I was on my feet for seven hours; almost half of that time was standing in place waiting for the march to start. The massive crowd made it impossible to move in one direction or another. This was a small price to pay for being among the 500,000 marchers who had come to Washington to send a message to President Trump on his first day in office. We were there to take a stand for women’s rights, black rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, single payer health care, and religious freedom.
The crowd chanted, “Welcome to your first day! We won’t go away!”
Sisterhood at its finest was on display Saturday in Washington. Straight women voiced their support for lesbians and trans women. White women embraced the ‘Black Lives Matter” message. I’ve marched for decades, but this time it seemed that privileged white women, like myself, finally understood that we have to unpack our racism.
Black and white women recognized their common disenfranchisement in the new Trump administration. This message came home to roost in the words of the Black activist singer, Janelle Monae, who told the mostly white crowd, “My country has always been hostile to me. Welcome to my world!”
Connections with strangers were commonplace as we waited for the march to start. I spoke with Viola Daniels, 84, a fashionably dressed retired school teacher and DC native, who told me she marched for the first time when her mother took her to a march in support of FDR. Viola and her mother marched for progressive causes up until six years ago when her mother died at age 97.
I met the young Pakistani activist, Sana, whose poster was one of the day’s more memorable ones. I offered my condolences to Celeste Zappale, a Gold Star mother from Philadelphia. I introduced myself to women with arresting posters, like the Houston artist whose poster was a take on the surrealist painter, Magritte, or to the spirited grandmother with her feisty message.
When the last speech was given, it was finally announced that the march would start, but we were told, due to the unanticipated large crowd we wouldn’t be able to march as one body. That meant women branched off, clogging all the major streets in downtown Washington.
We were buoyed by our large numbers and by reports of global marches that we followed on our iPhones. At the end of the day as we staggered home, tired and hungry we knew that this was only the beginning.
We took to heart the cautionary words of one of the speakers who said, “Today is not a parade. It’s an act of resistance.”
Later Saturday evening as I ate and drank with the ten women I had marched with, we talked about what comes next. Many of us pledged to follow Michael Moore’s campaign, “One Hundred Days of Resistance,” where we all vow to do one thing a day to protest Trump. It could be phoning our congressional representatives, getting more involved on a local and state level, writing letters to the editor, or engaging with our neighbors for social change.
I’m taking the pledge. I hope you will too. Let’s all be our sisters’ keepers!