Ten days ago I woke up early in Washington D.C. after a few restless hours of nervous sleep. In a few short hours I would be walking down to Capitol Hill to participate in my first protest march. And not just any march, mind you, the Women’s March on Washington – a massive, organized response to the incoming administration and their policies. I layered up, adorned myself with feminist pins, grabbed my sign, and headed out the door.
As I walked up New Jersey Ave. towards the Library of Congress, I started to realize what an important day this would be. It was chilly and damp outside, yet I passed hundreds of women, organizers, and supporters on the way to breakfast – all as enthusiastic as could be. When I arrived at the Library I was surprised to see a huge, winding line forming in the street. Several of our Florida Congresswomen were hosting a breakfast for Floridians attending the march, and I expected (and underestimated) there might be close to 200 women attending. There were actually thousands of people waiting in line for the breakfast and it took some time to get in. I had mentally prepared myself for the need to be very patient that day, so I gladly waited in line and chatted with other Floridians.
A couple of friends I planned to meet there didn’t fly to DC at the last minute, which left me without a partner or group to march with that morning. No problem, I thought. I’ll just find one of the twenty or so friends I knew had come into town. Surely we’ll connect in the crowd. I enjoyed my breakfast, talked with my representatives, and headed down Independence Ave. towards the main stage. On the way there, the crowd grew, the energy soared, and Senator Cory Booker walked right alongside me for a few blocks. We were off to a good start!
We took a detour south along the main route to get a better view of the stage and I started to send some messages to friends. I had envisioned myself walking arm-in-arm in solidarity with friends and former classmates, brandishing cheeky signs, and chanting as loud as we could. But, there was no cell phone service. None. After a half hour of trying to make contact I finally accepted that I would likely be on my own for the rest of the day, and I wasn’t too happy about it. To my surprise, being by myself turned out to be the best way to march on Washington.
On my own, I was able to move fast, be nimble, and take my time. I talked to dozens of people, listened to their stories, and stood with them in solidarity. I listened to the programmed speakers and I was able to see Ashley Judd perform that incredible spoken-word piece in person. I took it all in. I listened, I saw, I chanted, I marched. I drank up the moment. I took time to sit with older marchers who were resting on steps. They shared their reasons for coming to the march, some of them coming from as far away as Washington state just to be there. I held people’s babies. I talked with people who were marching for healthcare, education, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, black lives, and equal pay. I met people who were specifically marching against the new administration’s racist and fear-based agenda. I met “pro-life” marchers speaking out on women’s access to healthcare. Old marchers, young marchers, babies, toddlers, families. People of every color, nationality, religion, economic background – they were there. I had never seen a cross-section of our nation’s melting pot like this before. They were all out in the street, together, making their voices heard. They were joyful, peaceful, loving, and energetic. I was by myself but I was never alone. This was the way I was meant to participate.
We were in formation, and that’s how we’ll stay. Let’s go to work.