I love a good mass march. Growing up outside of D.C., I went to marches and rallies from before I can remember. Many of the first songs I learned were protest songs and chants.
Despite this, I was a little nervous before the Women’s March. The week before, I discovered online arguments about the request for a silent march. Discussions turned hostile, and the comment section was shut down. I worried the march would only shush the voices of the most marginalized.
Upon arriving, there were funny signs and the streets were packed. To be in the middle of that energy always feels exhilarating. Then, the whispers of the movement began.
I stood on the side waiting for a friend who was a few blocks back, and a woman came up to me and handed me a pink hat. She had a bag full of hats she had crocheted, and she gave them to anyone who wanted one. A man asked his friends if they had any water, so I handed him one of the extra bottles I had brought. One marcher had a headache, so my friend called out, “Anyone have Advil?” and another marcher came to the rescue. All this reminded me of the importance of these marches. This is a beloved community that we have, because we can take care of each other when we’re worried and in need.
We walked and cheered for different things. The bald eagles circling overhead. Finally turning onto Jackson and officially being in the march. Seeing crowds as far as the eye could see in both directions. Going under the bridge and hearing amazing acoustics.
Downtown I started walking with the Womxn of Color and Families Contingent. As I finished the march with them, the sweet moments from before became organized values. The chants affirmed immigrants and refugees, voicing fears and refusing to be silenced. At each speaker, the contingent would listen, then regroup. Chanting: “Banners, strollers, wheelchairs, flags.” They made sure mothers with young kids and folks with disabilities came to the front to lead the way. Mass marching is an easy time to say that work is too hard, we’ll listen around a table as we debrief next week. Seeing a group actively take the time to center the most silenced was an active reminder. It reminded me what this beloved community can look like if we work for it.
The highlight was seeing a few girls, younger than 10, on the sideline start a chant that the march picked up. It’s the first chant I remember learning as a kid, “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go.” (I learned it for George H.W. Bush, which is not to say it is a partisan chant. You can insert any cause or politician in!) If there is one thing I wanted that march to do, it was for women of every age to exercise their voice.
Last week hit me hard. Orders and memos were signed that terrified me. I was anxious that the energy from the march would fizzle as folks refocused on their daily work. After such a good show of solidarity, I felt like I lost my voice all week. People with Green Cards and Visas were detained at airports for seeming too Muslim.
Showing up at the airport, it was the same thousands of people who had marched get loud again. They were chanting, “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.” This beloved community is not for one weekend, one march, one cause.
This road is going to be hard, messy, and long. We are a diverse community, including in political beliefs, and we won’t agree with everything we hear. But we’re in this community, and I’m feeling energized to do this work, to find our voice, to build this beloved community.