This past weekend, I was supposed to go on a sponsored trip with my family out of the country. It had been planned for months and plane tickets were booked. But as the day drew closer, I grew more conflicted about it and I decided to back out. I was scared to tell the sponsor because a contract had been signed and I was nervous to tell my husband because he was really excited for the trip.
But everyone understood. This weekend was not a normal weekend and we could not proceed as normal.
On the day of inauguration, watching Trump’s speech live with my co-workers in the office, I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach. I felt sad and frightened and I knew I needed to be around other people who felt sad and frightened too. I knew I had made the right choice to stay home.
Like millions of women, men and children across the country and around the world (3.3 million and counting!), I marched this past Saturday. I marched in NYC with about 400K people, almost as large as the march in DC.
I considered bringing Mazzy but was unsure whether she would appreciate the experience or whether I felt safe doing so. Ultimately, I gave her the choice. That morning, we turned on the television and watched the crowds form. The news had a split screen of DC, NY, Boston and Chicago and I could tell in Mazzy’s face that it all felt a little unsettling. “Can I stay home with Daddy and watch it on your Snapchat?” she asked. “Of course,” I responded, both disappointed and relieved. If you were watching my Snapchat of the March this past weekend, that wasn’t just for my followers, that was for Mazzy too.
I didn’t bring a sign or come with a huge group of people. I wasn’t prepared with a homemade cap or a chant. I just wanted to be present. When I was looking for what to wear that day, I couldn’t find anything pink and cursed myself for not being more organized. Then I realized I could find plenty of pink in Mazzy’s closet. Her hat and scarf fit perfectly. I went with my friend Emily, Emily’s mom Phyllis and my friend Lucy who came with her husband and their kids. We had pre-registered a few days before and got a time of 3pm (they were staggering start times), but aimed to get there at 2pm to find each other and scope out the scene. With a late start time, I was a little worried we would miss it. Oh, how naive I was then.
From the second I left my apartment in my pink hat, it was obvious there was energy in the air. People knew where I was going and I felt nods of approval as I walked down the street, passing others in pink or carrying hastily written signs by their sides. People who had obviously planned to go from the beginning and others who seemed more like they were compelled to go once it started.
The subway was packed. We waited as two full trains didn’t even stop to let more people in, before a third train arrived empty, seemingly just for us. Then we traveled uptown as the train became more and more packed at each stop. By the time we arrived at 51st Street, a massive wave of people exited together.
When we emerged from the subway, we saw hundreds of people marching west, all with signs held high. My friends and I were confused because we were several blocks away from the official start point.
“Did they reroute the march?” I asked someone passing by.
“No, there were so many people on 2nd ave. that no one was moving, so we decided to find a better spot to enter.”
My friends and I decided to make our way down to 2nd avenue anyway. The crowd was mostly at a stand still but it gave us time to take it in. We climbed scaffolding to get a good look and took pictures of people proudly holding up their homemade signs.
Although there were plenty of signs for women’s rights, there were signs for so many other things as well— black lives matter, gay pride, climate change, democracy, free press, immigration, public education, protection of our land and the list went on.
Yes, the people marching were angry with Trump and our new administration (as am I) but what I heard people chanting was more about what we are “for” than what we are “against.”
The march down 2nd ave was actually pretty quiet. It was packed with people (lots of women, but many men too, of all ages and ethnicities) but moved slowly and talked amongst themselves. Every once in awhile, there was a groundswell of cheers and a chant, but mostly, we were just admiring how such a diverse crowd had all come to be there together.
Then we hit 42nd Street and everything changed. As we turned down New York City’s most iconic street, you could suddenly see how massive the march was and how long it stretched. The crowd came alive in that moment and I think the fact that we were making history dawned on everyone. “This is what democracy looks like!” the crowd chanted.
We passed my old office building, where I had a job in my twenties. It is directly across the street from Mike’s old office building, where we worked at the same time, although only met years later. We both spent ten years of our lives going to work daily on that block. I took a 360 video of my location and texted it to Mike. “Look familiar?” it said. “Wow,” Mike texted back. We had never seen anything like this.
