I woke up to my obnoxious—but necessary—alarm at 4:00 AM on January 21, 2017 with excitement as I shoved my significant other, Jaron, out of bed. It was my 27th birthday. We sleepily got ready, suiting up in warm clothes and sturdy shoes. And then we were off to pick up one of my closest friends, Tori Keller (fellow #nastywoman), and begin our journey down to Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington. We each loaded up on our preferred methods of caffeine intake and were off into the foggy and damp morning. Our next stop was four hours south in Fredericksburg, VA. Here we were meeting up with my good friend and fellow Kutztown University alum, Brendan Burke. Brendan now teaches 6th and 8th grade English teacher at Thornburg Middle School in Virginia.
The car ride was exciting as we talked about what a protest of this magnitude could really look like. We had no idea what to expect. Together we talked about why we wanted to march. We were so excited to talk to other marchers about their intentions and were curious about how far others had traveled to protest Donald Trump’s first day in office. To be honest, there was a part of me that felt apprehensive. I had never gone to a protest march before. I was worried about what Trump might do to the people who oppose him. I was also nervous about others who may show up to antagonize us. But I knew that this march was something I wanted to do (I had been planning with my friends for months), so I tucked my fears in the back of my mind and watched live videos of my friends who were already chanting and listening to amazing speakers at the rally. Sure this made me a little carsick, but it was worth it to see so many smiling faces and strong women supporting each other. I was eager to join them.
We pulled up to Brendan’s around 11:40 am and threw our night bags inside his apartment. Our next stop was the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station. Unfortunately we could not bring any water or snacks because we missed one of the rules about having a clear bag or backpack. So those were left behind. As we arrived at the station, we immediately saw people everywhere wearing their knitted pink pussy hats and waving their signs as they waited in long, impressive lines for the next round of trains. As we walked over to join the line, people were asking to look our signs. There was an instant sense of comradery. My worries and anxiety from earlier seemed to dissipate the more I was surrounded by fellow marchers.
There were a few police officers at the station guiding our lines to make sure we knew where we were going (cash versus credit card lines). Our metro station even had workers helping us put money on our metro cards. There was a buzz of excitement and mini conversations as my group and our fellow marchers waited for the next round of trains into D.C. Once the trains arrived, we eagerly piled in. We were roughly ten stops away from where we could get off, since we heard news about the Federal Triangle already being completely closed down due to the amount of people. I felt restless. I wanted to be there! I wanted to march with my people in solidarity!
While on the train, I was serenaded by a lovely 63 year old woman when she figured out it was my birthday from my protest sign: “For my birthday I wanted a respectful President! Instead there is Trump—A racist, sexist, hothead, who rage tweets!” She had been rallying and marching around all morning. So, she was heading home to get some rest. Though I did not catch her name, she was a gift and I’m glad to have bumped into her. At 63 she assured us that she has plenty of fight left in her to resist Trump. She wished us the best, and we parted ways. We had arrived to our stop—the Smithsonian Station.
Walking up from the Smithsonian metro stairway was nothing like I had ever experienced before. I almost immediately lost my group because I was awestruck by the crowds. I heard Jaron call my name. I looked up to see him and the rest of my group walking towards a street of marchers. In a happy trance, we found an entrance into the march and hopped right in. I was experiencing sensation overload. I kept repeating out loud, “This is amazing!” We–my group and all those around us–were laughing and praising each other’s powerful signs and messages. There are so many beautiful and creative people in this world. This march really showed me that. While some chose the comedic route for their signs—commenting on the president’s insecurities: #keepyourtinyhandsoffmyuterus—others had powerful messages including those reminding us to continue to bring intersectional thinking and perspectives when defining and demonstrating feminism #blackwomenslivesmattertoo. Throughout the march, I was surrounded by all kinds of people with different but unifying messages to tell. These people were from many backgrounds. From small children to senior citizens. Civilians and veterans. I even saw a few Trump supporters (decked out in their red trucker hats and matching t-shirts) attending the march and no one bothered them. This march was peaceful. I did not see a large police presence, and the ones I did see were not dressed in riot gear. This further alleviated the tension I had felt earlier.
Since we were elbow to elbow with people as we marched, it was a challenge to take notes on my phone while holding my sign and chanting along with my people. But I was lucky enough to record one conversation with Carlin Thomas, a preschool teacher, who traveled from San Francisco, CA for the march. In regards to Trump and those who continue to support him, one of her students asked her, “What do we do when the adults are breaking the rules?” She told me that this question “hurt her heart so deeply,” and that she was marching because of this boy and “all the children who don’t know what to do when they can’t trust the adults in their lives.” Her advice to her terrified students was this: “You march, you demonstrate, you demand justice.” And we both agreed that’s exactly what we were doing in D.C.
My group and I marched for many hours and made many friends along the way. We continued to see powerful messages. We heard many voices. Clearly this march had nothing to do with my birthday and yet I feel it was the best gift I have ever received–a real moment where I felt powerful and not alone…a moment where I was a woman surrounded by strong women and strong people. I went to sleep that night feeling remarkable. This was the beginning of a fight that we will continue to fight.
Now that almost a week has passed since the Women’s marches, some are looking to devalue what we achieved that day in our nation and around the world. We are the ones who marched. Some people may continue to take their rights for granted–ignoring their own privileges and ability to do so. And they can do that. Until, of course, they realize how much they will be affected by the harmful agenda Trump has planned for the next four years. For those who come to these realizations later, we are waiting with open arms to welcome you to the resistance. We have markers for your signs. We have envelopes and stamps for letters to your representatives. We have ears to listen to your anger and fear. We have ideas to share with you about how to assuage your concerns. And best of all, WE ARE HERE FOR YOU AND FOR EACH OTHER. #insoldarity!