WE DID IT, y’all. We made history—or herstory, as it were.
Collectively, Saturday’s marches have added up to the largest demonstration for the rights of women and the people who love them the world has ever seen.
An estimated 4 million humans in more than 600 cities across the world stood up for reproductive freedom, for racial and LBGTQ equality, for intersectional representation, for the inclusion of immigrants and dignity for the disabled, for affordable healthcare, actual science and honest education.
Together we said “NO” to a registry for our Muslim neighbors, to rape culture, to our precious national parks sold to the highest bidder, to the circus of imbecile billionaires staging their coup over civility and rational thought.
But don’t call it a protest. This global show of solidarity transcended any single issue, an affirmation for our common humanity. No arrests were made, no bodies harmed.
Honeys, this was a lovefest.
I had the privilege of traveling to the heart of the matter in Washington, DC, where so many of us jammed the streets—some unofficial tallies now say more than 1.5 million—that there was no place left to march.
Our group of 12 had risen at dawn to pack the train at the end of the Orange Line with our DC host and former Telfair Museums curator Holly McCullough, and it was already shoulder-to-shoulder at the National Mall when we arrived.
My neurosis tends to trigger in large crowds, and after the anarchic chaos at the inauguration the day before, I admit I was scared, though prepared.
I wore the steel-toed combat boots leftover from my mosh pit days and carried swim goggles in my tiny purse. I Sharpied the number of the ACLU Lawyer’s Guild on my arm with the full expectation of being teargassed, billy clubbed and/or thrown in jail.
But there was nary a riot gear helmet or an alt-right baseball bat to be found, just a sea of knitted pink pussyhats flooding Independence and Constitution Avenues. (Thank you to Patty Knight for mine and to all the other yarn warriors who stitched up and gave away over a million of these accessories!)
Our dynamic dozen squeezed its way through the sardine situation, blowing kisses to those who held out hands to help and put out protective arms for the elders. There were plenty of men representing, including a dozen teenage boys from Syracuse, NY on a field trip with their AP Government class (do they not deserve ALL of the extra credit?)
The creative banners and signs reflected the breadth of reasons all of us were there. My top favorites included “Ovary-Reacting? I Don’t Think So,” “We’re the Granddaughters of the Witches You Didn’t Burn,” “You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This March Is About You” and “You Nice White Ladies Are Gonna Show Up at the Next #BlackLivesMatter March, Right?”
There’s no question that Savannah made a yuuuuge statement with our gorgeous paintings by Scott Stanton, aka Panhandle Slim, who supplied more than 300 to the local contingency.
The colorful icons caused a stir everywhere we went, photographed like celebs on a red carpet. Someone marveled at our “mobile art show,” and a curator from the Smithsonian has expressed interest in acquiring some of them for the museums.
We finally made it to the fountain outside the Museum of the American Indian, where we had hoped to meet up with the 300 other Savannahians who came by planes, trains, automobiles and two buses.
We didn’t get to link arms with Linda Wilder Bryan, Dandy Barrett and other hardcores who rode the highway all night and then back again, but we did find some of our ilk, including Clinton Edminster in a tree and the indefatigable Coco Papy, who served as a state organizer for the march. (There aren’t enough words to extol this woman’s unflagging dedication and work ethic; all I can say is she deserves a three-hour massage followed by a lot of chocolate.)
Our location wasn’t optimal for seeing or hearing the celebs and speeches, and I gave up straining to catch a glimpse of Gloria Steinem, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards and other notables on the Jumbotron at the end of the packed block.
“Mostly I just see a lamppost with hair,” shrugged Savannah photographer Molly Hayden, whose portraits of local DC marchers will be exhibited this Sunday’s storytelling event at Trinity Methodist Church along with Panhandle Slim’s now-famous signs.
No matter, we rallied anyway, pumping our fists along with the call-and-response chant “Show me what democracy looks like! THIS is what democracy looks like!” led by an exuberant eight year-old boy.
And true to the call, everywhere I looked I saw women, men and children of every age and ethnicity, arms in the air and boots planted firmly on the ground.
Now, I’ve seen the comments characterizing those who marched on Saturday as whiny, privileged “snowflakes” in silly hats. Seems to me that someone who doesn’t think he ought to release his tax returns like every other president, bends the ethics rules to appoint his son-in-law to his cabinet and insists upon “alternative facts” when the real ones don’t suit him is quite the snowflake himself, no?
Anyway, enough snowflakes and you’ve got a blizzard. Many of us—did I mention it was FOUR MILLION PEOPLE?—marched Saturday with conscious thoughts of those who couldn’t afford to attend an event, of those too afraid or too beaten down to speak up, and especially for those so entrenched in their own viewpoints that they still can’t comprehend that we are all in this together.
Several conversations throughout the day centered around how to broaden the platform even more, how to invite the disenfranchised and those who may have voted against their best interests back to the table.
While the march was a lovely ol’ time, no one is forgetting that our rights and freedoms are under attack, and preserving them means continuing to forge unorthodox alliances and engage difficult discussions.
It also means we’ve got to stay awake, or as the quote engraved on the wall outside the National Archives puts it, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
So in between Instagram likes, let’s commit to following the “10 Actions in 100 Days” list at WomensMarch.org (anyone want to have a postcard-writing party to our senators this week?) and sign up for GeorgiaResists.com, a let’s-get-busy resource launched this week by Georgia Minority Leader Rep. Stacey Abrams.
The more patient and policy-minded among us must begin to think about running for local and regional seats in 2018, and the rest of us must support their campaigns with donations and door-to-door canvassing.
The marches of last week have reignited the fire in our bellies, but the long, slow burn is what’s going to count if we are to claim the America we want to be in the world.
Late Saturday evening in DC, long after the crowds had peacefully dispersed, we dragged our tired feet back to the Metro past the Capitol. Housing our nation’s legislative body and built by slaves whose descendants still live among us, it remains at once an architectural marvel and a symbol of a nation gridlocked in conflict.
But witnessing the grand dome shrouded in moonlight and mist, after such a powerful day buoyed by so much solidarity, I could see it not as a bastion of a broken bureaucracy but a cathedral to the sacred notion of liberty and justice for all.
The road to achieving that is so far off, and there are so many wrongs to right, so many obstacles on the path.
And so we’ll just have to keep marching forward into this story, hoisting each other up and over, our love for our country and each other in every step.