‘I was there’: An MTSU student’s account of the Women’s March on Washington

Story and photo by Lexi Marshall / Contributing Writer

Half a million women and men from across the United States and around the world marched in Washington D.C. on Saturday to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump and to advocate a feminist platform.

I was there.

I, along with three others, left MTSU’s campus at 5 a.m. Friday in my cousin’s cramped compact Honda, driving nearly 11 hours to Germantown, Maryland where we had arranged to spend the night in the home of a woman, a total stranger to us, who opened her house to march participants.

That woman is a friend now. She is one of many new people I met in the course of a weekend that inspired me, challenged me, changed me.

On Saturday, actress America Ferrera opened the rally on Independence Avenue with a powerful speech. When she said the president is not America, but “We are America, and we are here to stay,” the crowd of half a million roared. I felt bonded to the strangers around me. It was the first time of many on that day that I felt like I was part of something so much larger than myself.

Speakers came from across the country to spread messages against sexism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of social injustice.  These issues are intertwined, speakers noted; one cannot be separated from the others. Personally, I heard from women of every color and background and men who stood in solidarity with the cause.

The final performance I saw before the march through D.C. began was unforgettable. The mothers of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin, two black men whose deaths fueled the Black Lives Matter movement, sang on stage with artist Janelle Monet in a call and response. The mothers shouted the names of their dead sons to which the crowd called out, “Say his name.” It was powerful and painful and beautiful. I was reminded that this movement was not just about me or just women. It was about all of us.

As the mass shuffled at a snail’s pace through the march route, I was confused and somewhat frustrated. I wanted to mobilize, not just stand around. Then I read CNN updates that our march had shut down traffic in downtown D.C.; I realized that the crowd was much larger than I had originally thought. After over an hour of tiptoeing with intermittent chants and amusing protest signs, we came to an area squarely between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol Building.

Soon the march route was blocked off as our permit was expiring, but the crowd didn’t return home. We dispersed throughout the streets of the city, populating Pennsylvania Avenue with pink hats and picket signs. After standing for hours in a crowded huddle, walking freely through the streets was a relief.

On Constitution Avenue, I saw the words of the First Amendment inscribed on the side of the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the impact of the press on democracy. The bustle of demonstrators all around me disappeared for a moment. It was a transcendent moment for this journalism major. It was surreal, knowing that what I’d seen would be part of history, and I was bearing witness.

I was there.

On the long drive home Saturday night, I reflected on what I had seen, what would stick with me and what would fade into foggy memories. I was hungry, exhausted, but also on fire for my cause.

One thought kept churning in my mind. It’s something the crowd chanted often during the course of the afternoon: “This is what democracy looks like.”

It looked wild and loud and greater than the lives of the individuals who had come to form it. I felt the spirit of democracy in action, and it has made its mark on me, just I have made my mark on history.

This is an opinion, written from the perspective of the writer and does not reflect the views of Sidelines or MTSU.

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