This post addresses Global Goals 5: Gender Equality, 10: Reduced Inequalities, and 16: Peace, Justice, & Strong Institutions!

While I recognize that there is no way to fully describe the events and feelings surrounding the Women’s March yesterday, I must try to convey my experience. This post is long, so if you just want to read my take-aways, skip down past the chronological play-by-play of events.

Play-by-play of events:

I car-pooled with a friend from my book club to Philly on Friday night. I’ll forever be grateful to her for offering the last seat in the car. We arrived at my friend’s friend’s house where many others had also gathered to sleep on the floor (or any space available) for a few hours before awaking at 4:15am in order to catch the bus to DC. It occurred to me that there were thousands of other homes in and around DC (and other cities) that were being used for the same purpose. I felt a sense of wonder as I went to bed in a kind stranger’s house. How many others around the world were sacrificing and accommodating in some way that night for this cause?

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Early the next morning, as we stood in the damp and chilly morning air, waiting to board one of about 20 buses, a few women came by offering donuts and wanted to thanks to us. They couldn’t march that day, but wanted to show gratitude and solidarity. This was the first of many touching kindnesses along the way.

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The 3 hour bus ride was smooth and filled with anticipation. The fog over the Chesapeake Bay was ominous if not foreboding. We were still concerned about what troubles, if any, the day would bring. We finally arrived at about 9am in a parking lot about two miles away from the Capitol Building. Upon deboarding the bus, a metro train honked as it passed, the sea of pink-hatted passengers all smiled and waved to us. That simple act filled some of us with emotion as we began to sense the enormity of what were a part of.

We followed the crowds of people. We could have taken the metro, but opted to walk, and it was a great decision. Along the way, people were handing out posters, hand-made pink hats, and snacks. We saw people on their porches waving and smiling, and taking pictures. We saw this good man:

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We saw welcoming places that were opened to the public to serve as charging stations for devices, and a place to rest, and have a snack or a drink. We saw two men with cardboard and spray paint making signs for anyone who wanted one.We passed police women and men who were all very polite, some openly supportive and cheering. We walked through a beautiful neighborhood in DC where the yards each had a sign in it like this one with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (I believe they were left there from the week before on his day), and I was so grateful for the reminders to everyone that love and peace are always a better way than hatred or anger, especially as we walked to a protest. So, before the march even began, I was glad I had made the effort, grateful for the experience, and filled with hope and love.

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Notice the person in a wheelchair in the background of the “got equality?” sign?

 

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When we finally reached the Capitol, we could hear cheering in the distance. The excitement in the air was growing. We came to a place that looked like it might be a security checkpoint, but no. In fact, there were no security checkpoints. Not once did anyone check the size of our backs (we were told they could be no larger than 4x6x8” large). There were no metal detectors, no police dogs sniffing, no one making sure signs didn’t have a (forbidden) wooden handle. Yes, there were many police officers and security guards, but it seemed as though they all just got to stand, be thanked, and help people with directions all day.
Here is a picture of my friend and new friends. These are the wonderful strong women with whom I spent the day.

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After rounding the corner of the Capitol Building, we got our first glimpse of the crowd. It was astounding. I felt immediately pulled toward it. We wanted to get somewhere in the vicinity of the stage so that we could at least hear the speakers and performers. It turned out to be a logistical impossibility. Once down on Independence Ave and 3rd street, we were like sardines in a can. Movement was incredibly difficult in any direction. As we slowly moved, we were entertained by the creativity of the signage. I began collecting photos of many of them (see below). We also saw people climbing in trees to get a better view. Incidentally, one woman in a tree was topless (and nobody cared). We persevered and got to the stage, but found ourselves blocked out behind it. Crazy enough, the audio speakers were such that we couldn’t hear anything, even though we were relatively close to the stage. Oh how I wish they would have thought to put speakers facing our direction. We attempted for a long time to go around, but I am telling you, really, It. Was. Not. Possible. (My thought was: Nooooo!!!!). I had to make peace with the fact that I would miss seeing/hearing the actual rally, and that I needed to be in the moment and soak in what I was doing. I took solace in the fact that modern technology would allow me to watch it all on Youtube later on. Meanwhile, I was a part of the movement. My presence counted, and I was happy to do my part.

We heard from someone that the grassy area of the mall (off of the streets) was a little less crowded, which is where we eventually made our way. It was time for a much needed and refreshing sit-down break and a snack. Not far from us was some scaffolding whereon people were climbing to get a better view. I took the chance and made my way up to the top for the most thrilling view I could have imagined! It was exhilarating to see so many hundreds of thousands of people in every direction united by a cause (causes) that means so much to me.

We decided to move again, into the crowd, and make our way to the march starting point. It was no small task. Our slow-going route took us to an area where some celebrities were exiting after being on stage. So, while I didn’t have the chance to see the rally, we had a few celebrity sightings, including John Kerry, Ashley Judd, Katy Couric, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Cecil Richards. I was only able to snag these pics. Ashley is waving to us!

