Sunday, January 22, 2017

This is what democracy looks like

This is what I know is true:
  • I am a patriot.
  • I will not "get over" the fact that Donald Trump is now the President. 
  • I can respect the Office of the President but not the President.
  • I will not be silenced because my beliefs are different from yours or unpopular (they're not by the way) or uncomfortable.
  • I will listen to those who I disagree with and who disagree with me. I will do so with respect.
  • I expect the same level of respect when I share my beliefs with them.
  • I will always question our leaders, at every level of government, on the policies and laws they make.
  • I will be an ally for those who need it.
  • I will not go quietly into the night.
  • I will protest and march and rally and organize and work and work some more. 
As I wrote during the election cycle and have written before, participation is a key element to being a citizen. We have both enormous privilege and responsibility in the way our government works. What often happens is that we forget this. We get wrapped up in the idea that our voice doesn't matter, that no one is listening, that we cannot make change. I disagree. It's not easy for any of those things to happen but they are happening everyday.

I marched in the Women's March on Washington yesterday with approximately 500,000 people who have to believe in the idea that our voice matter. There were 673 sister marches around the world (including all 50 states). An estimated 4 million people marched yesterday in these marches. That is not a small number. If none of us believed that our voices matter, no one would have shown up. Every person came to the march for a different reason; search the hashtag #whyimarch on any social media site and you'll get thousands of results. You might notice a theme after reading through these posts; I certainly did. People marched because they do not want to see their rights taken away. Healthcare, education, gun control, environmental policy, immigrant rights, religious freedom, gay rights, civil rights - all of these things are at risk in the new administration.

I planned on marching since I heard the event was being organized. I believe in affordable, accessible healthcare. I believe women have the right to decide what happens with their bodies. I believe abortion should be legal. I believe Planned Parenthood is an essential part of healthcare options, particularly for women in poverty, for things beyond birth control and abortions. I believe women and girls should not have to fear reporting rape or abuse. I believe men play an important role in feminism. I want the women and girls in my life to know that they can do anything they want. I believe women's rights are human rights. That is why I marched yesterday.

Yesterday was exhilarating, exciting, overwhelming, and exhausting (in a good way). I've participated in smaller protests before and I was a volunteer for the 2009 Inauguration but none of those events prepared me for yesterday. While there were more people in 2009, we didn't feel as closely packed in as yesterday. There was an energy of friendliness that I have never experienced at a march. Where people angry? Yes, but their anger was not towards one another. I saw everyone from little babies with their parents to grandmas with three generations of women from their family to college and high school age participants. There were 60s radicals who really never thought they'd have to be back in Washington again protesting for women's rights. There were people participating in their first march. There were men of all ages marching with the women in their lives or marching together to show solidarity and respect. People came from all over the country to join the march.

I planned to march whether I had a group or not. I lucked out in having an awesome group of ladies to march with: Jordana, her friend Jess, and Janice, a friend from high school who I haven't seen in twenty years. She lives in Ohio now and posted on Facebook last week that she needed a group to march with yesterday. I volunteered our group and away we went. Another friend, Emily, and two of her friends were supposed to meet us but given the logistics and enormity of the crowd, we never connected.

Our plan originally included using Metro but that quickly changed into taking Uber into the city and later a taxi home. The crowds and Metro's ability to not be able to get their shit together started early in the morning and would continue throughout the day. The lines to get into stations were crazy. Thank you to all the Metro workers and Uber and taxi drivers who worked yesterday. Y'all are heroes.

The first thing we saw as we got closer to the start of the rally was the people. It was a sea of pink hats and signs as far as the eye could see. By the midpoint of the rally, the crowd would stretch from 3rd Street SW to 14th Street SW. It would stretch further later and actually make it incredibly difficult to march. We abandoned trying to meet up with Emily and her group since navigating the crowd was becoming harder. We found a little patch of sidewalk near the Hirshhorn at 7th and Independence near one of the screens so we had a great view of the speakers and performers for the rally. Our immediate rally neighbors were super nice; one group was from Ohio. We also had a great view of some protest signs.



