My friends have all been asking, “What was it like?” The Women’s March was amazing. On a global level, we saw the world join us, marching in cities around the world, as far as Antarctica. But as we drove down to Washington on the Friday before the march, we did not know about this. We were a fairly diverse group, ages 13 to 80, nine girls and women, two men; three teenagers at one end, and 3 of us late 70s and one 80. Most of us who were working were in helping professions. We spent Friday night at the Cleveland Park Church, UCC, with air mattresses and sleeping bags on the floor in the community room. We did not know that the warm welcome that they gave us was a promise of the tone of the march. We were joined that evening by Moira, Kevin and Sophie Jones, who asked Elizabeth and Sam Smith and I to join her family for dinner at a nearby restaurant. First Church Williamstown gathered together.
Next morning, we packed our van and drove to the Metro station. The first train to come in was so crammed that only I managed to squeeze in. Sam and Elizabeth had spent the night with Moira, who invited all of us to come to her UCC church in the center of DC for breakfast (there were 600 people who came to First Congregational UCC for breakfast that morning). I was to meet them there. Again, the hospitality and welcome were delightful. Moira arranged for a group photo of us, eager to march. Kevin and Sophie Jones joined us for the morning. We walked to the march from the church. At 9:15 am, we joined a large body of marchers who stretched out around the Mall as far as we could see. The mood was one of comraderie, with a strong sense of purpose. We carried signs that we had made ahead of time. Most of the signs around us were, as were ours, statements of our hopes for our country.
There were also signs of concern about the direction of our new administration. Sam got a lot of attention with a quote from Wendell Barry, ” Choose joy, even when you know all the facts.” Some marchers began chanting (in call and response style), “Show me what Democracy looks like.” “This is what Democracy looks like!”, and “What do we want?” “Equality!” “When do we want it?” “Now!”
I was impressed with the energy and determination that flowed over all of us. We saw many instances of kindness and caring. When a young woman fainted on the Metro, she was eased to the floor by her fellow travelers and held until she recovered. I was impressed with the patience of the long lines of people waiting to get access to a porta-potty. There were many brave people there in wheel chairs, union members, some veterans. One lady with only a cane, told me that she had one leg amputated, but she needed to be there. At many points, a group cheer went up. On one of those occasions, I saw the back of John Kerry’s head, and knew what had caused the cheer. This was clearly a march for and about all of us. We are all in this together.
Which led to what do we do next? There will be follow-up meetings of our small group. There will be opportunities to work with coalitions, such as the Four Freedoms Coalition here in Berkshire County. I have found a link to a young woman, Jen Hofmann, in Oregon who puts out a well researched weekly check list for activism.* We will all need to be much more politically aware and responsive, possibly more than we have ever been before. But as the young woman in Oregon puts it, we must dampen our anger for the long haul, take care of ourselves so we don’t burn out, and never, never quit hoping and choosing joy.