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Because the actual starting point of the march was impossible to get to, we went out a couple of blocks further where the people were less congested. We walked parallel to Independence Ave. where the rally and march were supposed to happen. It was fabulous to break away and actually move for a while, but still feel very involved as there were so many others with us walking along. Two blocks down, and we still felt like we were in it and part of it! After a while we moved back in near Independence Ave to a place where we could sort of see (and hear) one of the many large screens showing the performers. It was there we learned that the march couldn’t really happen because the streets where the march was supposed to take place were all full! Ha! A gridlock of people from start to finish!

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At one point a police officer told us that there were about 500,000 people there (an estimate that grew to 600,000), and that yesterday at the inauguration it was about 100,000-200,000. Eventually, however, the march did happen, and people did make it to the White House. We stayed on the periphery as we marched. Along the way we saw a woman from the National Guard on a big tank-like truck (with a better view) who was taking photos for people who were lined up to hand her their phones. Another fun part of the march was that at seemingly random times the crowd around us would start cheering loudly. Often we weren’t sure why. It felt a little bit like being at a sporting event when the crowd does the wave, but it was with cheering instead of hands.

On the way to the White house we saw the relatively new African American History Museum. As none of us had been inside, we thought it would be great to go and have a look! Not surprisingly, we were not allowed entrance. One had to get tickets online early that morning. It was worth a shot. I’ll have to go back.

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From the White House, we had a long way back to the busses. Streets were still thick with people, and would be for hours, but we had accomplished everything we hoped we would, and it was time to get back. I don’t know if others felt it, but I noticed a change in the mood and atmosphere as we walked back, passing the Washington Monument and up to the Capitol. It was more somber. The big event was coming to a close – the event we had looked to as a way to do something about the way we were feeling after the election. It was over, and Trump is still president (and all that that means). I left my sign at the base of a statue near the Capitol building among others to leave my message of dignity, respect, and love for ALL.
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At the end of the day, I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to march in DC with this crowd. It was an honor. I was filled with emotion and even became teary-eyed on a few occasions. This once-in-a-lifetime experience was something I will never forget and can never be taken from me, from any of us. And as I said before (and as was made clear during the march), we have work to do. Let us continue in our lives, homes, and communities to make the world a better place with dignity, respect, and love for all!

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Take-aways:

      1. I was profoundly impressed with the overall feeling of love, kindness, and hope at the event. 600,000 people in one place, especially at a protest, can create opportunity for hostility, aggression, violence or at very least petty rudeness, pushing in the crowds, and insensitivity. I neither saw nor heard of any of that. People were polite and helpful. It was inspiring and helped grow my love for humanity.
      2. I was impressed by the diversity of thought, skin color, religious background, age, orientation, etc. I felt so inclusive. I saw women and men carrying their babies, a saw children in strollers, I saw teens, women with wheelchairs and walkers, and so on. I was amazed at the sacrifices some had made in order to be able to march.
      3. Children are watching:
        *A few hours before I left for the March, my oldest daughter told me that she and a friend had staged an ad-hoc Women’s March at her school during recess that day. They wanted to participate somehow, and just decided to do it right then and there. They invited others to join them. It was a small group of about 15 girls that walked around the ball field at their school. I was so touched to hear about it.
        *Another daughter told me she felt confident that if children could vote, Hillary would have won.
        *I loved seeing this young boy with his mother at the march. She is raising him right! I told my girls to look for boys and men who feel and act the way he does. If he excuses bad behavior on his gender, if he doesn’t respect women, if he isn’t a feminist, he isn’t right for them.

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      4. On the drive home from the march, we listened to an interview by a man named Anan who was in attendance (I wish I could remember his last name!). He made an observation that hit me. He basically said that the few men who marched in a crowd of women had a happy, peaceful, uplifting experience and felt safe the entire time. He followed that up with the contrast of how a few women would feel in a crowd of men. The experience would be so different, and not in a good way. That is why we march.
      5. Trump. I tried to fathom what it would be like to have millions of people protest the day after I took office. I tried to fathom the thickness of the skin one would have to have in order to endure such public dislike…. It occurred to me that one would need to not only have thick skin, but also likely have an insane amount of denial about the situation, a crazy amount of arrogance (otherwise you would apologize and try to make things right). It would certainly help if the person stood to gain so much from his position that he just wouldn’t care about so many people not liking him because he was benefitting so “bigly” from it.IMG_5920
      6. This is the beginning (…again, because we know our foremothers began this fight a looooong time ago).  As the march drew to a close and we were walking back up to the capitol building, I saw the rows of empty chairs still set up from the inauguration where Trump was sworn into office. The reality of his presidency hit me like a brick. We have work to do. The women at the rally recognized this. There were many conversations about how to continue our efforts once we got home and how important it is to take advantage of the momentum we have. We can all do something. No effort is too small.
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