My sister, Stephanie and I were among those who registered for the Million Women March on Washington, DC, early on. I had even secured a $200 hotel room in DC for the night. That's how early, I registered. However, life happens. My sister and mother were not able to make the trip to DC because of work and family obligations. Thankfully, I was able to get a full refund from rallybus.net . Then with a winsome FOMO feeling, I released the reasonable room I'd booked at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in, DC for a full refund, as well.
On December 12, 2017, Stephanie sent me a link to a new Philadelphia Facebook group for a sister march that was slated for the same day as the Women's March on Washington, DC. I was excited for the opportunity to participate in the protest. I immediately made plans to travel to my hometown on January 21, 2017, the day after the Presidential Inauguration, of Donal J. Trump.
The morning of the march, Stephanie was up at 5AM. She had to take her son CJ to a track meet before we would prepare to head downtown. About 7:30AM, Stephanie and I packed our knapsacks with water, snacks and cameras. We drove to the nearby train station in Orland, PA. On the platform Stephanie was greeted by a group of neighbors who were eating delicious smelling breakfast sandwiches. Carol, who owned a bagel shop, had made each lady a hot egg sandwich to go. We talked and laughed incredulously about the recent presidential election. Some of us lamented about not having made signs. I felt comfortable with the women and thought it would be fun to hang with them for the day. However, when the 8:10AM train arrived at the station; it was packed to capacity. The conductor hung from the opened train door. He spoke loudly, "Sorry folks, I can't let anyone on. It's packed," he said. One woman asked if her group could squeeze on. "Look Lady," he responded. "If I let 10 people on, then I'd have to let everyone on. I just don't have the room." You will have to wait for the next train." And with that, the conductor swung himself back inside the train car as the doors closed. Tightly packed people could be seen standing in the aisles, as the train lumbered out of the station.
The crowded platform began to disperse. There was a couple behind us who talked about driving downtown. I convinced Stephanie that was a good idea. So, we left the gregarious group of neighbors and headed back to the parking lot, along with other folks who were not willing wait for another train that might also be too crowded to board. There was a feeling of exhilaration in the air. The crowded train boded well for a successful march. We became even more energized about getting downtown.
The traffic was surprisingly light on Kelly Drive. We thought it would be a good strategy to find a parking lot somewhere in Fairmount. At first, we found one lot where the the sign read $9.00 for all day. That appeared to be an awesome deal. However, just as I was parking. The lot attendant came up to my window warning me against parking my car. I asked him about all the other cars that were parked in the lot. He informed me that his boss had ordered him to have them all towed away. I couldn't believe it. There were at least 15 cars in the parking lot. Stephanie went on to tell me about how Lew Blume has a lock on Philadelphia towing. The Philadelphia Parking Authority is infamous. There's even a TV show that chronicles Philly parking horrors.
We drove out of that lot with prayerful thanks. On such a good day, we were spared the nightmare memory of having my car towed away. After more driving around, we ended parking in a municipal parking lot on Broad Street. Luckily, there was a policeman sitting inside a patrol car on the lot. We parked and proceeded to walk two miles toward Eakins Oval.
On our way toward the Parkway, we saw all kinds of people, young and old, making their way back and toward the Women's March. The weather was especially temperate for late January. Still, it was a brisk, cloudy and damp 45 degrees. It was the type of weather where everyone's dress was a mixed bag. Some folks were in full-on hats and heavy down coats, while some folks were not wearing coats or hats at all. Stephanie and I were dressed somewhere in the middle. I wore an oversized sweatshirt layered over a wool running top, running tights, scarf, fur trappers hat and gloves. I have short hair. In the winter my head gets very cold. So, I love cozy hats. Steph had on a light down jacket along with thermal tights. We were concerned about getting too hot while walking within a crowd. However, we didn't want to start to feel the cold from standing outside for hours without moving in 40 degree damp weather. These are newbie political protester problems.
A two mile walk landed us on the fringes of the crowd, not far from the stage on Eakins Oval. The Philadelphia Women's March crowd was large at 50,000. However, that number seems more like a 'tea party' when compared to the 500, 000 people who marched on DC and Los Angles. Still, the Philadelphia crowd was peaceful and chill. There were so many creative and poignant signs. I raised my camera above my head in an effort to capture the emphatic nature of the many signs floating over our heads. There were some truly inspiring speakers from several national organizations like Planned Parenthood. Sandra Bland's mother was among the speakers. She was impressive when she talked about how if she could get up after losing a child, we could get up after Hillary's loss.
Steph and I left the Philadelphia Women's March around 3PM. She wanted to get home in time to see Elijah off on his first date and winter dance. And as we were leaving, there were still more folks with and without signs crossing the expansive parkway making their way toward the stage for the program of speakers. In that moment, it hit me. This is a marathon, not a sprint. All or nothing, has no place within this type of political movement and civic action. Each of us can do what we can. Taking an action is all that is required.
Many of us cannot commit to traveling miles over days. Many of us do not have the money for bus tickets and hotel rooms. Some of us are not physically able to march or stand for hours. Some of us, are not creative or crafty enough to make tremendous signs. And so many of us, do not have the time to spend all day anywhere outside, our home, family or work. Still, every one of us has one hour we can commit to writing a letter, calling a senator or driving someone else to march.
I experienced so much beauty in witnessing the entrances and exits of masses of individuals who showed up and took a stand, as part of the largest political protest in American history. I've read that data is still be collected. However, according to Vox.com, data gained by Erica Chenoweth at the University of Denver and Jeremy Pressman at the University of Connecticut, there were over 500 US marches with a total over 3.3 million attendees. That's outrageous! Americans showed up. Those numbers include small town marches like the 7500 who marched in my kneck-of-the-woods, Poughkeepsie, NY. Next time, I plan to march locally.
I don't know how many folks marched in cities all around the globe. However, people across 7 continents stood up with the American people. United We Stand. The visuals of people marching around the globe is electrifying. The world is with us.
womensmarch.com has up to date totals of marches along with the staggering sister march total that changes as new data is acquired. Click the link for press and photos streams from around the globe.
This is just the beginning of my civic activism. As a result of engaging with the Million Women March on DC and the sister march in Philadelphia, I have sought out other ways to participate in our democracy. I've downloaded:
FORMER CONGRESSIONAL STAFFERS REVEAL BEST PRACTICES FOR MAKING CONGRESS LISTEN
Also, on January 22, 2017, I participated in an Indivisible conference call facilitated by Moveon.org. I was among 60,000 folks who sat in on the call that focused on how to become engaged in civic actions to protect our democracy and resist the Trump agenda. Ezra Levin, one of the authors of the Indivisible Guide, led the discussion regarding what specific actions are most effective in getting the attention of our local and state representatives and senators.
This morning, for the first time, I called my state representatives asking that they each vote No on HR 7 regarding women's healthcare.
No action is too small. This is the beginning of my artist as activist journey. To be continued....Gratitude.