How did it happen that this 72-year old woman who is claustrophobic in large crowds and currently living in pain from a shoulder injury made it to the LA Women’s March on 1/21/17? As a lifetime activist, I had to be at this historic event. The bonus of attending it with my daughter, her husband and two of my grandsons made it impossible to ignore. I would just have to put my personality and body issues aside and show up.
Entering the metro train at 17th and Colorado in Santa Monica, we got our first taste of sardine city. We lucked out and made it onto the train with about 10 other people. That filled the train to capacity so that no other people could board on the ride down to Pershing Square in Los Angeles. This was the first sign that it was meant to be.
When we arrived, we merged into the crowd of people, fully expecting that they would be marching. As with many things in life, the march was getting a late start. I imagine part of the reason was because of the masses of people who came. I’ve heard estimates of 500,000-750,000. What I can tell you is that once in the midst, there was no movement, just standing there and listening to some of the chants –“love trumps hate” among them. We could see some signs and posters, but with all of us being short people, we could not see much else.
I admit that I had to start saying my saving mantra when in tight quarters, “I am safe, I am love.” This calms me down so I don’t freak out. I had on my sling for my shoulder (I don’t really need it anymore but wore it for protection), but as my daughter pointed out, I had on a black sling on a black jacket so it was invisible. Gratefully, no one bumped into or shoved me.
One of my grandsons was having a harder time than I and was more verbal about it. We inched our way forward and found an alcove of a hotel, probably only 2 blocks from the center of Pershing square though it felt like miles away from the action and speeches. We carved out a bit of space that allowed us to move, see out in front of us and not feel trapped. Even when others joined us in our spot, it was still roomier than in the middle of the street.
Eventually, someone in the crowd yelled, “march the other way.” I assume it became evident that there were other streets they could take to get closer to the front and at least they would be moving. We as a family, once out of our alcove decided to go back to the train and go home. We had been there for probably 2 ½ hours and felt great that we had come but did not want to stay longer.
I admit that I started having judgment of myself for not pushing to remain a little longer at the march. My critic has a long history of letting me know what I’m doing wrong. Eventually, my compassionate self told me “good for you for coming at all” given my challenges.
What I take away from this experience is many fold. I have tremendous gratitude for my daughter and her husband, Mitch, for raising their sons to be conscious and to care about humanity, the environment and world issues. I was thrilled to be having the opportunity to share this with them. I also felt my daughter’s caring and protection of the boys and me.
Just to observe the masses of people who came out for this march was worth the trip downtown. Activism has been reignited. I lived through the 60’s and the Viet Nam war and all those protests. I remember the civil rights demonstrations. I was privy to the feminist movement. Once again, women and men are rising up for their beliefs and for justice. Do I wish it wasn’t necessary and that we could have a lifetime of the Obamas or similar type of leadership? You bet. But that’s not what’s happening. So yay, yes, we are rising up again.
On a personal note, I’m glad I did not give into my hermit self and went beyond my own challenges to attend. And, I forgive myself for being glad to leave after a couple of hours. I came home and watched things on TV and the Internet and enjoyed some speeches from D.C. and L.A.
I am in agreement with the many who say we cannot stop with marches. We have to be active in many ways. I am grateful that my husband, Michael, (no he did not attend as his dislike of crowds won out), is on the same page as I am and we are discussing where we want to put our energies in addition to the monies we’ve donated to causes we support. I will continue to write as well and to use my voice where I can.
To “be the change that we want to see” continues to be one of my main mottos. I will not spout out hate, I don’t want to waste my time or energy bad mouthing those with whom I don’t agree. I care deeply about human rights (women, blacks, LBGTQ, refugees, immigrants, Latinos, the disabled, the elderly etc.), the environment, health care and beyond. These things will be my focus as I sort out where I can be most useful and where there is the greatest fit with my skills, passions and energy.
A big thank you to the organizers of all the marches and to the many people who just showed up in support.