The 3rd Annual Women’s March happened today, but for me it was the first. I was wholeheartedly determined to go regardless of whether or not I was going alone because ironically, the last two years I had to work for a woman-owned and woman-run company during the March. I didn’t realize how much the Women’s March meant to me until I missed it. After work last year, I found myself walking through the streets of San Francisco post-March desperate to find my friends at an after party with the promise of the same “I am woman, hear me roar” energy only to find that everyone had gone home and I felt like the weather: overcast and gloomy.
I cried in public. Which isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things because let’s face it, I’m a crybaby. But I was just so heartbroken to have missed out on such a historical experience. So this year I promised myself I would go with friends or alone, it didn’t matter because I found assurance in knowing I would be surrounded by thousands of women who have my back, just like I have theirs.
I woke up, put my Hoe Zone sweater on, pumped up my tires, turned on Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer album, and biked downtown. I felt excitement creep in as crowds of people made their way to Southside Park in Sacramento. I didn’t expect to see 100% elder white women in attendance, but in my experience they make up a large part of the protesting demographic so I was pleasantly surprised to see men, people of color, young and old, babies and everyone in between. The influences we have on each other by just being present is really an amazing thing.
The scene was rather beautiful actually. Not only were we all here to collectively take a stand, but so many people utilized their creative and artistic abilities to design signs, clever phrases, wearing costumes and coordinating props with their allies. As women we have a lot to say (or talk to you much if you want to further support the stereotype) but the plethora of messages I saw that day were all over the board from DACA, to equal pay to reproductive rights. The common denominator among all signs was that each person was fighting for more than just themselves and sometimes not even themselves at all. I was moved.
Instead of a sign I carried my camera, assumed my role as photographer, documentarian, historian, keeper of truth. Funny thing is I was actually recognized because of it. I ran into a beautiful soul I bonded with at Burning Man. I walked away from that interaction feeling grounded, anchored by the same beautiful energy I experienced in the desert, only here marching for women’s rights.
The entire experience was ushered along by a New Orleans style marching band and a drumming circle. “How perfect!” I thought because I know how much women love to dance! (or is it just me?) I felt an unspoken bond with the musicians as we made eye contact, like we recognized each other‘s roles in facilitating such an event. Midway through, as the majority of the March was happening in the street, the Latinx community forged their way at a somewhat quicker pace up the sidewalk brandishing artistic feminine renditions of Che Guevara and Angela Davis, chanting “hermana escucha!!” (Sister listen!!) as they followed the Aztec dancers in full traditional garb. I’m not of Latinx or Spanish descent but growing up in California, looking as I do, I’ve had a Latina experience and it warmed my heart to see my Latinx sisters showing up and showing out. I stepped aside to document their display before I merged back into the crowd.
At that moment I found myself getting emotional because the energy was palpable. Here we go crying public again! But there was a photo op I couldn’t miss so I had to temporarily swallow the tears and get back to my mission. Just then an older woman reached out to me for an embrace, smiled and said “thank you for showing up“ as if validating all of the emotional history I had surrounding this day. I hugged her back and smiled, speechless. I cried (in public) as I wrote this because her gesture was so impactful.
Our caravan of festive and outspoken people rounded the corner after passing an eight piece acoustic band of elders playing “Let It Be” by The Beatles. We joined in and sang an encore chorus or two before we hit Capitol Plaza and everyone spread out to get their photo taken in front of the Capitol building. Some stylized, some capturing the moment, me wondering what’s next. I came across the Raging Grannies harmonizing with vigor as their sweet little voices were heard, recorded and admired by all who witnessed their movement. I silently vowed to myself to be exactly like them when I’m their age.
That’s when I heard the first speaker of the event coming through on the loudspeaker. Her focus was on the ongoing struggles of the Indigenous/Native Peoples of California. She was followed by several empowering women who touched on reproductive rights, health care, the prison system, the government shut down to name a few topics. But one woman, Angelique Ashby got the crowd fired up as she highlighted an entourage of women standing behind her who were voted into office in the Sacramento area. All of the guest speakers were inspiring, motivating and their messages were very clear: Don’t give up. This fight takes work and we can all do a little bit more.
Just as hunger set in, I heard the MC Coco Blossom from Sacramento Youth Speaks announce that Beyoncé was hitting the stage. Did I question why Queen Bey would grace Sactown with her presence and not her hometown of Houston, Texas? Yes. Did I make my way back to the stage to see what all the hoopla was about? Of course. Sure enough there was an amazing performance happening on stage, with lots of hair flipping, thigh high boots and sensational choreography. Turns out after the 30 minute set, the headliner Miss Shalae who entertained us with her high energy performance skills announced proudly that she was the First Black Trans Woman to headline a Women’s March and she was praised for it by all in attendance.
And that, my friends, is what womanhood is all about.