving Day, and it was a much needed ray of sunshine, because the holidays have become very difficult for me. It didn’t take much to convince him.
Katie and I spent the night before the flight at my mother-in-law’s. She lives close to the airport and we had an early departure time. My niece, who lives nearby, stopped over to give Katie and I some cash for our journey. She wanted to show her support to our endeavor since she wasn’t able to make the March herself. It meant a lot to have other women, especially those I love, respect and admire, wish to be included in this event, even if they couldn’t physically do so.
Our Detroit flight was fairly uneventful. I kept looking at my fellow DTW passengers trying to determine if they were fellow marchers, but there was nothing that screamed Women’s March on Washington! During a layover in New York however, the people gathering around us in the terminal held ample evidence of Marchers. Nasty Woman clothing, HRC pins, Obama wear, rainbow dyed hair, and pink hats were everywhere. I had found my people! Even Emma Watson showed up. My daughter and I were the only ones to notice her, and we tried to keep our cool. She boarded the plane first and her body guard came to thank us for not making a scene. We might have been whisper-fangirling a few seats away.
When we landed in Regan, there were pink hats everywhere! We stood in line to get a Metro card for at least half an hour. And you know what? We didn’t even care. We talked to ladies in front of us from Texas, and a few ladies behind us but I didn’t catch where they were from. We laughed when the Metro workers flirted with the entire group, and smiled and patiently waited our turn. It was already a sense of oneness and we hadn’t even gotten to the March yet!
The next part was a little tricky. My daughter and I were to meet up with the friend of my cousin’s whom we were staying with. Anyone who knows me knows I am socially awkward and have anxiety with new people and new situations. But Beth was a lovely person, happy to welcome us into her home. She was working from home, and we didn’t want to disturb her, so after leaving our luggage in her apartment, we set out to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum. If we were going to be in DC we wanted to do something meaningful.
Unfortunately, the entire Mall was cordoned off for the Inauguration. If we wanted to see the museum, we would have had to stand in a long line of security just to get into the Mall (and be counted as attending the Inauguration, so no thank you). As we had time on Sunday, we decided we would do it then and walked around the streets instead.
It was hard: seeing all those MAGA hats, Trump merchandise being sold on the streets, red, white & blue being used to promote a man who is against every American ideal I stand for. But the one thing that gave me hope was that the crowds were actually pretty small. I’ve never been to an Inauguration before so I have no comparison, but I would have thought an Inauguration crowd would have been bigger. Also, it was time for the parade, and many people were just walking around, not even going. They still wouldn’t have filled those empty stands though.
I was slightly annoyed when a Trump supporter stopped to take a picture of a black man selling Trump-wear on the street. He got up and interrupted her picture to stop her. He probably tried to stop the picture because he might not have had a license to sell, though I think they overlook that a lot in DC, at least from my limited experience. But I knew the Trumpette’s purpose. She wanted to show a black man selling Trump merchandise. It was an example: Look, this black man likes Trump, so we must be right!
Umm, no. Don’t use this guy to sell your garbage. He has to make a living. And if his living comes from selling merchandise in DC, he’s going to sell whatever will make him money that day. He was most likely out there selling Women’s March merch on Saturday. Stop trying to use people as your poster boys for your agenda. There are going to be a lot of people over the next four years who have to continue their jobs for the sake of their families, and it doesn’t mean they support Trump. It means they support their families!
We also found this lovely display in Cleveland Park. A store owner was asking people to fill out thank you’s to President Obama. The window was plastered with them!
Alright, back to the March. So I really wanted to take a pic of my cousin Nancy, her daughter McInnis, my daughter Katie, and myself the night before the March, but they didn’t arrive until after midnight and Katie and I were already asleep. So here’s one from the March and the caption I would have used:
That’s a lyric from Hamilton, in case you’re not part of the Hamil-family.
After breakfast, we left Beth’s apartment in a large group, knowing there was no way we could all stick together. The subway station was absolutely crowded and the trains were packed. It was all we could do to get the four of us on one train.
Once off the Metro, we made our way down 7th St. to the site of the March, between 3rd and 4th St. on Independence Avenue. The sight of Marchers streaming toward this event was inspiring!
