March with Heart


Anyone who participated in the Women’s March in DC on January 21 was heartened by the size of the crowd and the calm commitment of the people who joined it. I went with my husband and daughter-in-law, who drove down from Connecticut with her college friend from Brooklyn. None of us knew what to expect on Saturday after Friday’s inaugural disruptions, but we all felt this was a time for courage and hope. We discovered that courage and hope (mingled with a solid dose of old-fashioned outrage) were the themes of the day. After trying our luck with the Metro (we watched three sardine-packed trains stop without being able to get on), we decided to go to Plan B: walking to the Mall (our phone apps registered more than seven miles for the day). We weren’t alone, as groups of women and men converged on Memorial Bridge and walked the length of the Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to Independence Avenue. We arrived as the speeches were starting and wedged ourselves into a place in front of the Hirshhorn Museum with a view of a jumbotron screen. The avenue was packed from one side to the other, from Capitol Hill all the way to the Washington Monument with huge spillover onto the Mall. We stood for four hours listening to the speeches, amazed by the intersection of groups and causes. I took part in a few protests during the early 70s, when groups representing different agendas (Anti-War, Women’s Rights, Black Power, Environmentalism, Reproductive Rights, Gay Rights, Immigrant Rights, etc.) didn't talk much to one another. Now we understand these are all Human Rights, and though we may not agree on all the specifics, it’s important to stand up for all of them. This "intersectionality" is one very good outcome from the election. Actress America Ferrara spoke passionately on just this—the importance of standing and working together, united by our common decency, to save the soul of our country. Kamala Harris, the inspiring new senator from California, was adamant that the economy, healthcare, criminal justice reform, and climate change are women’s issues, too.  Army veteran Tammy Duckworth, the new senator (and former congresswoman) from Illinois, made it clear she hadn’t lost her legs in Iraq to watch the Constitution be “trampled.” Boy, were they impressive! Van Jones gave a rousing speech, and Scarlet Johansson gave a revealing and thoughtful one (and Michael Moore was himself, gruff and funny). And legends Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis brought their strong, long-tested perspectives. The mood in the crowd was kind but concerned—people of all ages, races, and gender attended from different parts of the US. We talked to women from Oregon, Alaska, and South Carolina. Many families came with parents, children, and grandparents, and there was willing exchange of information and courtesy among the packed-in bystanders.  The handmade signs were powerful, funny, and poignant (especially the ones carried by little girls), though I admit my favorite was "You're so vain, You probably think this March is about you."  And I've never seen so much pink in my life—especially the so-called "pussy" hats that dotted the crowd in every shade from pale pink to magenta (and are so evident in the aerials). Going to the March has given me courage to stay present and participate. It's what we all need to do now. "We the people" have to get to work.