Claudia Parker took this selfie as she joined thousands of people Saturday in the Women’s March at Chicago’s Grant Park. A scheduled 60,000 were supposed to participate, but the crowd was estimated to be closer to 250,000.
News outlets estimated more than 600 organized protests took place worldwide on Saturday, Jan. 21 to unite in solidarity and highlight the many grievances of the American people. These concerns range from women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, pay equality, immigration and religious rights, to name a few.
The Women’s March on Washington was the largest. They had 500,000 people trekking around the National Mall, reportedly more than President Trump’s inauguration, which was estimated by 193,000 transit tickets sold. While official attendance numbers aren’t yet known, numbers were down significantly from President Obama’s 1.8 million attendees in 2009.
I didn’t board a bus for the march in Washington. I drove right down to Grant Park to support my fellow females. At the time of my registration, 60,000 were slated to attend. Perhaps the sunny and 60-degree temperature lured the other 190,000 because 250,000 of us plastered our feet to the streets, grid-locking traffic for hours.
“Silence is no longer acceptable,” said my best friend, Shanett Coleman, of Chicago. “The best way for us to be heard is to unite, and when we do, it enlightens a consciousness for all of our causes.”
I couldn’t agree more. I saw men holding signs that read, “I’m marching for my mom, wife, sister and daughter.” I can still hear “Black Lives Matter” being chanted by a large group of white protesters. There wasn’t a single black person among them. I took a ton of pictures. My favorite is of my daughter, Donae, standing with three black female, uniformed police officers. I posted it to social media with “#BlueLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatter #YoungLivesMatter, @WomensMarchChicago and #StrongerTogether.”
An elderly man I happened to spot packed in the crowd like a sardine took a stance that caused me to ponder. He wobbled as he walked, his balance supported by a cane on one side and female companion on the other. I’d climbed above the sea of people to stand on a 15-foot concrete embankment. “God Bless you Sir, thank you for being here,” I yelled to him with a smile. His response caught me off guard. He stopped, turned back to look at me and spewed a rebuke. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years, 50! What have YOU been doing?”
Shanett, seeing the “huh?” expression on my face quickly redirected the awkward exchange. “We’re right behind you sir, we’re following your lead.”
“What’s his deal” I wondered? I was paying him a compliment and he chewed me out! Hmmm. What have I been doing? Apparently, not enough!
Critics of these women’s marches say, “Your efforts might have been better served before November. What’s the point of all this now? It’s too late!” To them I say, don’t underestimate the power of women. If we can launch a movement of 2.5 million protesters globally…what else might we be able to accomplish?
The objective isn’t to remove the current administration. Well, for some it might be, but that will probably take four years. I’m thinking more along the lines of using our energy to impart our ideology and ideas within the fabric of this administration so that it reflects the interests of all people.
When I have a third-grader saying, “Mom, I want to march to protect our life from crime, I want the guns gone.” That’s enlightening, she’s paying attention. Or when she asked, “Is Donald Trump going to send my friends back to Mexico?” These kids are American citizens but because of their ethnicity, they believe they are at risk to be targeted unfairly and have expressed this to her.
When I was 9 years old, I couldn’t have expounded on any issues regarding the presidency or politics, period. My bright and beautiful daughter is light years ahead of where I was. I suppose that’s why ‘Mr. Elderly Man’ struck a chord when he asked, “What have YOU been doing?”
I’ve been doing the minimum: I vote.
Voting is a start, but if we really want to evoke change we need to get to know our legislators like we do our neighbors. I’ve had the privilege of meeting my Illinois state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) and Evergreen Park state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th). Local government helped me restore Respite Care service for my cognitively disabled daughter when funding was cut.
As constituents, we have power that’s underutilized. Our elected officials are put in office to help fulfill the needs of the people. Let’s not bypass them on our way to the next March. Invite them to the party. Share your ideas and your concerns. Contrary to negative political perception, most of them really do want to help. Who knows, they just might be able to save us a little tread on our marching shoes.