Thomas Wolfe was wrong. On Saturday, January 21 I was able to go home again. Not exactly home but back to my youth. Mrs. Making-Sentences and I gathered up two dear friends and attended the Women’s March in Denver, Colorado.
As we approached the downtown grid of streets, chants could be heard and soon the masses of marchers out for a Saturday stroll, could be seen as a continuous stream of color–a lot of it pink–a lot of the pink in the shape of knitted, cat-eared hats.
Denver, the old cow town (my daughter’s accurate description), turned out 110,000, mostly women, but with a full compliment of men and children joining in supporting each other.
The four of us joined in and marveled at the scene. The sun was out, the air brisk, and the faces were all smiling. I looked up and asked a cute, five-year-old girl, riding on her father’s shoulders, if she were having a good time. Her face erupted in a huge smile and gushed, “This is fun!”
I’m a dusty relic from the civil rights movement. My 1960’s protests were often in groups of 10 to 40. Sometimes we were in the midst of maybe a few hundred. I’ve never been in a march of this magnitude. Luckily, the feeling was the same, and I was sent 50 years back in time.
What lifted me were the sights and sounds shedding light on tons of issues. There was a passion being expressed about concerns far beyond those specific to women. There was worry about the future of the earth (Duh! It’s green Colorado), the future of public schools, voting rights, healthcare, gun control, and on and on. If you’ve read about an issue in the last years, there was a poster held high or chant ringing out advertising support.
As we marched I looked into individual faces and I saw sincerity in their eyes that mirrored 1965. When I focused on a single voice I heard the passion from over fifty years ago. The spirit of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was strong. I’d have been disappointed if it were any different.
Also heartening was the respect and kindness shown. Denver was free of violence; no arrests, no injuries, no damage. This was the norm around the world. The march was a clinic on peaceful demonstration that was replicated in over 200 cities in every state in the United States and around the world. There were four million of us!
Commentators are speculating about whether this was a protest against our new president or a positive message about how we want the world to look.
Overwhelmingly, the message was positive. The theme was anti-Trump, but the mood was unifying, upbeat, and forward.
There is also pundit positing whether or not civilian voices can make a difference. I’m here to tell you that they can. It doesn’t happen in one day of rallies, it takes time and sacrifice. But, policy, and outdated laws can be changed by protest. So can recent gains in fostering human equality be protected and furthered. We’ll have to wait and see, but if this passion and focus can be sustained, national influence is imminent.
The Vietnam War would have wound down eventually, but it was summarily protested out of existence. No final shot can be determined. It just withered away because Americans went to the streets and demanded that it end.
A sitting American president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, was protested out of office. His reelection in 1968 would not have been the landslide he enjoyed in 1964, but a November victory was likely. Johnson made the decision not to even run because citizen protests became overwhelming.
And, the blue ribbon goes to the massive, nonviolent, 11-year pressure put on legislators to end the 100 years of Jim Crow laws that evolved after the end of Reconstruction in the wake of the American Civil war.
In 1954 the Supreme Court found in favor of a little girl in Topeka, Kansas who wanted to attend her local elementary school. That decision changed law that restricted blacks and whites from going to school together. Granted, the problem isn’t solved 63 years later, but the law is clear.
A yearlong 1955 Montgomery, Alabama citizens’ bus boycott ended with a court decision that outlawed segregation on public transportation.
A march on Washington D.C. in 1963, one of the few to rival this Women’s March in numbers, turned out nearly half a million protesters to hear Dr. King talk about having a dream. The movement continued into 1964 and 1965 when civil rights and voting rights legislation was finally put in place to legalize personal equality and universal voting rights for every citizen. Again, the intent is yet to be fully realized, but there is law on our side that was born from citizen activism.
Still questioning why the march took place, or why men and children joined a “Women’s March?” The answer is community. When one automatically considers “our” instead of “my” freedoms and rights, joining the march makes complete sense.
We’re all in this together.