Two days ago, women, men, and children of the world made history. In over 60 countries, with hundreds of events, the Women’s March welcomed Donald Trump into his first day as President of the United States. The reason was simple: for the people of America to stand up and say we will not be ignored, that we are watching and that yes, we do care. Or as one of the chants said “WE WILL NOT GO AWAY, WELCOME TO YOUR FIRST DAY”.
I’ve been a feminist since the 7th grade. Seriously, I owned not one but two copies of the biography of early Canadian women’s rights advocate Nellie McClung. I read the Feminine Mystique in high school. I voted for Hillary. I currently work as a gender advisor. I give a damn and there was no way I couldn’t be at a Women’s March!
After a VERY short back and forth between myself, my Mom and my cousin Judy, I booked flights for Mom to fly in from Vancouver and for me to arrive from Jamaica. We wanted to be a part of this and we were marching on the Capital.
Fast forward to January 20th, Donald Trump swears his oath of office and Michelle Obama is visibly pissed off. There is a reason I named my cat after that woman. Mom, Judy and I can’t bear to watch the inauguration on tv; I have enough indigestion issues at the best of times. We talked about what a beautiful day Barack Obama’s Inauguration was back in 2009 instead. Sigh.
Meanwhile, Judy’s sisters Carol and Linda arrive from Memphis, while Judy’s best friend from high school Dana drives in from North Carolina. We were all marching, and having a mini-family reunion! Dana brought hand knit pink pussy hats for us all, we made a couple of signs, and we packed lunches for the next day. We were revved!
The next morning we took our seats in the charter buses along with 60 other nasty women and bad hombres, and joined the throngs heading into downtown D.C. We found out how off the attendance estimate was bound to be when we got off the metro in D.C. and could barely exit the train onto the platform the station was so packed with marchers. This was going to be a massive day.
Dressed warmly for the weather and therefore sweating profusely in that metro station, the excitement was contagious. If anyone had doubted the passion of this cause that metro station would have proven him or her wrong, and this was only the beginning.
Finally we emerged from the station into the light of day and I was awe-struck. The mass of people making their way through the streets of Washington was incredible: thousands of women, men, and children, many wearing pink pussy hats, carrying signs of love, revolution, dissent or a general call out the bullshit.
As I joined the wave with my fellow nasty women, the sight of such an act of togetherness brought so many emotions: love and respect for everyone around me, anger for the fact that we had to be there at all, gratitude that this is still a country where this kind of demonstration can occur at all and without violence; fear of what the world would be become if our collective worst case scenarios became reality. Most of all, I felt a part of something so much larger than me, so beyond any one cause or one group. We in DC, and all who marched around the world were standing up to be seen, to be heard, and most importantly to come together.
As the 6 of us nasty women walked towards the ‘meeting point’, it became pretty clear the attendance had far surpassed what was expected. Estimates say over a million people came out in DC, they had expected 200,000. There was just no getting through the crowd at some points, and while there was the rally happening on a stage at 3rd and Independence, the streets fanning out a half a mile were filled with people.
The Rally started at 10 and went, well, kind of forever. Speaker after speaker hit the microphone and unfortunately only a small portion of those 500,000 people could see or hear the happenings on stage. After a few hours the crowd, our group included started to get a little antsy and wanted to march.
We snaked our way through the crowd and actually got ourselves into a place where we could see a jumbo screen and hear. We had epic timing and were lucky to catch the incomparable words of Angela Davis, hear a beautiful spoken word performance by Alicia Keys, and experience a heart wrenching tribute to people of color who have died in police custody by Janelle Monae. Monae was joined by the Mothers of the March, moms who have lost their kids to violence, who led the crowd in a rise and respond type Say His/Her Name chant. How those women find the strength, I don’t know, but they are true inspirations of courage, hope, and love. I cried.
As the crowd started to move more and more (we wanted to march!), we were informed that due to the massive turnout, the march route was actually already full of people. So technically we had been marching the whole time! Instead the crowd was told to basically head to the White house with whatever route they could take.
And then Madonna appeared!!! Surprise!!! She even sang a bit, can I now say I’ve been to a Madonna concert?
It was at this time that my Mom and cousins had to catch the bus back to Virginia, but that evening I was staying with my Peace Corps ladies in town so I followed the crowd on my own and made my own way to the White House. I sent my big Equality sandwich board sign home with Mom, but grabbed a Dissent is Patriotic sign for the walk.
Marching with the throngs of people, my heart was so full I went in and out of emotions, choking up fairly regularly. The march chants went from stirring to hilarious to somewhat inappropriate, but I loved them all and aimed to go hoarse by the end of the walk. Some of my faves you may ask?
“Hands to small, can’t build the wall!”
“We’re women, we’re loud, we’re nasty and we’re PROUD!”
“Build a fence around Mike Pence!”
“You’re orange, you’re gross; you lost the popular vote!”
“We will not go away, welcome to your first day!”
“We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!”
And my all time favourite…
“MIKE PENCE ALSO SUCKS!”
A photography book could be written of all of the thousands of signs that were carried throughout the day ranging from “Dumbledore wouldn’t allow this shit” to “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” to a little girl with a sign that said “I Love Science”. One sign simply said “Ugh”.
As I walked through the streets of the nation’s capital with over half a million strangers, all tied together by our fears of what is happening in the United States, it was hard to not become overwhelmed by all of the feelings. Fear of what may come, but buoyed by the overwhelming show of unity, hope, and resistance showed on this day that will go down in history. Knowledge that there are so many women and men out there who give a damn, who care about issues that do not effect them but effect their fellow humans. My Mom was carrying a Respect Women of Color sign, and a young woman of color stopped her, took her photo, and then thanked her for carrying that sign. This was just one example of the love that was felt and the connections that were shared at all of the Women’s Marches.
The internet informs me that the collective Women’s March across the world is the largest demonstration in history, with millions of people marching in all 50 states and over 60 countries. In D.C., we outnumbered the crowd at Trump’s Inauguration 3 to 1. The D.C. Metro system has stated March day was its second largest day ever, beaten only by Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Over a million Metro trips were taken. And zero arrests were made.
I can honestly say that this day was one of the most important days that I have experienced. Being present for such a monumental event was one that can never be replaced and I am so thankful and proud to have been there. I’m grateful to have shared the experience with my Mom, a power woman if ever there has been one, and my cousins, all strong badasses. I was proud to represent the many other nasty women in my life who couldn’t march as well as the brilliant ladies of my family who have passed before me.
The skeptics of the march have a lot to say, and that’s fine. I marched because it was important to me, to be heard, to be seen, to show up. What’s next? The ember has caught spark and now it’s time to see what happens with this heat. I can say that the March is only the beginning. It’s up to us to build on this momentum, to keep our government accountable and respectful, and to support those issues that are the most important, not only to ourselves but to the collective ‘we’.
For now, I will continue to sign the petitions; I will continue to donate to Planned Parenthood and to the ACLU; I will write letters and make the calls; I will support organizations and politicians fighting for what I believe in; I will continue to be properly informed, to question those “alternative facts”; I will continue to love and respect people who are different from me.
Time to be heard, time to stand for what we believe in, time to show who we are.
Time to be the world we want to live in.
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