Photo by Sue Bonior/SuMac Design

Members and friends marched during the weekend of January 20-22. Please enjoy some of their reflections. If anyone else wants to submit a reflection, please email to rockportuu@rockportuu.org!

 

Jean Keith, UUSR member – Boston 

My first inkling of how massive the march would be came at the Newton Centre T station. At about 8 a.m., I had driven from Rockport to Newton, where my daughter lives, so I could meet at her apartment and go from there to catch the T. The lines of folks hoping to take the D line into Boston were spilling onto the tracks. After about 6 crammed double cars came and went in fairly rapid succession, admitting maybe 3 passengers, it became evident that we wouldn’t make it into Boston in time to hear the speakers or connect with Julia’s friends. She knows her way around the T better than I do, so she drove us to Jamaica Plain to try the Orange Line at the Stony Brook Station, where we were able to squash into a car after a short wait. The car was jammed and it was a relief to exit at China Town and walk to the Boylston Street entrance to the Common. 

We were struck by the number of people already in the park and others steadily streaming in. It was a sunny, mild January day and the vibe from the crowd was positive. As a lifelong Boston-area resident, I was struck by the array of people around us—black, brown, white; families with babies and young children, groups of teenagers, elders, and grannies like me; lots of women and quite a few men, straight and gay couples—in short, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a mixed group in Boston. 

Silly pink “pussy” hats abounded, even on men. Most of the signs were creative and clever (though some I found kind of crude) covering a range of issues, mainly women’s rights, and also racial justice for black people, and protection of the environment. I had trouble hearing the speeches clearly, but the snippets I heard made me proud of the speakers, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, particularly. The mood was energetic and determined, but not violent or hateful. Julia and I ran into people she knew and we met and chatted with others. The sense of community, caring, and kindness was palpable. 

As Julia and I tried to make our way around the Common to better hear the speakers and then to actually begin marching, we took hands—she, the young spry one, led the way. I was very moved by our mother-daughter connection. 

I marched because I am outraged at Donald Trump’s insulting, derogatory language and self-admitted sexual aggression against women, and I wanted to speak out against that behavior. I fear the tone he has set and worry that efforts toward gender equality could be badly damaged. I walked for my daughter, my granddaughter, and their generations. 

I never would have thought that in my retirement years I’d be marching and demonstrating. It’s not been my habit. But I’ll keep doing it as long as the values I love are being threatened.

by Jean Keith

 

Laura Evans, UUSR member – Atlanta

 

Attending the American Librarian’s Association (ALA) meeting in Atlanta on business the weekend of the Women’s March for America in Washington, I knew not a soul in the city. I thought I would check out the sister march with some librarians who I’d heard were marching, and asked the ALA Info Desk to point me to where they were gathering, to make signs before marching to the Center for Civil and Human Rights. The woman next to me said “Hi, I’m Heather, I’m a librarian from Oregon, and I’m headed that way too.” She said she’s never participated in a demonstration before, like most of the people I met that day, but felt “like there’s nothing else we can do at this point but march.” So great the shame, the fear, and the sense of helplessness, that suddenly defines our lives. We navigated down the escalator carefully, as Heather’s broken ankle was in a cast. No one had arrived yet in the poster-making room, and we made a couple of signs with supplies I’d picked up at CVS.  The sign I made said, “Make America Read Again.”

“Maybe we are the only two” she said, looking around at the empty room.  “Lousy day for a march,” she added.  Rain poured down in buckets outside the convention center.

People began to arrive all at once. Librarians are organized! Tables were rolled in, poster boards, scissors, magic markers, string, hole punchers, maps of the march route, T shirts and hand knitted pink pussy hats were all available. I tried to buy such a crazy hat from the librarian knitter, but she gave it to me instead, and refused to tell me her name so I could thank her. As the librarian marchers swelled to some 200 people, we grew boisterous, sharing a sense of purpose and comradery, peppered with plenty of laughter. Making signs together was like a crowd-sourced POTUS tweet-back session, only carried out in real life and in cardboard instead of pixels: “This librarian fights fascists;” “Get your hands off my area studies;” “Nope,” “Too many issues, not enough posters,” ”Get your hands off my daughter’s country,” “Build a wall around Trump and I’ll pay for it!” “You know things are *really* messed up when librarians start marching.”

