A date that will live in history – January 21, 2017. The Women’s March on Washington, along with over 625 related marches, including the Norfolk Sister March, brought together an estimated FIVE-plus million activists worldwide.
I was one of the approximately 600 women, men and children who traveled via Amtrak from Norfolk, Va., to Washington, D.C., that Saturday.
I didn’t plan to march in D.C. because I personally felt marginalized. I marched because I could. I marched because a lot of women can’t. I even marched for those who have not yet realized they should be marching because – even today in America – their rights are not equal.
As I walked amidst the hundreds of thousands of people who’d traveled to D.C. from the world over, I realized: I was also marching for myself. I needed that wake-up call.
Yes, I – and many others – had become complacent in our own personal and professional lives. We’d started taking things for granted. And then something like this comes along, and we look around and say: “What in hell happened? I’m busting my ass every day to fuel the economy, and this is the direction we’re going as a country?”
My Gen-X travel buddy, Danielle Stern, and I were just two people among many, yet we felt such an integral part of this vast sea of enthusiasm. So many differences and so many similarities. The entire crowd flowed as one – like cells in a bloodstream – in and around every street and landmark. We were the proverbial drop in the bucket. (Or perhaps in other watching eyes, the pea under the mattresses?) To us, we were the beans dropped from the beanstalk to sow not just a moment but a movement. We felt inspired and empowered and enlightened.
What struck me about this diverse assembly of people on the Washington Mall – and on every feeder street in the nation’s capital as far as the eye could see – was the wide variety of issues on everyone’s minds. You couldn’t miss it from the posters, banners, costumes, chants and cultural dress.
While this was not a single-issue march, you could feel the interconnectedness. The national committee is calling it “intersectionality.” Whatever the term, it was palpable.
The esteemed journalist Dan Rather has used an acronym to aptly describe the spirit of the day: Healing, Unity and Hope. HUH!
The first I heard of the Women’s March was via a Facebook event from my stepdaughter, Jillian, a sophomore at Ithaca College (New York). While the school is known for its impressive list of media and entertainment alumni, its best feature is to encourage students in critical thinking and embrace their place in the world at-large.
Bob Bland, the author of that particular Facebook event and a national co-chair of the march, is widely quoted as saying: “This is a marathon not a sprint. We need to be responsive, not reactive, to the challenges ahead.”
Indeed. The marathon begins.
So, did I rest on Sunday following the march? No. I spent the day reading about it, including friends featured in the Los Angeles Times and on Forbes.com, and watching YouTube videos of the speakers, because we could not even get close to the main stage or one of the many jumbotrons.
The most powerful was Ashley Judd’s spoken word performance of a poem penned by a 19 year-old fellow Tennessean: “I am not as nasty as racism, fraud, conflict of interest, homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy, misogyny, ignorance, white privilege.”
That simple phrase summed up my day. This march wasn’t about one thing. And yet it was: equal rights.
Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you. It’s not pie.
Per researchers gathering data on a Google spreadsheet from every town, city and country, Los Angeles topped the numbers in D.C. by a quarter of a million and confirms the January 21st Women’s March as the largest day of protests in U.S. history. Let that sink in.
I’m going out on a limb to predict that this is only the beginning.
To my fellow sisterhood: Perhaps you believe the world has not changed, that you’re okay and will always have the rights you have today. I care about you, your future, and the future of the women who come after you. My eyes are open. Opened wide. Equality is but an illusion. What is here today, can be gone tomorrow.
What’s next? Women are born organizers. It’s in our DNA.
The march’s national committee is pushing out follow-up initiatives, and well known equal rights organizations are seeing their memberships swell and new chapters forming. Local groups are building coalitions for action. Women – and enlightened men – are busily meeting in living rooms, coffee shops, and in businesses they own or work in. It’s now officially a movement, not a moment.
To those who perhaps question the current resurgence in activism, I offer this simple quote from American author James Baldwin: “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
My response? “Ditto.”
What can you do? Get involved locally. Stay informed. Look for ways to channel your energy and interests.
Here’s your first official opportunity: Join us at Engage Norfolk at Academy for Discovery at Lakewood (1701 Alsace Avenue, Norfolk, VA) on Sunday, February 12th. This is a HUGE non-partisan civic fair, where you can meet and learn about community organizations showcasing lots of ways you can make a positive difference in our community. You’ll find a series of workshops where you can learn how to run for office, how to lobby your politicians, how to write an effective letter to the editor, and more. Co-sponsored by this publication, Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan, the New Journal & Guide and Volunteer Hampton Roads, this is free and open to the public. Yes, NO CHARGE! I’m a volunteer, and this will be an amazing opportunity for us all, even if you don’t live in Norfolk! All you need to do is to help with planning by pre-registering here. (Pre-registration closes on February 8th, but on-site registration will be available, too.)
Democracy is a contact sport. See you at Engage Norfolk! And the next march …