My feet hurt, my back aches, & I’ve become slightly claustrophobic. But I wouldn’t trade my day at the Women’s March on Washington for the world, because yesterday I got to glimpse democracy in action. I got to march hand in hand with my mama as we stood up for minority rights, gay rights, trans rights, and human rights. My family and I took our first steps into the world of activism.
My mom, my dad, and I left my apartment shortly before 8:00 a.m. with our signs in hand, allergies and emergency contacts written on our arms, and our pockets full of snacks, phone chargers, and more. From the moment we stepped outside my front door, we were surrounded by kindred spirits. Drivers honked and pedestrians waved at us in support as we walked to the Metro. Once we got into the Metro station, that’s when the fun really started.
As we descended into the Dupont Circle Metro Station, I started to have a sense of how insane the turnout was going to be. We had to wait for several trains to go by before we could smush onto one. We made it to L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station without getting separated, only to find long, long lines just to get out of the station. It turns out we were some of the lucky ones – only a little while later, trains began to be turned away from the station due to overcrowding. As we waited to exit the station, the energy began to build. Despite the early hour and the crazy crowds, everyone was in good spirits — chatting with one another, complimenting each other’s signs, even singing.
We emerged from the Metro station at 9:30 a.m. By then it was already impossible to get anywhere near the stage where the rally was centered. We quickly realized we weren’t going to be able to meet up with our other family members who had come to town to march. At that point, my dad split off from us and decided to experience the march in a less hectic way.
We made it to the National Air and Space Museum (three blocks from the stage) before running into a solid wall of people and getting stuck. And there we stood. For hours. Luckily our spot had a view of one of the screens that were showing the rally speakers.
We heard inspiring speeches from Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA); actresses America Ferrera, Scarlett Johansson, and Ashley Judd; activists Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Janet Mock, Sister Simone Campbell, and Cecile Richards. Even DC Mayor Muriel Bowser showed up rocking her very own pink pussyhat!
One of our favorite speakers was Sophie Cruz. Sophie, age six, is the daughter of two undocumented immigrants. Last year she met the Pope, and yesterday she spoke to the world about immigrant rights. Her speech was short but powerful. When she finished speaking, my mom and I both broke out into a spontaneous chant of ‘Sophie for President!’
We became friends with the people around us, including a group of women who had taken a bus up from Atlanta — what are the odds! We shouted ‘Women’s rights are human rights’ over, and over, and over again. A woman standing in front of us started handing out pink pussyhats that her friend in Portland, OR had sent with her to give away to marchers since she was unable to attend. I also witnessed a woman next to me dropping trou and peeing right in the middle of the crowd. Apparently she really needed to go. We understood the feeling, but wished she’d headed for a porta potty instead.
The actual march was scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m. 1:45 p.m. rolled around and there was no sign of transitioning from rally to march. The natives became restless. Chants of ‘March, March, March!’ began to break out, although, since it was a Women’s March, most of us were too polite to chant while speakers were talking. We had no cell service so couldn’t even look online to see what was going on.
Finally, at 2:30 p.m., the organizers announced a change in plans. The crowds were too big to march along the intended route, but we were going to take a different path and head towards the White House. Since we were packed together so tightly, it’s not entirely accurate to describe our movements as a march. But after standing still for more than four hours, it felt good just to slowly creep along together.
It was only when we began to march that we were able to realize the magnitude of the crowd. People packed every street, sidewalk, and even tree. We had to hold hands the whole way to keep from losing each other. The diversity of marchers was incredible — men and women, young and old, from all corners of the country. I don’t know how else to say it, except the crowd looked like America.
People clearly put a lot of thought into the signs they carried with them on the march. The messages on the signs were as varied as the marchers.
Some were inspirational …
Some were scientific …
Many were funny …
The signs that made us laugh the most were pretty vulgar. My mom turned to me at one point and said, “I wasn’t prepared for what a prominent role the word ‘pussy’ would play today”. There was something incredibly cathartic about normalizing and reclaiming that word.
One of the signs that meant a lot to us was being carried by a woman who had recently lost her mother June.
Our octogenarian friend June back in Atlanta wasn’t able to march in Atlanta or Washington, DC and was in our thoughts all day. This sign was an incredible reminder that we were marching not only for ourselves, but for those who had come before us.
Aside from the signs, the highpoint of the march itself was the chanting. The longer we walked, the louder we chanted.
Popular chants included:
- “We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter.”
- “Tell me what democracy looks like!” “This is what democracy looks like!”
- “Black Lives Matter”
- “Donald Trump, Michael Pence, you don’t make no fucking sense!” (I didn’t actually feel like that one made much sense, but it felt really empowering to shout ‘fucking’ right alongside hundreds of thousands of other people!)
- “Welcome to your first day. We will not go away!”
- “My body, my choice.”
- “Sí se puede!” (My dad’s chant of choice!)
The way the chants would start, with one person speaking out, and those around them quickly amplifying their message, seemed representative of the march itself. A single person chanting alone wouldn’t make much of an impact, but together we raised hell.
Although my dad didn’t stick with us throughout the whole day, it meant the world to me that he came to D.C. (and downtown to the rally site) with the intention of marching with us. My mom and I remarked over and over again as the day went on how heartening it was to see so many men and boys marching with us. From little boys, to older men, the presence of allies among us made the experience all the more powerful.
Since we had no cell service for most of the day, we only became aware of some of the more high profile allies in our midst when we made it home and looked on Twitter.
— Marv (@Marv_Vien) January 21, 2017
I love jake gyllenhaal so much pic.twitter.com/ASpW6w7PBu
— ️️ (@riverwars) January 22, 2017
By the time we marched ourselves on home it was 5:30 p.m. We walked in the door, took off our shoes, poured ourselves some giant glasses of wine, and collapsed onto the floor.
We told my dad about all of the new friends we’d made throughout the day and showed him our photos. We read about the incredible number of sister marches that had taken place across the country and around the world. We learned that more than 500,000 people had marched in DC, and not a single person had been arrested. We realized that our new President was really pissed off that more people marched than attended his inauguration.
The experience left us with a lot to process. We kept looking at each other and saying: “Can you believe how many people there were?””Every part of my body hurts.” “I’m so glad we did it!” My mom and I have always done a lot of activities together — over the years we’ve danced together, worshiped together, walked together, and so much more. Now we can add marching to the list.
I hate that Donald J. Trump is our President. I hate that there are people working to immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act with no viable plan to replace it. I hate that minorities, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community don’t feel safe. But I love knowing that I am a part of a family, a country, and a world that will stand together and peacefully march for what is right.
The marches are over now. It’s time for the real work to begin. Ever since the election we have known that marching alone won’t make a change. It was a start, and the memories of that march will fuel me for the rest of my life. But it won’t be enough. When you’re ready to take the next step, check out my guide to activism!
Were you one of the millions that joined a Women’s March? Tell me about your experience!