It’s been a week since the Women’s March on Washington and I’m still having trouble putting into words what I experienced that day.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to write … maybe that will help me organize and process everything anew.
It was an extraordinary day.
Women and men from all walks of life convened in the nation’s capital to essentially say NOPE.
First observation? Solidarity is the coolest. Just when you think you’re the only one reeling about what’s happening in our country, it turns out a million of your closest friends around the world feel the same way.
As we boarded the jam-packed subway that morning, I spotted three women. They were older than me. Perhaps in their 60s or 70s? One wore a rainbow-colored scarf. Another wore shiny peace sign earrings that spun and dangled down to her shoulders. And yet another wore LGBTQ buttons on her jacket. They were dressed in pink and all of them wore the famous “pussy hats.” They were excited to be there and their enthusiasm was contagious and inspiring. The subway train and the terminal at which we disembarked were filled with crowds so thick and deep that my only comparison was to the throngs of people I experienced at Walt Disney World – specifically when the Magic Kingdom is so beyond capacity that the gates to the backstage areas have to be opened to allow the multitudes to safely make their way to the park’s exit. Despite the crowds, everyone was peaceful, helpful, friendly, and ENERGIZED.
I had to take a picture of this couple because, to me, they defied stereotype. I hate it when I rush to judgment and stereotype people – but sometimes it’s hard to avoid slipping into old ways of thinking. But this couple? They took me off guard. I saw them when we first emerged from the subway station. They were a few paces ahead of me. I noticed their hats first and as I inched closer (stalker), I read their sweatshirts. I regretted not snapping a picture. But then, about a half hour later, I saw them again as we made our way toward the staging area. A second chance for a photo opp! I woud have pegged them as Trump supporters from a million miles away. Lesson learned – judge not, Kim.
We made our way toward the start of the march and the main stage. Somehow, we were able to edge through the crowds and the police and secure a spot right in front the National Museum of the American Indian. We were at such an angle that the line of sight to the stage was blocked. Fortunately, we stopped in front of a huge Jumbo Tron and thus were able to see the entire event up close.
First speaker: America Ferrara. She owned that stage. You could sense her passion as she shared her fears about this new administration and what it means for people that look like her. She said, “If Trump gets his way, we risk going from a country of immigrants to becoming a country of ignorance. ” Given the events of the last 24 hours, I’d say she was right.
We heard from Amanda Nguyen, founder of “Rise.” She helped helped draft the Sexual Assault Bill of Rights and she spoke intensely about how she turned her tragedy into advocacy and activism. And she inspired us all with the question: What will you do with your fire?
Van Jones challenged us all to live up to the “Love Trumps Hate” signs we were holding and tap into empathy and bridge-building rather than more hate-filled rhetoric. A lesson: don’t just hold a sign if you’re not willing to do the work behind the words.
Ashley Judd was ON FIRE. She rapped a poem by 19 year old Nina Donovan. If you haven’t seen it, grab yourself some popcorn and a glass of bubbly and watch it RIGHT NOW.
And Sister Simone Campbell encouraged us all to “not be afraid” and to have “curiosity about our neighbors.” I loved her message. Another lesson – don’t pre-judge nuns. They can be pretty badass.
I have to admit, I had no idea Gloria Steinem would be there but when she walked on stage I nearly fainted. It was as though she carried the ghosts of marches past with her to inspire the women of 2017.
And the inspirations continued. California’s newest Senator Kamala Harris fights for the economy and healthcare because those *are* women’s issues.
New York’s pistol of a Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, who fights for sensible gun reform and programs to address and reduce sexual assault on college campuses and in the military. (Let the record show, I predict she will the President or Vice President very soon.)
Alicia Keys, who not only sang, but delivered a powerful, spoken word poem about truth and justice. And then there was Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood. There’s been a lot of hullabaloo about the fact that Planned Parenthood was a sponsor of the Women’s March.
I have to say, I did see a small handful of people with “choose life” signs. Some news outlets reported violence toward pro-lifers, but that’s not what I witnessed. These folks marched alongside us, peacefully and respectfully. And honestly? That’s the way it should be. After all, if you’re pro-women’s rights, I believe that includes respecting the right to choose what’s best for you. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Personally, I am pro-life. But when I enter the voting booth, I support the pro-choice candidate. Because my personal beliefs aren’t to be imposed on anyone else. And vice versa.
The day left me inspired and filled with a new purpose. Since the election, I’ve called my representatives on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis to express my concern for Cabinet appointees. Their numbers are pre-programmed in my phone. But now after the march, I realize that while calling and tweeting is all good, it’s not enough. This administration requires that we the people hold them accountable every single day. There is simply too much at stake.
The other thing I learned is that not all women were behind this march. It was definitely top-heavy with white women. And while it is comforting to know that we can show up in such numbers, it was also very sobering to remember that 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump. We own this now. All of us.
I also learned that my anger and my frustration – while relatively new to me – is not new to the millions of women of color. Their anger has lingered just below the surface for years. With every broken promise. Every unfair judgment. Every unfair stereotype. Every unfair law enacted to keep things the way they were…when everybody knew their place.
And finally, I realized that if I walk away from this march feeling good about myself, but unwilling to do the required work of what comes next, then it was really just a giant pep rally.
I’m ready to do some work.
Post-script: here’s the fabulous sign made by my family to greet me when I got home.