The March Report

So, we marched! Actually, we did quite a bit of very slow shuffling. But I’m so glad we went.

We boarded a bus just before 7:30 am. Our bus organizers were awesome: they had coffee and bagels and fruit for everyone as well as purple sashes for us all to share so that we could identify each other easily. In the seat behind me sat a woman who had taken a year off from college to campaign for Obama in the primaries. In the seat ahead of me sat a woman who had been at the 1963 march on Washington where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. And the rest of the bus was packed with exactly the sort of excellent humans I would expect on this journey. J was lucky enough to have two friends along with her, so they cheerfully took control of the back row of the bus. M only had her parents and her phone for company, but she was happy enough. J and a friend also scored a couple of pink pussy hats from someone who’d brought along extra.

We arrived near the starting point of the march a bit early, and pretty soon we were in a ginormous crowd of people. Theoretically what was supposed to happen is that a first group of people was supposed to begin at Dag Hammerskjold Plaza, then start marching forward, to be filled by the next group and so on. I think what actually happened is that massive waves of people pretty much converged from all directions. As a result, we shuffled forward a single city block in two and a half hours.

As we headed into the crowd, everyone loved cheering as cars drove by, honking wildly. Farther in, we were able to hear some speeches as we went along, and we loved many signs. Several people asked to take pictures of J and her friends. There was some chanting and great people-watching, and not much movement at all.

Then when we finally reached 2nd Ave, it was amazing to see how packed it was. If you click on these photos, you can see them a bit bigger. Here is where a bunch of people are standing around going, man, how are we ever going to march anywhere?

This was where we were supposed to all turn and march downtown. Instead, the streets were packed as far as we could see, both downtown and uptown. If you looked uptown, that part wasn’t even officially part of the march. But this was the view:

 

And it just. Kept. Going. This is still farther uptown on the street, farther away from the main march route.

It was really pretty incredible.

And yet. At this point, our little group included four kids who were hungry and in need of a place to sit down as well as a bathroom. I think we were all a little discouraged at the prospect of inching forward at the same pace.

We made the call to get out of the thick of it and seek out some food. As you might expect, it was a challenge to find anyplace that wasn’t packed with people, but eventually we found a Vietnamese restaurant.

After eating we headed back to the march, and by this time (or, perhaps, at this spot much farther along the route), things were moving along well. There was more chanting and more fun signs and people-watching and lovely camaraderie among everyone. Along Fifth Avenue people were watching from windows above, and all the kids were completely re-energized. There was something so powerful about hearing those girls chanting “my body, my choice” and “this is what democracy looks like” along with all the grown-up women. It felt like a rite of passage (even though I fear that their favorite chant might have been the decidedly less mature “you’re orange! you’re gross! you lost the popular vote!”) I was so glad that we were able to get back into the march after our little break. Honestly, if we didn’t have a bus to catch, I would have happily looped back and marched some more.

It was a really friendly, kind, and supportive group of people. Everyone looked out for the kids, checking to make sure that they weren’t separated and complimenting them on their signs, their hats, and their sashes.

Here are my two favorite quotes from the day:

For a while, we were marching along a group of women who were playing drums and burning incense, and the girls kept saying that the incense smelled like someone cooking chicken or some kind of meat. Later there was another smell drifting toward us. “Smells like chicken again,” said M. “No,” I told her. “That’s pot. That’s what pot smells like.” I felt perversely pleased that the smell was unfamiliar. “Well, it smells delicious,” M answered. This was shortly before we were forced to go out in search of food.

Among the many, many signs with all sorts of messages, a few women had created artistic renderings of vaginas. The girls were pretty much shocked and baffled by this choice, but of course they made sure to point them out whenever they saw them. After we saw one such poster, one of J’s friend’s said, “Wow, I just can’t imagine why you’d want to walk around with one of those things.” There was a pause, then J said, “Well, really, we’re all walking around with one of those things.” I found this particularly hilarious because she’d said the exact response that I’d had in my head, but I was doing that mom thing where you just try to listen in and keep your mouth shut. So, for myself, I thought, “Go, J!”

Here are a couple of my favorite signs that I saw during the day:

I just thought this poster was extra-pretty. I complimented the woman on it, so I was glad when I found out Cute W had taken a picture of it.

Everyone was laughing at this sign. What was especially funny was that the person holding it was hunched in a hoodie–she was clearly out of her comfort zone. Go, her.

Here’s my sign and M’s during the march (that’s my hat and the back of M’s head).

We found our bus easily–again, our rockin’ organizers were all over it, emailing everyone the location within the bus pick-up zone and labeling the bus with the “Here to Roar” message that was on our sashes. As we gathered and chatted on the sidewalk, some New Yorkers stopped to chat us up and thank us for making the trip. Really, even the folks who weren’t marching were amazingly friendly all day. People seemed especially charmed because we had a group of young girls with us: everywhere we turned people were congratulating the girls on being young activists and congratulating us on making sure our daughters didn’t miss out on this historic event.

We happened to be parked in front of a fabulous hotel that was too gracious to begrudge us trips into their restroom before we hit the road. On the way home, everyone was exhausted but excited to see all of the images from other marches around the world. We made it home by about 10 pm, and we spent most of Sunday recovering. I know that I’m still pretty fired up and I’m signed up for various activities to keep the momentum going. I’ll be interested to see what impact the march has on the girls.

2 Comments

  1. Mary Ellen Whiteley

    Getting involved definitely makes me feel a little better. I loved your articulate article. I could hear the crowd chanting in my head as I read it. Excellent photos too!

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