Women and men flocked by the tens of thousands to Womxn’s Marches on January 21, 2017. Most participants reported feeling powerfully uplifted by their experience.
From Eagle Harbor Church alone, there were more than four dozen people participating in marches on Bainbridge Island, Seattle, Washington D.C. and Olympia. Those who attended worship on January 22 were still fizzing and popping with such energy that we had to bring the “Whoo!” into the pew or we might have burst.
We want to capture some of that experience in writing, so we have invited marchers to share a paragraph about what the march felt like and what it meant. Reflections are gathered below, as we have received them.
Jennifer Merrill: I’ve been on a few marches, and one of things I have difficulty with is repeating slogans. I am reminded of Steve Martin’s “Non-Conformist Oath,” which, you probably remember, goes like this: “I promise to be different… I promise to be unique… I promise not to repeat things other people say…” So I was happy when I read that the Womxn’s March planners hoped the march would be largely silent, at least until the last couple of blocks before people reached the Seattle Center. And mostly it was. Except for the happy chit chat with fellow marchers along the way. And except for the the wave of sound–“Whoa!”–that went up and down the route throughout the hours we were marching; such a non-rehearsed, spontaneous exclamation of joy and life and pass-it-on unity. I was close to tears every time it came upon/over/through me.
Denise Johnson: The March was tremendously moving for me–the first time I felt hopeful in the past six months. Like so many who participated or watched, I was struck and moved by the sheer number of passionate marchers. Even more, all of us marching forward spoke to me of moving forward, moving on to whatever we can do next to counteract the messages of hatred, racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, denial of climate change and disrespect for the natural environment, isolationistic nationalism, and irrational fear as well as a distressing absence of compassion and a total lack of interest in seeking the truth. When I reached a spot where I was able to look back at the magnitude of marchers following me, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I’m not alone, that we all “have each others’ backs” and that we can and will support one another in pursuing what is right and just for all. The day also was filled with little messages that awakened hope in and for me…from starting in downtown Winslow with a sunrise that seemed like a sign (first flaming intensely then mellowing to pussyhat pink)…to traveling to Seattle on a ferry packed with families taking their kids to experience democracy on the move (with the Men’s head converted to the Women’s restroom for the day by supportive ferry workers)…to returning with my husband to Bainbridge on a boat still teeming with energy and enthusiasm (and a “thank you” to the marchers over the PA). Watching the evening news recap the numerous (!) marches, we were dismayed at criticism that they were characterized by “mixed messages,” as if those participating “did not even know why they were marching.” My experience couldn’t have been more different than those dismissive observations. The March was profoundly inspiring and meaningful precisely because there were so many important messages–all coming together in one galvanizing, committed, and vital voice. What hope there was in that unity! My phone log told me that I took more than 20,000 steps that day–and, with renewed hope and purpose, I can’t wait to experience where the next steps will lead.
Mary Clare Kersten: My primary and favorite memory is of one particular speech given at the very start of the march in Judkins Park. A young woman conducted an interactive reading of “And Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. I became solidly immersed in Angelou’s affirmation of our grit, determination and sex as we rise from the shackles. I still have goose bumps. I can’t dismiss it, and I don’t want to.
Another important revelation came to me. “Ban the Hanger.” I saw signs with the image of a hanger stamped out by the circle & slash symbol. And I realized I had been handed a potent image to use in defense of my pro-choice position. Am I truly pro-choice? That’s a tricky question. Do I believe that abortion is murder because it is murder, or is my belief the result of indoctrination? Because deep down inside myself, I do think it’s murder. And I was determined to do everything in my power not to have an abortion. But reality has gotten in the way of that belief. I came to see that by a mystical twist of fate I avoided a bad situation. I came to see that abortion, like prostitution, intoxicants and marijuana,is widely practiced whether it is illegal or not. In the case of illegal abortion, too often the end result is the inevitable cruelty of the hanger. Desperate people do desperate things. And so I am pro-choice because I wish to ban the hanger.
Sheila Curwen: What I remember the most about the March is being with lovely close friends with whom I laughed and cried. Then there were the wonderful signs and the colors!! Oh the colors mingling in with the pink hats which were in abundance. Finally there was that incredible wave noise. It came from far far back with such power. I didn’t know what was happening the first time until it reached our part of the March…from then on when it got to us, we threw our hands in the air and whooped loudly and joyfully!! Such a time it was that enriched my soul, my spirit!!!
Ernie Williams: Ellen and I were astonished by the numbers of people gathered. We were overjoyed to see the age ranges from babies to the elderly. We were encouraged to feel the sense of togetherness and common sense of purpose, the patience of those participating and the obvious good will shared by all we saw and the lack of violence demonstrated by that size of a gathering. We were lifted and tears welled up as we watched two Eagles soar above us which we saw as a sign of the Creator. We shared a feeling of hope and gained a new appreciation of what we can do as a united people. Aboard the boat back to Bainbridge the Captain came on the intercom saying he wanted to make an announcement, “Thank you”. The people cheered!
(Rev.) Dee Eisenhauer: The march was a spiritual experience for me. The excitement started to build from the moment we gathered to march from EHCC to the ferry; there were hundreds of bubbly pink-clad folks out where I would have expected a couple of dozen (the usual suspects). The jam-packed ferry had a festive air as we realized together we were part of something Big. We couldn’t get everyone together in such a big crowd, but we enjoyed some joyful reunions with members of our UCC “tribe” around EHCC’s vintage “Still Speaking” UCC banner. It felt wonderful to shed isolation and come together as supporters of an inclusive, affirming society that cares for the vulnerable and powerless. Theologian Susan Thistlethwaite wrote an article about her perspective on the marches titled, “The Holy Spirit Roars.” I agree; it felt like a movement of the Holy Spirit to me, a moment in time when God commandeered human activity to reveal a fierce love and a vigorous will for justice for all. Hearing the sound waves travel in mighty cheers from both behind and before us reminded me that God is at the beginning and the end of time and space, weaving Her will into Creation still. Yup: God is still speaking. And we can be God’s voice, hands, and feet.