As we walked west on 42nd St, towards 5th ave where the march would turn again, it only gained momentum. The most amazing moment was when we hit Grand Central Station at about 5pm. It was twilight and all the lights has just been turned on, but the sky was still bright. It was magic hour, every photographer’s favorite time of day, and it felt like we hit the monumental moment of the march at exactly the right time. I’m not sure if everyone can understand what it felt like to have such a large crowd blocking the most trafficked area in Manhattan (not an area that the city would ever hold a parade), but there we were.
People were pouring out of Grand Central (as the always do) and being confronted with the march, even if they came into the city for other purposes. Cops and protest volunteers were gathered along the sidelines, smiling and greeting people like this was their day too. Behind me, a cop opened a barricade to let two women in. “Thank you, officer,” they said cheerily. “No, thank YOU,” he responded.
There is a small bridge that goes over 42nd Street and around Grand Central Station. Pedestrians are typically not allowed on it so it was quite a spectacle to see the people lined from one end to the other, across 42nd and up around the building, chanting to us, as we chanted back while heading underneath. “Tell me what democracy looks like!” the people on the bridge shouted. “This is what democracy looks like,” the crowd shouted back. It was a big, disruptive, energy filled moment and it is a feeling I hope I remember for the rest of my life.
When we reached the other side of the bridge, I turned around and saw Princess Leia marching toward me. Then a second Princess Leia rose. Up ahead a marching band started to play. It was celebratory and fantastic. The band was about fifty feet in front of us and my friend and I might have shimmied through a few people to catch up to them.
It was a band called the Hungry Marching Band and I have heard them play many times before. Back in twenties (and the might still do this now), they used to play late at night on the streets of the East Village. You’d be coming home from a bar at 3am when all of sudden you’d hear a tuba and trombone and an entire band turning a corner with late night revelers following behind like they were the Pied Piper. Every time I bumped into the band, it felt like I was witnessing something special. A quintessential downtown New York moment. It was always a sign of a good night. It felt so special to me that I got to march up 5th Avenue and complete the march behind them.
The day grew dark and the crowd only got bigger as we continued to march up past Rockefeller Center. “My body, my choice!” women yelled. “Her body, her choice,” the men in the crowd echoed back.
Then we marched straight up to 57th St. where Trump Tower loomed in the distance, a black glass building with barely any lights turned on. Trump wasn’t home, of course, and all the residents were either hiding or out there with us, but that’s the best thing about marching in this day and age. You don’t have to be there to see it. We know Trump was watching.
Say what you want about what Saturday’s march meant, but for me, it was exactly what I needed. It was therapeutic, it was inspiring, and it motivated me to think about what I will do next. On Saturday, I was not sad or frightened. I felt hopeful and powerful. It was exactly what I needed to move forward. Not “move forward” in the way that people say when they suggest we should “get over it” and “move on,” but move forward in a way that felt like together it’s possible to create real change.
I posted all day on Snapchat and Instagram and at some point, someone messaged me and said, “I can’t wait to read your recap on your blog.” Oh right, I thought. I will probably do a recap, which means there will be one more opportunity for my readers to support and criticize my stance.
It’s not easy posting about the current state of politics, especially if you have a large social media following that does not all agree. Like most social influencers, I don’t want to lose followers and I don’t like when comment sections under my posts get ugly, but I’ve come to understand that if that’s my sacrifice for getting the word out there, it’s a very small one to make.
I am so proud of my city. Of all the cities that marched peacefully on Saturday. I just hope the groundswell continues and that all the activists who marched, no matter their main cause, whether they have been doing this for years or they marched for the first time (like me), continue to work together for one common goal.
For those of you who want to know what’s next, here’s a link to the Women’s March official site where they have listed 10 Actions for the 1st 100 Days of Trump’s Presidency. Pretty smart of them making everyone register and getting that email list, huh?
Did I mention I was up for a Shorty Award??!! Vote for me here.