They came pouring in from all over the country. Women and their male allies converged on Washington DC this past Saturday to let the new President Trump know: We Are Here, And We’re Not Going Anywhere! It was an amazing reportage opportunity, of course, but it was more than that: It was history in the making; what may have been the largest peaceful protest (as we know now, a few days later) to ever happen in the United States. If you are wondering if that is an alternative fact, you can fact check it HERE.
I traveled to DC by bus with a group of Dalvero Academy friends to document the march. (see #womensmarchdraws) We arrived at the RFK stadium early Saturday, and began walking along Constitution Avenue towards the rally point at the center of the march, near the Capitol building. As we walked, streams of people entered Constitution Avenue from every direction, like a funneling of pink pussycat hatted believers in Democracy, excited, hopeful, and (to be honest) wondering where and how they would use the bathroom during the day. Haha.
Local people stood in front of their stately homes, thanking us for coming, urging us on, posting signs of their own, like guideposts along the way. This woman had a thought I liked: to make America KIND again. And this mother and daughter were out cheering together, thanking everyone for making the trip!
We were walking and drawing, in a hurry to get to the Capitol, but also wanting to take in all of the expressions and outpouring of emotion. As we passed one house, below, a woman stood in the window waving out at us. She had some great signs posted in her window – as I was drawing I made a mental note to add the text into the shapes of the signs later, but of course, upon the emergence of the Capitol building on the horizon, and excitement of seeing everyone converge there, I completely forgot what they said. (If anyone reading this remembers, please let me know!)
It was an awesome sight – Democracy in action, with a pink hat. And we couldn’t stop drawing! Every direction we looked in was full of individual voices calling out for (to quote a famous document) “liberty and justice for all!” Not just the ‘winners’ of this latest American election, but all of us. Yes, there has been criticism leveled at this march, saying there was no specific agenda, or asking the question, why don’t you see what the new administration does before you protest? But really, this was not a protest, this was an assertion. An assertion in support of ideas and principles, not specific people or political parties. So Day 1 of the new president’s term was as good a day as any to remind him and the rest of the legislature that we will not quietly let our principles be eroded.
Seeing all those voices surrounding the Capitol building, the seat of our government, gave me hope that even though the popular vote was not with Trump, there is still a way for people, ALL people, to be heard in this country. I felt very proud and not more than a little emotional to see it.
We kept moving closer to the Capitol, ready to get to the rally point on the other side – but there were so many people; we found ourselves turning this way and that, trying to move in the right direction, and figure out how to get to the center point! We followed the sounds of the cheering and tried to find any openings we could. And then we turned the corner on to Independence Avenue to witness a SEA of pink hats and signs, moving slowly down and around to the rallying stand. Like cars entering the expressway, we put on our pink blinkers and joined the traffic. WOW! The thing is, it was so crowded, and so peaceful too. I have documented many protests over the years, and I never heard so many people saying “excuse me” in my life. And you had to watch what you said – if you mentioned feeling hungry or thirsty, six hands would appear offering you water or a snack. It really felt like a sisterhood, and we all were happy to be there, following the sounds of the cheering together.
The Free Melania! sign made me laugh, as did We Need A Leader, Not a Tweeter! and the woman with a fuzzy blue bikini bottom holding up the sign: You Ain’t Grabbing This! (Actually, I edited that for the kiddies: re-arrange T-H-I-S for the unexpunged version, haha.)
Other messages were more serious and to the point – Love Not Hate, Equal Rights, Equal Pay, United We Stand, Water Is Sacred, Honor Indigenous Women, Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, Climate Change is Real, on and on. We swarmed past the hallowed statues of the founding fathers as a sisterhood, ready to assert the changes we’d already seen as intransigent, and to push for more. One woman had her message totally on-point, and she was a dedicated soul, standing on a pillar, greeting the marchers flowing down Independence Avenue with the assertion: We Are Here! We’re Not Going Anywhere! I assume she must have lost her voice at some point from all the yelling, but for the entire length of time that we were within earshot of her, she continued to call out that message to the crowd. I thought it was the most appropriate title for this post, so thank you, lady on Independence Avenue!
On the streets of DC, it seemed that every group was welcome. I loved the idea that I was drawing a group of women with this sign: Don’t Mess With Texas Women, and then another group asserting LGBT Equality walked by, and then I turned around to see a group of immigrant women from Afghanistan marching with their American sisters. A true melting pot of lifestyles and cultures: Yes We Can!
Then we turned on 4th St. and squeezed past a barrier to get closer to the mall. I could hear Rosie Perez over the speakers, and knew we were nearing the epicenter of the rally. People were in the trees, children were on their parents shoulders, and we were all ready to march!
March! March! March! The calls grew louder! I read later that there were so many more people than the 200,000 that the organizers predicted, that the original march route had to be scrapped for lack of physical space. You can’t hold them in! So the organizers tried to figure out what to do, and the crowd kept asserting: March! March! March!
Then in the distance, we could see Gloria Steinem (a personal hero of mine) who called out:
Are you Ready to March?
And we all replied with a resounding YES! And the march began!
And so we marched, joyously, together, all of our voices converging into one. Not only in Washington DC, but across the country, and all over the world. It was an awesome moment for women, and for all of us. Whatever your political beliefs, the spirit of getting up and doing something to support what you care about, and feel passionate about, is alive and well in America. Long may it live!
We kept walking and walking, and the lines of women and allies filled every street, every overpass, every plaza. I think we could have kept on going for days, but soon enough, the realities of our frail human states took over, and the marchers funneled into food courts and restrooms, and then back to the buses that brought them here. I loved the grandmotherly woman sitting on the side of a plaza, smiling and holding this sign: Our Children Are Listening.
Well said. But I think my favorite sign of the day was this: Donald Prove Us Wrong.
Please, please do, Mr. President, and you will have all of our support.
And that won’t be an alternative fact, that will be truth in action.
As our group walked back to RFK stadium where the bus was waiting, we passed the rally stage and came upon this tree. “It’s a Liberty Tree!” said my friend Kati, and I can’t imagine a better way to describe it. Festooned with bras, symbolizing the bra burning and women’s liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, the sign hanging next to the tree said it all:
WE CANNOT SUCCEED AS A NATION IF WOMEN ARE HELD BACK!
And I would add, we cannot succeed globally if women (or men) are held back either.
This was a call for justice for so many people, by a newly energized population. Now the work begins.
But as we walked back that evening, under an appropriately pink sky, my friend Julia pointed out the birds swarming over the Capitol building. What a symbol of peace, and hope. We have experienced another peaceful transfer of power in Washington DC this week, and now I hope we experience a peaceful four years of true democracy in action.
President Trump was right, the power IS with the people. Let’s use it wisely and for the good of all.
PS I’ve offered one of these drawings, “Voices Converge” on Society 6, HERE.
All royalties from sales of this art will be donated to the National Organization for Women, N.O.W.
From their website: NOW’s purpose is to take action through intersectional grassroots activism to promote feminist ideals, lead societal change, eliminate discrimination, and achieve and protect the equal rights of all women and girls in all aspects of social, political, and economic life.