Monday, January 23, 2017

OPINION: Women's March a Rallying Cry for Equality and Change

Fort Thomas residents attended Saturday's Women's March on Washington and Cincinnati. Photo by Dana Godsey.

On Saturday more than a million women and men gathered around the world to participate in what’s being hailed as the largest peaceful protest march in United States history. Fort Thomas was represented, both in Washington and Cincinnati.

Friday morning, I piled into a minivan along with my mom, mother-in-law (who lives in Reisterstown, Md., and first invited me) and dear friends, several of whom also live in Fort Thomas. Together our ages ranged from 17 to 63.

Many folks from Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky attended, with at least 66 attending the Women’s March of Cincinnati and at least 24 attending the Women's March of Washington from First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati (which I attend) alone.

Our small group drove through Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and into Maryland passing by many other similarly filled cars, vans and busses. We woke up at 5 a.m. Saturday morning and my father-in-law drove us an hour away to Washington’s Shady Grove Metro stop and dropped us off. Already the station was buzzing.

We got off at Union Station and there you could begin to see the sacrifices so many made to attend. People were bleary-eyed, having traveled all night—some were trying to catch some sleep in the station.

From left to right: Dana Godsey, Jill Uhl, Kristin Zeit, Kara Gebhart Uhl, Angel Beets, Danine Gebhart and Jana Albritton.
Women's March on Washington.

We walked outside and began to make our way to the rally. It was busy, but not yet packed, and we waited almost two hours for the rally to begin. We thought we were somewhat close to the stage only to learn later it was simply a large screen—the actual stage was farther away and between us, a sea of people. Speakers included Gloria Steinem, Janelle Monae, Ashley Judd, America Ferrera, Michael Moore, Scarlett Johannsson and March organizers—some of whom had never been involved in such a movement before, one, a mother with a baby strapped to her chest during her speech.

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We couldn’t hear the speeches, and we only caught glimpses of the screen. But this was OK. Because this meant hundreds of thousands of women and men showed up to support the March’s mission to “stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

Some say this wasn’t a march for all women. It wasn’t. Its mission and vision was unequivocally progressive, yet diverse. I was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people there to support and defend not just women’s rights but those who are marginalized, science, the environment, reproductive rights and religious freedom. And we welcomed each other with words of solidarity, cheers and song.

While the crowd chanted “black lives matter!” a line of elderly black women wove through the crowd, trying to reach a new destination. Tears ran down their faces. When my friend told me about this I wondered, What injustices have these women experienced throughout their lives? To hear hundreds of thousands of people from all backgrounds chant their support—how moving, how needed, how important.

March on Washington, with Gloria Steinem speaking at the rally. Photo by Danine Gebhart.

Some say the Women's March was too diverse, with no real focus. Its focus? Women. Women, while juggling work, family, home, friends and life, pulled together a worldwide movement in a matter of months that brought together so many people working so hard to support so many causes. 


Fort Thomas residents Amy and Brandon Bottomley also attend the Women's March on Washington.

And the result was near-perfect. The numbers in Washington more than doubled expectations. Chicago held a rally and then canceled its Women's March because the streets became too congested. More than 750,000 people flooded the streets in L.A. In Bethel, Alaska, protesters marched in -25° weather. And yet, everywhere, it was peaceful.

Bathroom lines at the Women's March on Washington.
The Women’s March in Washington didn’t yield a single arrest. I watched as people either held onto their trash or threw it away appropriately, in bins. We waited for more than hour to use the bathroom and the lines were long, but civil. When the crowds became too much, we made room for protestors who needed air, who needed to move back, who needed a hand up. People offered sandwiches and handmade buttons and signs to each other. We talked to each other. We sang “This Land Is Your Land” and “Stand By Me.” We chanted. We cried. We cheered. And we vowed to abide by the March’s mission to “work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.”

Fort Thomas resident Lucia Todd marched with three generations, including her mother-in-law and children. Photo provided by Lucia Todd.

Fort Thomas residents Lucia and Peter Todd attended the Washington March with their children, Will (11) and Eleanor (13). They marched with a group that represented three generations and three states—Maine, Maryland and Kentucky, and they wore T-shirts representing Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights, a grassroots organization in Maine of which Peter’s mother is an active member.

Women's March on Washington. Photo provided by Lucia Todd.
Fort Thomas resident Peter Todd. Photo provided by Lucia Todd.


