A Sea of Pink
The Women’s March on DC was massive. Massive. Like the crowd of streaming fans before a concert at Madison Square Garden, only to the tune of 500,000 people deep. Every street that led to the Capitol teemed with womyn –elderly ladies, mothers with bundled up kids, high school age girls hand-in-hand not to get lost in the crowd.
My bus arrived in DC around 7:00am, after an 18 hour road trip direct from Miami. At every rest stop up the coast, we had been greeted with femme cheers of “Are you going to the Women’s March? Me too!” or “You go girl! I’m there in spirit.” Each time, our bus captain beamed and rushed us along, making sure we could access both the men’s and womyn’s bathrooms. (Equality begins at the truck stop McDonald’s; sorry not sorry, men).
Now, standing by the nation’s Library of Congress, the Floridian contingents assembled to unfurl their banners and raise their carefully stenciled placards. I helped a womyn from my bus pin her orange “Miami” sash around her shoulder and untangle her necklace from her scarf. Once freed, she tenderly raised her homemade “nasty woman” sign above her head and joined the crowd.
Below us, the street rolled out and down like a boat launch into a sea of pink. A young Latinx womyn raised her megaphone to the pulsing Florida crowd. “It is our duty to fight for our freedom,” she yelled, as the crowd repeated the Assata chant. “It is our duty to win! We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains!”
Beside me, a cis-white womyn frowned, “this chant is too long to remember… she should do a shorter one that we can actually repeat.”
“This chant,”I confronted her,“echoes the famous words of Assata Shakur. When we chant these words, we commit ourselves to overcome what our white ancestors could not—to listen to, love, and support POC womyn and their leadership.”
The Women’s March produced many moments of inspiration mixed with ignorance. In the thick of the crowd, I was inspired upon spotting my friend from New York exactly where I’d expect to find him—up in a tree with his Black Rose comrades. But I was then disgusted upon hearing womyn under the tree discussing why “all lives matter”, when they’ve had countless opportunities to learn that, in this system, black lives don’t matter. All lives will matter when black and brown lives are protected the same as white.
Womyn came together to hold healing space for the faint and elderly; 500,000 people can be overwhelming. But they also held space for the lost teenage boy in a “make America great again” cap who was trying to short-cut through the rally to his hotel. I held my ground and told him there was no space for him here; his hat was a violent act and if he wanted to pass he’d better take it off. But my neighboring protestors stayed silent and shifted weight to let him through, unobstructed.
Needing air, my cohort Jonathan and I climbed the back of a salt rock truck to its grated roof. “Pussy grabs back” signs bobbed like choppy waves in the agitated sea of pink. In the distance, police moved to open barricades on the Mall. The ocean swelled and split, spilling bodies of all genders out of the sardine-packed pens onto fresh pavement. An officer scrambled atop his car to direct the flow of marchers. The womyn by my shoulder yelled out, “They’ve opened the Mall! Follow the police!” I wanted to cry. I could feel the knee of that cop pressing into the spine of my detained compa from an earlier protest. I could feel the zip ties dig into the wrist of another Latinx friend who was tackled for J-walking during a march; he suffered nerve damage that day. I will never follow the police…
Bec is a community organizer, artist and writer based in Brooklyn, New York