Our chartered yellow school bus drove under the sign that read “Greenbelt Metro Lot Full” and I said to my friend quietly, “wow, really?” in disbelief. I could hear other women saying, “I’ve never seen that lot full” and “It can’t already be full so early in the morning”. But as we passed the very full parking lot on our right our bus erupted in cheering. Not only did we get confirmation on the claim that the lot was indeed full, but we also saw tons of women bedecked with pink hats who had parked on the other side of the highway and were walking across the bridge to the metro. It was only 8am and I had already realized two things: the Women’s March on Washington was going to be much bigger than expected and it was going to be historic! Despite my headache, my exhaustion and the cold, I felt happy that I had flown up from Florida for this.
But even before leaving Tampa, I had heard rumblings of excitement around the event. I had learned of some Southwest Airlines flight attendants who lit pink lights on the flights going to Baltimore/Washington in solidarity. I also received a text from my aunt in Detroit who told me that the entire gate area was full of women going to the march, reporting that there were lots of high fives before boarding. What a flight that must have been!
Passing the full metro lot was just the beginning! Traffic was becoming thicker and we started seeing bus after bus of fearless women. I began waving at every bus we passed and my excitement grew.
One of the highlights of the march for me was listening to the inspiring speeches, including ones from Ashley Judd, Michael Moore, the mayor of DC and several other politicians. Many representatives from Planned Parenthood were present and very concerned that they would lose their funding. Madonna, one of my favorite singers in the 80’s and 90’s spoke and at one point yelled, “Donald Trump! Go suck a dick!” The crowed cheered as we had already done hundreds of times.
Perhaps the speech that was most precious to me was that of iconic Gloria Steinem, someone I have admired and respected for decades. During her speech, I happened to find myself around several older women who said they remembered her during the 60’s and 70’s. One woman told me that it was hard for Steinem to draw a large crowd back then and that this must be amazing for her to finally be heard. Basking in such a historic moment, I hung onto every last word.
The number of signs at the march was insane and so many of them were very creative. I found that two signs really highlighted the spectrum of ages present at the march: 1) a young girl about the age of 10 held a sign that said, “Fight like a girl!” and 2) a senior woman held a sign that said, “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit!”
There were signs that talked about Planned Parenthood and women’s healthcare, others that were anti-Trump, others with pro-Lesbian messages…… Like everyone who attended, I had my favorites, like the one that said, “Straight outta vagina” and “Only my girlfriend can grab my pussy”. But if I had to sum up the entire march in one sign it would be the one that stated, “We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn!”
After listening to one inspiring speech after another, we eventually became cold and anxious to march. We began shouting “march, march, march” hoping the message would eventually get to the shore of what seemed like a never-ending sea of people. We eventually learned that while they had been expecting around 200,000 people, approximately 2.9 million showed up rendering it impossible to march. Simply put, the entire two-mile march route was already full of people.
“What a great problem to have!,” I reminded the frustrated women around me and we all agreed.
Perhaps the most important aspect to the march was that women were reaching out and supporting other disenfranchised groups. I saw lots of No Muslim Registry signs held by both Muslim and non-Muslim women. Several times I found myself chanting in a large group of women, “Say it loud, say it clear. Immigrants are welcome here”. And every single Black Lives Matter sign I saw that day was held by a non-Black person. I felt like I was finally walking in the America I wanted to live in, one where we cared about each other and not just about ourselves!
Upon leaving, I was in the gate area at BWI and just looking around it was clear which women had attended the march and which hadn’t. We seemed to recognize the recently-gained feelings of empowerment in others, in the way we walked, in the way we held ourselves, in the expressions on our faces. A small group of us had formed and we shared our experiences of the march. An African-American woman told us that she found herself in a large group shouting “Black Lives Matter” and not one of them was Black. She told me that she was overcome with such emotion that she fell to the ground and started weeping.
There were two groups of women that I was especially happy to see present at the march: Indigenous women and vegan activists. I found it both tragic and yet powerful to witness Indigenous women shouting, “we are still here” with the Washington Memorial in the background. Some of them had been at the Dakota Pipeline protest as well.
I was also delightfully surprised to see vegan activists fighting for the rights of ALL females: cows, who are raped, abused, enslaved and killed; mother pigs who are confined to a tiny crate for their entire lives unable to take care of their babies; and chickens, who are manipulated to lay eggs every day in small spaces until they too fall victim to the slaughterhouses. It was nice for me to meet and speak with fellow women who saw the woman in all animal species.
Marches Around the World
I was so happy to get back to my friend’s house and turn on the TV to watch the coverage. I was amazed at the reports of marches all across the world even way down in Antarctica! There were marches in big cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Madrid, Berlin, Mexico City and so many more as well as very small towns in Alaska and Nova Scotia in subzero temperatures. I was so happy to know that Mindy was marching simultaneously in Toronto and my mother marched in Montpelier, the country’s smallest state capital with a population of only 8000. The town came to a halt when over 15,000 people showed up from all over Vermont.
What an amazing historical event to have been a part of! I am so glad I went and would do it again in a heartbeat!