Fort Thomas resident Will Todd (11). Photo provided by Lucia Todd.

“We had to march a long time to get to the rally, which was a positive experience,” Lucia Todd says. “So when it was clear that the march route was already full of people who had gathered, we were OK with it.” She added that everything was orderly and calm.

Fort Thomas resident Kelly Jones on the way to the Women's March on Washington with her mother and aunt. Photo provided by Kelly Jones.

Fort Thomas resident Kelly Jones marched in Washington with her mother and her husband’s 74-year-old aunt. “I could not sit back and watch our country be led by a man who does not respect women, people with disabilities, members of the LGBT community, people of color, immigrants and well, the list of American citizens he has disrespected is too long to list,” she says. “However, this march was about more than simply not agreeing with Donald Trump. This march was about protecting federal rights and human rights of all Americans. I am particularly interested in protecting my children’s access to an equal opportunity for public education. The appointments of Ms. Devos and Senator Sessions concern me, especially as a mother of a child with special needs. Repealing ACA and women’s access to health care concern me greatly. I also worry about all of my LGBT friends and my friends of color. As Americans we need to learn how to love our neighbors well and not just vote with our own interests in mind. So I marched for neighbors, near and far, who could not attend because of financial, childcare or other reasons. I never once took my privilege of attending the march for granted.”


Women's March on Washington.

Jones says she was inspired and awed by the number of Americans who showed up to exercise their democratic rights to express dissent. “As we drove into Washington, D.C., we passed hundreds of cars of fellow marchers,” she says. “We even passed a fellow Fort Thomas Bluebird School mom on the interstate. At a rest stop, I inquired of the 20 or so women in the restroom who was marching and the entire bathroom erupted into cheers.”

Protest signs cover the fence in front of the White House. Photo provided by Kelly Jones.

One of Jones’s favorite parts of the march was when she reached the lawn in front of the White House and saw all the marchers’ signs displayed along the fence. “The messages of unity, solidarity and love for our country overwhelmed me,” she says. “Not to mention the incredible wit and intelligence of my fellow marchers left me humbled to stand alongside such smart and thoughtful women, men and children.”

Kelly Jones says the March in Washington was incredibly polite. Photo provided by Kelly Jones.

Jones is an experienced marcher. “I protested Trump’s victory tour stop in Cincinnati,” she says. “I attended alone, and I have to admit that I was on-guard in fear of potential outbreaks of violence. However, the atmosphere of the Women’s March was something I have never experienced before even though I have marched for gun control with Million Mom, environmental issues regarding the safe disposal of nerve agents in Kentucky, and the removal of the confederate flag from the Capitol building in South Carolina. Everyone cared for one another, sharing snacks, personal space and water. I have never heard more polite manners used in any setting with a crowd of people—and I frequent Bruce Springsteen concerts. People made way for wheelchairs and strollers so to include everyone who wanted to be part of the historic day.”


Women's March in Cincinnati. Photo by Melissa Reed.


Fort Thomas resident Melissa Reed attended the Cincinnati Women’s March, and says she witnessed people of all ages, sizes, races, men, women, families and children. “I don’t think anyone was prepared for just how many people would attend the event, and that was obvious when we poured into and shut the streets down ourselves,” she says. “Police officers were all friendly, especially one female officer who was smiling and blowing her whistle to a happy little tune, cheering us on. There was so much love and kindness around us—it didn’t really feel like a protest as much as it felt like a gathering of love and support. Lots of hope. There were older ladies in pink pussyhats that I just wanted to hug, kids with simple signs about love, reminding us who and what we are really marching for and that the next generations are watching.”


Women's March in Cincinnati. Photo by Melissa Reed.
Women's March in Cincinnati. Photo by Melissa Reed.

Reed adds that she’s proud to have stood up for what she believes in a peaceful, hopeful, positive way along with millions of others across the world. “I will not be silent,” she says. “I will make my voice be heard for myself, for my children, for our community and our future. The march has inspired me—to do more, say more, and act out against hatred and discrimination, and to help make a difference. And above all, to show my children—my daughters—that we are women and we are equal and we will not go down without a (peaceful) fight. I am so honored to have been a part of the largest, and I’m guessing least violent, protest in the history of the United States. Even my son is impressed and proud of his mom for that.”



Women's March in Cincinnati. Photo provided by Mary Lou Keller.


