On Saturday, I went to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. I took a car with my mom, one of my aunts, one of my cousins, and one of my best friends, and my cousin drove us for about three hours until we reached the New Carrollton train station.
We took a bathroom break at a rest top along the way, noticing as we walked in that the parking lot was filled with buses. The plan was to go in, use the restroom, grab coffees and a hot breakfast sandwich, and head back out.
The bathroom break was the only part of the plan that took place. Lines to both restrooms were so long, filled with mostly women and some men wearing pink hats. The lines to the breakfast places were even longer, to the point where we nixed the idea of hot food altogether and ate granola bars in the car.
As it turned out, it wasn’t the only place where we would run into long lines.
We got to the New Carrollton station and waited in line for an hour and a half just to purchase train tickets. Every few minutes, another bus or car pulled up with another group of people, decked out in pink hats or other radical outfits, carrying signs, and trying to find where the line to buy tickets began.
After ninety minutes, we made it to the platform and one of the transit workers welcomed our presence and used a megaphone to congratulate us on attending the Women’s March in DC. We cheered back and we felt a swell of collective hope that the people working that day were supporting us.
And the feeling of collective good will continued throughout the day with an assortment of little moments, little sights and sounds that added up to the wonderful spirit:
– In the train station, a few women made an attempt to run up the down escalator to get to the top faster (since the stairs were packed to the gills). Watching these women valiantly struggle to get to the top despite the odds was incredible, since every one of them did eventually make it, and other women and men cheered them on the entire way. A fitting visual metaphor for the seemingly insurmountable obstacles we have to face, and how wonderful it feels when we finally succeed.
– A man wearing a Syrian flag as a cape and holding up this sign:
A woman in the crowd shouted, “Welcome, Syria!” and everyone cheered for the man and clapped for him. He nodded his head and smiled in thanks. Several people said a second time, “You are welcome here!”
– I wore a sign that read “Dumbledore’s Army: Resistance. Education. Peace. Hope. And Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans,” with a small #imstillwithher scrawled in the corner. A little girl told me my sign was her favorite and we took a picture together.
– We waited in even more lines for the bathroom when we finally emerged from the train station. A security guard held the men’s room open and allowed a woman to use it every few minutes once stalls were available. Someone thanked him for doing it, and he said that he had to do the same thing the day before for the inauguration. My mom asked, “What are the crowds like today compared to yesterday?” He said, “Oh, today has so many more people. It’s not even close.”
– During the march itself, people came up with different chants and calls and responses. “Black Lives Matter” was one of them, and no one tried to interrupt with an “All Lives Matter.” The chant that had the longest staying power was “Tell me what democracy looks like!”/”THIS is what democracy looks like!”
The person leading that chant in our part of the crowd was a short-haired, thin, young white woman with a surprisingly powerful voice, and she kept the chant going even as her voice became hoarser and hoarser. When it became harder to hear her, a tall man with a loud, booming voice, took over the lead for the chant.
It’s rare that a man taking over for a woman is a sign of allyship, but it was in this case, and it was beautiful. He was giving her a break and carrying on the message so she could rest her vocal chords.
– At one point, a small group of us started singing at the top of our lungs, “We’re not gonna take it! NO, we’re not gonna take it anymore!”
– Near the White House lawn, a small parade was led by little girl on her father’s shoulders. She couldn’t have been more than eight, and she was holding and banging a small drum and chanting at the top of her tiny lungs, “MY BODY, MY CHOICE!” and the crowd shouted back, “HER BODY, HER CHOICE!”
– The woman who dressed as the “Shame!” nun from Game of Thrones ringing her bell, and the guy in a Trump mask walking in front of her on his own walk of humiliation…bless you both.
I’ll never forget the size of the crowds that day, the sight of the streets, White House lawn, the Washington Monument filled with people. But the small moments, the small actions of allyship and bravery from individuals, will stay with me even more.
“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell