The Women’s March on Washington, a Show of Solidarity
By Jennifer Shanteau, Photos by Jessica Mery
I fully intended to write this article last week, but became overwhelmed with all that my experience at the Women’s March showed, taught, and meant to me. I had no idea I would be in the midst of one of the most important moments of my life. Before I committed to go, I questioned if the Women’s March would cause me to be angrier than I already was about the current state of affairs, or show me a better way to think. Something within told me I needed to be there. With a three year old daughter to take care of, I wasn’t sure if I would even have the opportunity to go. However, the stars aligned…..I had two possible sitters, three ride and board offers, and no deterrents whatsoever. It seemed as though the universe was expecting me. After all, what would I say to my daughter when she asked me where I was on that day? “Mommy, did you march for me?” I had to go for her. I had to go for all of us.
My entourage and I drove down fired up, but we had no idea what we were in for. We encountered fellow supporters at every rest stop. Everywhere we went people were cheering each other on. The love was already in the air….the energy getting stronger. We arrived at our destination and drove to the train station the next morning, only to be greeted with a parking challenge, and a crowd of people so immense, it meant there was absolutely no hope of getting on any train, at any time, in the next several hours, which would, of course, probably meant missing the march entirely. My heart sank. My jaw fell. I was frozen. I didn’t feel this was what I came for. Uber seemed too obvious an option to work, and having one too many people to technically be allowed in an Uber car, we weren’t sure if it would be our salvation, but at this point, we were going to give it all we had. Not only did our Uber driver, Darren, oblige, but he was a born and bred local, who not only took scenic back roads that were completely oblivious to traffic, but also gave us a guided, historic tour. I was certain he was actually an angel, and there will be no record of him in human form, should we ever try to locate him again.
The closer we got to D.C…..the stronger the field of love. When we finally arrived, I distinctly remember the air smelling so sweet. Maybe its because I live in New York, but I was in the moment, so maybe some special moments have their own smell. Or perhaps, I am actually crazy….any of these things was possible. On our way to the march we ran into other marchers who shared our same experience, and also Ubered to the site. It seemed to be a theme we would encounter over and over again that day…..meeting fellow marchers with similar experiences, similar reasons for being there, and similar dreams.
We finally got to a spot where we could progress no further. We could see the speakers projected on a giant screen, and could even hear a few. We were there. We made it! We made it to the Womens’ March! The energy was vibrating! It was electric! Electric doesn’t even really describe it….and being a writer, I am still without words. Sometimes, words are completely inept. It’s at these times, we know we are experiencing something important. Here at the Women’s March, even in an insanely enormous crowd, everyone was all about the love. I didn’t expect hate, but I didn’t expect this either.
The most inspiring speech given at the Women’s March, said in two languages, was that of six year old Sophie Cruz, who urged us to protect our families, and brought us to utter tears when she chanted, “Si, se puede”, (Yes, we can.) This became one of the chants we would share on our way to the White House…..“Si se puede! Si se puede!”. I almost couldn’t chant it, because it welled up in my throat, and I was trying desperately not to cry. Soon after Sophie’s speech, I received a text from my daughter’s father, sending me a picture of her watching the Women’s March on telelvison, and holding up her own pink hat in solidarity. My heart was now broken open in love, and full of hope for our future generation. Never have I experienced anything remotely like this…..never have I felt so much hope and respect for the next generation.
Soon after we began the march…..and by “march”, I mean barely shift from side to side for hours. There were so many people at the march, that we literally couldn’t march. We wobbled like Weebles…..but like the song says, “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down!”.
No one fell down, not the women walking with their sons, not the men with their daughters on their shoulders, not the people in wheel chairs, not even the old women walking with canes. Despite being the largest crowd I’ve ever been a part of, no one pushed, no one was rude, no one had anything but love for everyone else. I am not exaggerating when I say, I have never seen anything like this. I haven’t ever experienced this sort of love for all humanity even on ecstasy….judge me if you will. Everyone was smiling, and complimenting, and cheering, and crying, and singing, and hugging. As we were wobbling, a chant was started by a seven year old girl. She was taken just as seriously as everyone else, and respected more.
Men and women, young and old, black and white and brown, gay and straight, and everything in between…..this wasn’t just a women’s march, this was a march for all humanity, for all who have been marginalized. The crowd was supportive, and I felt so loved and protected and encouraged, like I have never felt in all of my life.
We finally got to the White House and the signs from the protest were left on the fence, (later to be collected and archived).
We moved on after feeling united and full of love, but hungry, so made our way down the street towards much needed nourishment. As we left, I could hear the roar of the crowd….unlike any roar I’ve ever heard….not like the roar you hear at a stadium, cheering your favorite team on to victory…..the sound of the Women’s March was more of a tribal roar. It was an other earthly roar…as if it gathered its energy from somewhere better than where we are. I turned around as I heard this emanating down the street where I was. I stood there, looked at the crowd of hopeful fighters of human rights, and I openly wept. All is not lost. Hope is not defeated. Love CAN still win.