I don’t know if you can tell in this picture, but the flow of people stretched as far as the eye could see!
So I have to share this pic. I mean, I just had to . . .
These are the porta-potties from the Inauguration. They were locked. Don didn’t even wanting us using his johns! 😂
In all seriousness, these were probably rented by the Inauguration Committee, and therefore were not authorized to be used for other events. The Women’s March did have facilities along the way, though we had to wait in a long line . . . next to locked Don’s Johns. I’m a fiction writer and you just can’t make up this kind of irony . . .
I’m not sure I can even put into words what I was feeling as we walked towards the start of the March. And I’m certain what I was feeling was different than what those around me were experiencing. I was seeing this event through the lens of countless discussions about diversity in literature, through my mission to identify and destroy my own personal biases, and through narratives of women of marginalized identities who had apprehensions that this March was not for them, but for the white women who have historically lead the feminist movement, but not allowed for the intersectionality of that movement. I wanted to see inclusion, and it was there, but was it enough? As a white woman, my own biases prevent me from making that determination, but I am listening to those who have a better perception if they choose to speak.
We wanted to get as close as we could, but we finally stopped pushing our way forward around 10am. It was futile (and rude) to try to get any closer. The yellow star on this map shows our approximate location during the speeches. The pink speech bubble is about where the stage was. I couldn’t find an exact location on line, so I’m not positive exactly where it was.
So imagine Independence Avenue filled from the stage as far back as 7th St. at least. 7th St was filled as far as I could see to the north and the south. The side streets were filled, Constitution Avenue was filled. They were ALL filled! The friends we were separated from said they went to the National Mall because it was impossible to get any closer. And it was filled too!
And the signs were the best. There were some pretty raunchy ones, polite ones, and so many, many issues from abortion rights, rights to our bodies, calls against misogyny, climate change concerns, concerns about Trump’s ties to Russia, plain-old concerns about Trump in general. They were funny, poignant, pithy, sometimes inappropriate, but all from the heart. Racism, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, sexism, LGBTQIA+ rights: it was all addressed in some way.
Admittedly, we didn’t get to hear as many of the speeches as we would have liked. There was a screen not far from us that we could see, but the audio kept going out. We still heard a good portion of it and I did watch all 5 1/2 hours of footage later. I wanted to know what was said, because at the actual March, we didn’t get that.
I am going to mention a few critical things about the March and the Marchers. And this is not all of them, but the ones around me. The speeches themselves were supposed to go from 10am until 1:15pm. We left at 3pm and they were still talking. I think it went until 4:30. I don’t know if this was poor planning, or if they added more speakers because the original plan for the March wasn’t going to work. We were supposed to March down Independence, but you can’t very well march down a street that is already filled to capacity with protesters. They changed the plan to march toward the White House, but since we couldn’t hear the audio, most of us didn’t know that. Needless to say we were all getting pretty tired, and since we weren’t receiving any direction, we didn’t know what was going on.
Around 2pm (if I remember correctly) some of my fellow marchers started chanting over the speakers “Time to March!” I get the frustration. I really do. But chanting over someone who took the time to speak for you is just rude. And to make it worse, all these speakers they were chanting over were women of color. Now, did this encourage them to start these chants? I don’t know. It may just have been the fact that we didn’t know what was going on, couldn’t hear well, and were tired. But honestly, I don’t care about your reasons.
When these chants would start, I’d holler out as loud as I could, “”YOU’RE DISRESPECTING THE SPEAKER!” Years of choir, drama and cheerleading mean I’ve had ample practice in projecting my voice. They stopped their chanting real quick when I did that. I just couldn’t abide these white women, who were probably very lovely people, shouting down a women of color when she was trying to speak. Could the speakers hear us? No. They were too far away. Doesn’t change a thing. Women of color have been shouted down in every form of communication there is, for more years than this country has existed. This was not the time to do the same thing, no matter your reasons.
After awhile, I had to give up. Too many people were getting frustrated, and my calls were being ignored, but hopefully I got my point across to a few people.
