I Attended the Woman's March in NYC - Here's What I Took From It

I wouldn’t consider myself a person that enjoys dabbling in controversial topics.

I may feel a certain way privately, but rarely do I scream my opinions from the rooftop. However, this year is different. I took up a new responsibility, a notable one: I became the Co-News Director at WMSC, Montclair State's radio station. So. while I may not be screaming my opinions from the rooftops, it would require me to be around people who were.

I love the news, it’s always changing and I love bringing light onto topics that aren't normally covered. So given that, I often find myself covering topics I wouldn’t normally feel comfortable with.

A week or two before the Presidential Inauguration, the general manager of our station said she needed coverage in New York City for the Woman’s March. I didn’t know much about it besides the fact that it was a march, but I am a woman (and one of color at that) so the journalistic part of me knew that if anything, my questions could stem from there. It was crucial that I got this coverage, so I started looking up background information: what was it about? When did it start? I just wanted to be informed about what I was walking into - literally.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I’d be in the city amongst thousands of women that had a story to share, and that excited me.Or so I thought.

Fast-forward to the day before the march: It’s an hour or two after the Presidential Inauguration, and I was watching the public react to Donald Trump officially becoming our 45th president. People were angry, property was being destroyed and it didn’t seem to be cooling down.

My friends and I were gathered around the computer screen, watching this, at the radio station. We were especially intrigued because our GM was going to be part of the Women’s March in Washington D.C the next day, but there was a sudden shift. When she saw this, her light-hearted advice to “have fun” changed dramatically.

I would say our GM is a veteran to chaotic news coverage, and because of this, she gave me some scary preparation advice:

  • Wear big glasses (in case there’s tear gas).
  • Put Mylanta and water in a water bottle in case it gets in your eyes.
  • Bring mace.
  • Wear your press tags.
  • Write an emergency contact on your arm.

So there I was, a day before the march, with the worst thoughts there could possibly be going through my mind. I almost didn’t want to go, I slept on it (4 hours worth) and made my way to the train station the next morning. I bought breakfast and sat down on the bench and listened to some music. I was interrupted, though, by three elderly women dressed snuggly, who asked if I was press because they had something they wanted to say.

I took my headphones out and walked up to them. “Of course!” I told them.

I sat down with one, Jackie, a New Orleans native. She referred to the Women’s March commute as a mission and told she was there with “generations of women,” of which she was the oldest. She is 70 years old. I sat and conversed with her and her “generations of women” until our train came. In which she invited me to follow them because they all came for different reasons.

As we split up on the train, I looked around at diverse crowds filling the aisles; people of all ages, races, and places. It was beautiful. And when I asked whoever I encountered, “Are you going to the Women’s March?” they all answered yes. I didn’t notice at the time, but everything I worried about the night before was out the window. I didn’t feel like I would be in danger but rather that I would be in good company.

The train stopped, and we all spill out. I caught up with my crew, who now adopted a middle–aged man that they wanted me to interview.

I talked with another woman of Jackie’s crew. Her name was Marie, she called herself the “Jazz Woman.” She was very passionate about the arts, and when I told her I came to the city by myself she stood back and asked:

“Are you truly by yourself right now? You’re with a gang of empowered women by the arts, you are one of us.”

I was in awe. Then I thought to myself, this is what this march is all about: unity, that unspoken connection that all of us women have to each other. It made things seem less ugly, even if it was just for a little while.

She continued, breaking into song: “And on your darkest day, don’t let no-body, turn ya ‘round, turn ya ‘rounnnd! Keep doing your thing!”

We were getting closer to our check-in point and found ourselves surrounded by a sea of pink and homemade signs. It was amazing, so much so that I lost my crew in the midst of it all. There were people everywhere, from everywhere! I had to be the best multimedia journalist there could be: I was snapping photos and interviewing people as quick as I could.

I told myself that I’d stay on the side of the crowd to be safe, but the more stories I heard, the more people I met, I found myself in the center of the crowd. I couldn’t help but think about how many untold stories were marching in this crowd. I met dozens of people from all over the country, who were elated to have me interview them.

I met Sheryl, who was parading around a 20-year-old painting from when she marched in Washington D.C, “And here I am again, marching for Women’s rights.”

I met Marquan, a high-school teacher who brought his male students “because women’s issues are our issues, and they will grow to be father’s to daughters, and husbands to wives.”

I met a family, who let their 10-year-old son speak so eloquently about how he was attending in support of all the communities that he felt Donald Trump is attacking.

I met Holly, who flew from Seattle to march with her daughter.

I met a tiny Zooey, who held her hand-drawn “Girl Power” sign with pride as she rode on her dad’s shoulders.

I met Abelia, who told me she’s been marching since the 60’s, who doesn’t agree with Trump, but will “resist nonviolently.”

There it was, the phrase that made all of the difference. Despite what I saw on the news prior to attending this March, I realized the closest that I could get to danger was a paper cut from a sign. It appeared to be such a dark day before: chaos, misplaced anger on the streets. But then there I was, in New York in a crowd of thousands, feeling more love than ever, from a complete sea of strangers.

I had an unexplainable connection with them.

I admired them for their courage, their ability to put their creative thoughts and needs onto paper. They thought out loud. They were effective and clear. They were informed and present. I envied how organized they were, how uniform they were in action, how assertive their chants were when they spoke. Even if you didn’t want to, you heard them and you saw them. 

I was surrounded by them, and I admired them.

Then I remembered what Marie, “The Jazz Woman” told me: I was one of them. One of those assertive, courageous, “inner city,” “nasty” women.

And I am proud of it.