On January 21, 2017, I witnessed an act of radical love. The ground shook. As our chants and cheers echoed through the city I could feel it down into my bones. I felt it under my feet—the sheer power behind a woman’s battle cry. Not one, but 500,000 reverberating through the streets of Washington D.C. as we stood, practically on top of each other, in a show of solidarity and strength.
Vast in breadth and peaceful in intent, the Women’s March on Washington was a sight to behold. As women shouted out their dissent, side by side, linking arms and marching with signs crafted by tired hands, I looked around and smiled. I marched on Washington. It was the single greatest day of my life. Never before have I been so proud to be a woman as I was that day in our nation’s capital.
Weaving our way through the crowds on Independence Street, my march buddy and I waded into the sea of women who gathered for this spectacle, this declaration of dissent. We walked until faced with walls of women on each side and realized we would get no closer to the stage. As we settled into our place Gloria Steinem began to speak. I hung onto every word. My heart fluttered as this hero said, “This is an outpouring of energy and true democracy like I have never seen in my very long life.” And looking around, I knew it must be true. The very air surrounding us felt thick with history and importance.
As the speakers came, one by one, declaring our reasons for gathering to the world, we cheered them on. We screamed “Hell yeah!” at the top of our lungs when Ashley Judd asked each of us if we were nasty women. We reclaimed the words that have so long been used against us. We cheered as a young girl named Sophie Cruz recited a speech, in both English and Spanish, urging the crowd to act in love and the kids not to fear. She led us as we chanted, “Si se puede,” in the streets. Women of all colors, creeds and backgrounds, blending together with one message to spread: “Yes we can.”
The day waged on and speakers came and went. We cheered with each other. We worked to reunite children who had been separated from their mothers in the crowd. We were touched by the Mothers of the Movement. We screamed the names of those taken from us far too soon. Coming off of a year that had been traumatic for so many, this felt like spiritual healing.
Women from all over the country gathered that day. I spoke to women who flew in from California and Colorado and Texas, who drove up from Tennessee and down from Michigan, who bused in from Massachusetts and took the train from Pennsylvania, but there was one thing that united us all—love.
We smiled at each other and shared our stories and hugged strangers and we danced. We danced through the streets of Washington D.C. on the first day of the presidency of a man who scares so many. We laughed and we danced and we cheered. And it was beautiful.
As we headed down to Constitution Avenue to march to the Washington Monument, people began to chant. There were call/response chants: “Show me what democracy looks like!” “This is what democracy looks like!” and group chants, “No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here!” Many more echoed through the crowd in waves, creating ripples of joy and excitement. Without a single violent moment and without a single arrest, half a million women marched on Washington D.C. and demonstrated the true power of our collective voice.
We know now as the counts come in that an estimated 2.9 million people took part in marches across the country, all for the benefit of women’s rights. This makes the Women’s March the largest protest in United States history. We will remember this as the day a group of brave women laced up their boots and took to the streets to demand equality—in wages, bodily autonomy, education, healthcare and treatment. January 21 was the day women in America, and across the world stood up to say we are tired of the hatred that spread through our nation like wildfire.
We are tired of sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, transphobia and misogyny. We are tired of difference being written off as an excuse for hatred. We are tired of living in a world that lacks common decency.
We feel tired, but we keep marching on. I rode 15 hours on a bus with a contingent of women from Gainesville, Florida. We stood and marched all day and then boarded that same bus and rode 15 hours home, sleeping all the while in an upright position. I’m sure I’m not the only woman in America whose feet are still swollen and whose body still aches. I’m certain I’m not the only woman in America who would do it all again, as many times as it takes.
I know we’re tired ladies, but I’ve also seen our strength. So rest up and then lace up. We’ve got work to do.