Beyond those few frustrations, this was a beautiful moment in American history. This wasn’t just a Women’s March; it was an Everyone March. The speakers themselves reflected the inclusion of this March; men, women, White, Black, Latina, Native, Muslim, Trans, Lesbian, Gay. The people around me were examples of this too. There were a lot of men, especially young men. There were teenagers as well as older couples. There were pockets of teens sporting rainbow flags and LGBT shirts, and enclaves of white women in pink hats. Parents roamed around with their children on their shoulders, and one old couple I saw held hands and helped each other down the street.
Though I wasn’t able to hear some of this during the actual March, I want to share some pieces of the speeches that spoke to me when I watched the footage later. The first is from a Muslim woman very early on, and unfortunately I didn’t catch her name. She said:
Justice can not be for JUST US!
Make resistance your lifestyle!
Van Jones spoke of the power of love:
When it gets harder to love, love harder!
Senator Kamala Harris (D)-CA had these profound words which I have been thinking ever since the election:
I believe we are at an inflection point in the history of our country. I believe this is a moment in time that is a pivotal moment in the history of our country.
Who are we? We are collectively looking in a mirror and with furrowed brow asking ‘Who are we?’
And she spoke of how tired she and all women are of hearing about ‘Women’s Issues’ as if we are a particular constituency or demographic with only certain issues. Senator Harris reminded us that ALL issues are Women’s Issues: student loans, the economy, national security, Black Lives Matter, Healthcare, equal pay.
Scarlett Johansen spoke about women’s healthcare and about how we need to dig our heels into political action and make it a part of our lives always, not just when threatened.
Tamika D. Mallory, whose speech was the most rousing of all to me, said:
Today is not a concert. It is not a parade, and it is not a party. Today is an act of resistance!
She also said:
When we fight for justice, we fight for it for all people!
Sabrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, (among several other mothers of sons lost to police violence) lead us all in a chant. When it wasn’t loud enough the first time, she said:
Louder! I want our children in Heaven to hear it. Mothers! Of the Movement!
I admit. I started crying at that part.
Janelle Monae spoke about marching against the abuse of power and had this encouragement for all those out there that feel lost in our society:
Continue to embrace the things that make you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable.
Personally, I think America needs to get very uncomfortable with its racism, homophobia, sexism, Islamaphobia, xenophobia and all its other -isms and -ics so we can get down to the business of recognizing our own biases and start making needed change!
Once we left the rally point, we marched down 7th St. to Constitution. We headed East on Constitution, then north on 12th where we marched past Trump International. People left their signs out front from him. I kept expecting the crowds to thin, but they didn’t. Every street in every direction was filled with people marching, chanting, singing. The hope was palatable, the anger was present, but a spur to action, not a an enveloping cloud. I was choking back tears as my heart burst with the love, the people, the impetus I saw before me. Here were people who were saying, “I will not fall into line. I will not ‘give him a chance’. I will not lie down in the face of impending oppression.” It was surreal, and yet real. Terrifying to think that we were united in the face of something so momentous that it caused 500,000 in DC, and millions worldwide, to stand up and say, “Not on our watch!”
I don’t have any other words right now, though I know more will come later. I want to write about the March being called vulgar and angry. I want to write about the sexist idea that angry women are somehow lesser or wrong. I want to write about reactions by white women at the March to the many speakers of color on that stage. So you can expect more posts in the future. This is not something that was a fleeting moment that will pass. It was not for me, and I truly believe it was not for thousands of others. It will live in my memory as a moment this country came together and declared this is not the narrative we want. And it will live in my heart as a moment I connected with millions world wide with hope, with fear, with anger, and with love.
I’ll leave you with a few more pictures. I took so many! And with a few links at the end if you would like to view some of the speeches.
Oh, and those empty parade stands from the Inauguration? Yeah, we filled those up!
You can watch the full 5 1/2 hours of the speeches here:
You can watch Senator Kamal Harris’s speech here:
You can watch Ashley Judd’s now famous “rant” here: (More on this in my Angry Women post in the future!)
You can watch Tamika D. Mallory’s speech here: (I found her’s to be one of the most moving of the day.) (Also, I don’t think this is her whole speech. I saw more in the full video.)
If you’re interested, you can read my post Why I Marched.
I leave you with just a few words from Janelle Monae:
1459 Days of Resistance!
Start the countdown and join the Resistance!