“Never for the sake of peace and quiet deny your convictions.”
– Dag Hammarskjold, from his book Markings
I blogged a few weeks ago about the tradition of banners and signs in Suffrage marches. On January 21, millions of women around the world refused to deny their convictions. They made their statements with words that were displayed, chanted, shouted, or just by showing up. Scheduling a protest march the morning after Inauguration Day proclaimed that this very large group named “we” disagreed with the election results. Marchers’ signs, hats and t-shirts said “Not My President!” Others stated ”I’m with Her!,” referring to Hillary or, when worn by men, to the women around him. I was particularly happy to see diversity in all of its aspects and the rhythmic chant: “This is what democracy looks like.” The NY march featured many personalized variations on “I am marching for…” There were word games, spelling out T-R-U-M-P or adapting song titles with insults, such as “Super, Callous, Facist, Racist, Extra, Braggadocious.” I finally got to wear my “A Woman’s Place is in the [White] House” t-shirt, which honors Hillary Clinton and Bella Abzug.
Although the manipulation of truth, lies and alternative facts were enabled and probably promoted by social media in this long campaign, I finally saw a positive aspect of Facebook. It facilitated the organizing of the marches and supporting them by selling buttons and t-shirts. It also gave people a way to let their friends know if, and where, they were marching. We could see and photographs of posers and particularly creative hats. Following friends of friends, I discovered that there were marches planned in Ketchum, Idaho, San Jose, PR, and Antarctica. On Sunday, I checked for their postings to see how the marches looked.
My own march experience was typical for me – I always end up slightly outside the main action doing organizational tasks. In the NY march, I was at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, in front of the Katharine Hepburn Community Garden for 5 hours being a crowd control monitor. I talked to families and strangers about why they were there and what they wanted to do next with their convictions. I learned that they all loved Katharine Hepburn and honored her for her activism and, sadly, did not know who Dag Hammarskjold was.
I had a magical experience the evening before the march. The 1000 volunteers were asked to call in for final instructions. Due to the mechanics and procedures of conference calls, it began with 8 minutes of women and men calling in and announcing their names. Hundreds and hundreds of just their names. It reminded me of AIDS protests, although those announced names were statements of mourning, not commitment. You can think of it as the opposite of the “I am Spartacus” scene. In any case, the experience will stay with me forever.