A hard cold rain outside kept falling, the kind of wet you must surrender to if you’re out in it. Rivulets too deep to hop over rushed through the gutters. We got soaked in that umbrella-bending wind, gusting sideways down city streets. It turned out we didn’t need a map to plot our path to the Civil Rights center –everyone was going to the same place, a sea of jostling signs, pink hats and umbrellas; pink hats on men, women, children. We stopped and pooled at red lights, then surged forward, all going in the same direction, sharing umbrellas. The crowd grew as we walked, pouring in from every side street, metro, bus. Children, old people, Muslims, blacks, Native Americans, white people, everyone in between. It was no by means a themed gathering with clear delineations of groups; rather it was more of a ragtag army of wet and happy people, spontaneous volunteers who appeared to have just stood up from their living room couches and walked over, and took joy in finding thousands of others there as well!  By the look of all those cardboard tweets, everyone marched for a different reason – the environment, women who don’t want to be grabbed, children who are afraid of this scary guy who fires people and yells from the tv. Huddling under overhangs waiting for the rain to let up didn’t work to keep us dry. We all pressed on, till we realized we couldn’t move any more, and couldn’t see the stage either. Had we arrived? No one knew. Too numerous for the sidewalks, we stood on the lawn, in the gardens, on the streets. As far as the eye could see in all directions, we were a colorful crowd in the rain.

Odd things that you remember: I don’t think I saw one policeman, and noted that while everyone was snapping cellphone pictures, no one had ear buds in, no one was texting, no food carts, no smoking or drinking or carrying on. No boom boxes. We were all paying attention to…each other, learning the immediate causes of our spontaneous purpose . A spontaneous gathering of what Atlanta police estimate was a crowd of 63,000 souls. Oddly, fear played no role here, was no factor at all; instead, there was a palpable sense of joy and anticipation – John Lewis! John Lewis was going to speak to us, the word spread. Senator John Lewis, who marched with MLK, who has been arrested 45 times in his life, five of those after he was elected to Congress. He is the author of at least seven books, the man Trump demeaned recently as being a man of “all talk and no action” who “…should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to……mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results”

We waited and waited, all talk, talk talk, at least half an hour. No one seemed to mind, shifting from foot to foot, pointing out clever signs. One woman had a sign showing a big Putin holding a baby Trump in his arms, cooing something like “Come home to daddy, Donnie.” “Take care of me. There is no Planet B” read another sign illustrated with a big drop of oil, held by a child. Spontaneous songs started here and there – “If I Had a Hammer,” and “This Land Is Your Land.” Then — “He’s here!” said Heather — “I think I just saw John Lewis!” We couldn’t quite see the stage, but we knew we were close and could hear. And  we could feel the crowd roar “District 5! District 5! District 5!” The man standing next to me, wrapped in a full-body Pakistani flag, smiled for the first time. People waved their arms, shouting.

“My, we are looking good today,” Lewis said, deep voice, calm, an almost smiling voice. “We are looking good,” he said. Another mighty roar. He thanked us for marching in the rain, encouraged us to continue to stand up to injustice and never back down, never get turned around.

“We cannot afford to be silent…We should be standing up, getting in the way, and getting into good trouble, necessary trouble.” Forget computers and social media, he advised us. It’s more important, more powerful to meet your new neighbors here today, and walk with them.  “Thank you for never ever giving up. Thank you for never giving in. Some time we must do what we must do.  You look good. You look beautiful. …This is just today. Our fight doesn’t last for one day, one week, one month, or one year, it is a fight of a lifetime. Be bold. Be brave, be courageous, speak up and speak out.  Find a way to get in the way. We are one people, one house, we all live in the same house. Not just an American house, but the world house. Maybe our forefathers and mothers all came to this land in different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now. Keep the faith. It’s all going to work out.” Helicopters flew overhead. Lewis started to lead the march towards the State House; little by little the crowd started to move. Someone from the stage read the signs aloud as we passed by and people cheered. The sun peeked out.

There was something new, yet familiar, something insuppressible, energizing, honest about that march experience. Was it the spontaneity, the volunteerism, the absence of commerce of any kind? The surprise we all seemed to share was that so many of us turned out, for so many reasons.  The experience eclipsed the merely personal. Though I knew no one there, for a brief time, it felt as if I knew everyone there! A black lady helped me climb over a wall; a little white kid offered to take a picture of us and our signs. As we walked, it seemed as if people were carrying forward a conversation that had started a long time ago.  One little old lady held high a sigh saying “G*d d$#n it, are we really still protesting about this same f*&^ing Sh#t AGAIN?!” No one seemed to be in charge of the march. And I am confident that if our whole spontaneous Atlanta contingent all vanished tomorrow, 63,000 more people would come and stand in our shoes in that same place in that same city, because evil is afoot in our land and we now have the opportunity to stand up, to not sit quietly by and hope others will do right and take care of us and our families. The Atlanta march gave me that faith. We tapped into a fearless spirit and energy that is larger and more powerful than any one of us alone.  Millions of people marched that day in spontaneous Sister Marches all over the world, in what appears to be the largest protest in the history of our planet. Thank you, Donald J. Trump, for bringing us together.

by Laura Evans