On Saturday, January 21, 2017, there was a world-wide Women’s March. The main march took place in Washington, D.C., but there were satellite marches all around the world. I attended the Kansas City Women’s March/Rally at Washington Park in downtown Kansas City.
I was unsure if I was doing the right thing by attending, even as I made plans with friends to meet at the march. Finally, on the morning of the march, I caught my reflection in the mirror and asked myself, “What would Mom say about whether I should go or not?” The answer came to me swiftly and in the cadence of my sweet mother’s own voice: She would kick my butt if I didn’t go. As I chortled at the response, I thought of my 4-year-old granddaughter, Lily, and wondered what the adult Lily would say about my going. Not surprisingly, I heard pretty much the same answer. Okay, so I was going.
A friend and I drove together and were able to get a parking spot right next to the event. As we strode to the event, I was amazed to see the river of men and women flowing towards the event space. I was impressed by the number of men of all ages who chose to attend and support the women in their lives. From what I saw, I would estimate that roughly 30% of the marchers were men. Each and every one of those men have mothers, most of them probably have wives, sisters, and or daughters. I salute their awareness and willingness to be there.
When we walked into the crowd that was gathering for the event, we used our shoulders to slide through the milling crowd. We were able to find a place to stand close enough to the speaker’s stand that we could almost see what was going on up on the stage.
We were surrounded by people holding up signs stating what each person was marching for. After a heart-rending version of The Star Spangled Banner was sung, the first speaker requested that all the signs be put down so that more people would be able to see and hear more clearly. There was no arguing with this request. It was done.
Even though this was dubbed a woman’s march, the event agenda made it very clear that this event was being held to support all sorts of diverse populations who may or may not see their rights and freedoms reduced with our new government. The speakers included Muslims; Blacks; a Jewish Rabbi; a Hispanic male; representatives of the LGBTQ community; a disabled woman; victims of violence; and victims of sexual abuse.
Each of them spoke eloquently about their experiences, and their fears. Names of organizations that support each of these groups were given. There were websites and phone numbers referenced. Each speaker was informative and positive about what could be done to help each of these groups retain their privileges and freedoms.
Before the march I heard people say they didn’t want to march because of the media sources that dubbed the marches “anti-Trump.” I did not see it that way at all and my experience proved me correct. I kept count and in two hours of speeches, Mr. Trump was mentioned two times in passing. There was no hatred spoken for the man who was inaugurated the day before.
Fear of violence was another reason I heard people worry about pre-march. There was definitely a strong police presence, with police officers lining the streets surrounding the event, but there were no arrests or outbreaks on that day. I personally made it a point to thank each officer I passed for being there. I heard many others offer them the same courtesy. As the former wife of a cop, I had to smile thinking of what those officers had to be saying to themselves that morning as they donned their riot gear to work the march. Each bullet-proof vest sported dozens of zip-tie handcuffs, in case they were needed. No matter what they expected to find, what the police actually found was a group of 10,000 people joining together to make a peaceful statement.
Since the march, there has been a lively dialogue about the events of that day. I have seen multiple posts about women finding the march repulsive. These particular women felt no need to march or to align themselves with the marchers. That was their prerogative, but their anger towards the marchers genuinely confuses me. I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but it felt absolutely right to be there.
You see, I’ve spent more hours than you would probably believe asking myself if I would’ve been strong enough to join the Freedom Riders in the civil rights era; I’ve wondered if I would have been brave enough to hid a Jewish family in Nazi Germany; wondering if I would have had the open mindedness to escort escaping slaves along the Underground Railway. I hope I would’ve stood up for the oppressed, despite the risk and fear. But, unfortunately, I cannot answer those questions because I was not there in those moments to know what I would have done
What I can do today, in this lifetime, is to stand up when I feel people’s civil rights are being threatened. It really doesn’t matter which ethnic or religious group is having their freedom threatened; everyone deserves the same rights and protections. My intention is to actively work to help preserve the sentiment of the Pledge of Allegiance and make sure “justice for all,” is more than just a line we recite occasionally.
Right now, people all over America are scrambling to figure out how to best stand up to protect these rights. I am researching these groups almost daily. As time continues and plans and agendas become clearer, I will work with the groups I feel I can help make the most effective contributions with.
Until all that falls into place, I can, and I will, march.