The rally began with this song. It was a beautiful start to the morning. From there, the march co-chairs and representatives from groups like Planned Parenthood, Rise, Mothers of the Movement,  and the NAACP spoke about the importance of the movement and the march. Activists, writers, and actors also made their way to the podium (including Michael Moore). My hero, Gloria Steinem, spoke and it was one of my favorite parts of the day. One of my favorite parts of her speech was this: "Pressing send does not allow us to empathize with other people. ... If you hold a baby you’re flooded with empathy. If you see somebody in an accident you want to help them. I love books, but doesn’t happen from a book. It doesn’t happen from a screen. It only happens when we’re together.” Michael Moore gave everyone a to-do list of things we need to do to continue the momentum of the march. He was cut off by Ashley Judd, in possibly the greatest performance of the march. She read Nina Donovan's poem "Nasty Woman" and it was more amazing than I can describe to you; just watch it.

 

There were an abundance of speakers at the rally. If I had one criticism of the march it would be that the rally was too long. I appreciated hearing different voices and perspectives but at some point, it felt like we were losing the momentum of the crowd. I wish organizers had listened to the crowd when we started chanting "March! March! March!" but I also understand why they continued. People started marching even before surprise guests Alicia Keys and Madonna began performing. I would have stopped at Alicia singing "Girl on Fire" and let us go but I get why they didn't. My second favorite moment of the rally was listening to Sophie Cruz address the crowd. Don't know Sophie Cruz? Sophie is the girl who wanted to talk to Pope Francis when he visited the US about her parents, both undocumented, and how she didn't want them to be taken away. She eventually spoke to him and has become an activist in the way that six year olds can be - amazing. Watching her brought tears to my eyes. She shared a message of hope and determination. We can learn from Sophie.

And then we marched...sort of. The crowd grew so large that the march route was blocked by marchers. It took a long time for us to get moving but eventually we did. We walked as far up Independence Avenue as we could, eventually cutting over to the Mall and walking to the Washington Monument. We weren't on the march route at that point but eventually caught up with it on Constitution Avenue and joined all the way to the Ellipse and the White House. We split off and rejoined the march on Pennsylvania Avenue before looping back to Constitution to head home. It was almost 5 pm by the time we did that and people were still marching and setting up protests outside of the White House. We could hear chants of "We will not go away/Welcome to your first day" and "What does democracy look like/This is what democracy looks like" even as we hopped in a taxi to go back to Virginia. It was in a word, amazing.

video

As I was driving Janice and Jordana home, we talked about what our favorite parts of the day were. For me, it was that people showed up. Months ago when Teresa Shook first posted on Facebook that this should happen, no one could predict that it actually would. Just because people say they're going to do something doesn't actually mean they will. But people showed up. They came from all over to be here yesterday. We marched peacefully. We used our voices. And now the work begins. So many of the speakers yesterday talked about that: getting to work. We can follow Michael Moore's to-do list or we can create our own. I know I've already created mine and will be sharing my to-dos in future posts. A march is not a movement. It is one step towards change. I hope that the people who marched yesterday here in DC and around the world continue forward to the next step and the next.

Thank you to the march organizers and volunteers. We would not have been able to be there without all of your hard work. Thank you to Teresa Shook for having this idea and being there yesterday to share in it with us. Thank you to the speakers and performers. Thank you to the police, first responders, and all others involved in keeping the march safe. You are amazing. Thank you to those who helped get us there - especially our Uber and taxi drivers.

A special thank you to Kirsten, a woman from New York, who made the pussyhat I wore yesterday. You were here yesterday too. And thank you to the three random ladies Jordana and I met in the parking lot at the Shirlington Harris Teeter who gave us the hats for our group.


I'm thankful I got to march with Jordana, Jess, and Janice and all of the other marchers yesterday here and around world. Many of my friends and family couldn't be there yesterday so I made little stickers with their names and wore them close to my heart while marching. Here's a little video of them on the march:
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All photos and two videos by me

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