Women's March in Cincinnati. Photo provided by Mary Lou Keller.

Women's March in Cincinnati. Photo provided by Mary Lou Keller.

Women's March in Cincinnati. Photo provided by Mary Lou Keller.

Fort Thomas residents Mary Lou and Chuck Keller also attended the Women’s March in Cincinnati, and echoed Reed’s sentiments that it was peaceful and positive. “I had never participated in anything like this and I came away feeling empowered and inspired after seeing so many people, not just women, families with young children,” Mary Lou Keller says. “It made quite a statement.”

Cincinnati Women's March. Photo by Lexie Crawford.

Lexie Crawford, an 8th grader at Highlands Middle School, attended and interviewed people at the Cincinnati Women’s March, including a University of Cincinnati student, three generations of women and a woman named Irene who said, “I believe in women’s rights. We’ve been denied a lot of things in my time, and I don’t want that now. I’m glad to see everyone else standing up.”

After the rally in Washington, my crew began marching, weaving between side streets and the main route, which was packed full of people. We linked arms when crowded, not wanting to get separated as there was no cell phone service. We knew thousands had showed up but we had no idea of the magnitude of the crowd until looking at aerial shots once home.

After eight hours on our feet we got back on the Metro at Union Station. Upon arriving at Shady Grove—the end of the Red Line—we got off the Metro and listened as the physically tired yet mentally exuberant marchers erupted in cheers. The cheering continued as we rode the escalator down to see the Station Manager, who was wearing her own pink pussyhat, cheering and high-fiving all of us as we exited the station.

And that’s another thing—in addition to the millions of people who marched on Saturday there were another million-plus people who supported those marchers. There was the woman who smiled at us while mopping the floor in the Union Station bathroom. There was my husband who stayed behind in Fort Thomas with our three children, handling a birthday party drop-off and pick-up, volleyball, a pinewood derby race, soccer, a new homemade tomato sauce recipe (that, miraculously, everyone liked) and more, all while juggling unexpected calls from work. There was my friend, Kelley Gallagher, who works in Washington and instead of marching helped coordinate volunteers and welcome people from across the United States, attached to her phone the entire time. There was my father-in-law who provided transportation for us and cooked for us, and my dad who clapped for us upon our return, and my sister and brother who sent messages of support and love.

Women's March on Washington. Photo by Angel Beets.

All of these people were cheering for us at the Shady Grove station and throughout the march, if not in person, in spirit. And these collective cheers were more than celebratory. The loud noise that erupted from the Metro station as we exited was a rallying cry for what’s next, a unified voice of commitment to fight this, fix this and be heard. We all know we have much work to do to create the beautiful, ideal America we all—all—deserve in the days ahead. This march was simply the beginning. And we, in Fort Thomas, Cincinnati, Washington and around the world, are ready to dig in. 
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14 comments:

  1. Biggest group of sore losers to ever assemble!!

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    1. Did you read the article?
      You missed the point.

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    2. Anonymous = Coward

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  2. This was an amazing show of solidarity and love. We should continue to show up for each other. I loved the speaker who said we're also marching for the white women who voted for Trump. We stand up for her rights and the rights of all women. That's solidarity. We're all in the together. Now - let's get some things done, ladies! :)

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  3. Thank you so much for marching! Wonderful article.

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  4. Great article, glad you had a great time with family of leading ladies.

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  5. Proud to see so many people from Ft. Thomas involved! Thanks for sharing these experiences.

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  6. I went to the Cincinnati march and was overwhelmed by a feeling of "you are not alone!" and "your voice matters!"! Such a great vibe of support and love! I look forward to attending and getting involved in future events!

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  7. Very inspiring. Great job everyone!!

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  8. Our group of four (3 from Ft Thomas, 1 from Cincy), was also at the Shady Grove station on Saturday! Great to read about neighbors who also attended this terrific and peaceful event. Can we add our pictures to the story?

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    1. Hi, Karen! If you send them to me at kara.uhl@gmail.com I'll be happy to add a few!

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  9. Great article, thank you for marching.

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  10. This story captured it perfectly. I was at the DC march and was overwhelmed at the feeling of acceptance and community. Everyone reached out to each other. I especially appreciated the part of the story pointing out all the people who supported the march. My husband too "held down the fort" and picked up a lot extra responsibilities so I could attend.

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  11. Just curious, what rights do women not have?. Did something get taken away ?

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