Huddled in a tight pack with barely enough space for my roommate to maneuver her crutches, we slowly march forward to the State House amidst chants and cheers from fellow protesters. The air is cold and damp, but the atmosphere is charged and the crowd is buzzing with electricity. On January 21, 2017, one day after the 45th president of the United States of America was sworn into office, I marched in solidarity with people of all colors, genders, backgrounds, and ages, who represented a range of ideas all concurrent to one: equality. The equality of sexes, the equality of colors, and the equality of expression. All of these thoughts were expressed through handmade signs readings anything from “Love Trumps Hate” to “Marching Forward, Not Backward” and “Patriarchy is for Dicks.”
We walk down State Street of Montpelier—Vermont’s capital city—from the high school, to the State House. In that moment, you can describe anything and everything—all those feelings and expressions—in exactly the way you want to. It’s only after that you struggle to find the right words to convey these emotions. Once I got over the awe of being able to attend my state’s Women’s March and being a part of not only history in the making, but also current events that affect me and those in my community, I was filled with gratitude toward the people I was marching with for believing in a better future, and those marching around the globe for progress, compassion, and the belief that hope has the power to change hearts.
Of all the memorable snapshots and moments from the march, several stood out. When we had gathered in front of the high school and milled about waiting to march, I saw a woman wearing a worn pink snow suit with a handwritten poem across the backs of the pants. Titled “No Difference” by Shel Silverstein, the third stanza read:
Red, black or orange,
Yellow or white,
We all look the same
When we turn off the light.
Another striking moment was when Madeleine Kunin, the first female governor of Vermont spoke empowering words about courage, equality, and perseverance in the face of regression. She ended her speech with the first stanza of a poem as well, but one by Emily Dickinson, titled “Hope.”
Hope is a thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
Wherever you looked during the march, people used words. They were used verbally, but more often written. They used poetry, posters, and political slogans to express their beliefs and to share a common sense of humanity. In all directions, you could see singular coping mechanisms and ideas, but when they were put together, they merged into a community’s collective experience. This, more than anything, was what filled me with a sense of inspiration; we all came here because we share certain values and care enough about them that they brought us together in mutual support of each other and to spread our voices as far as we possibly could.
The landmark moment was when Vermont’s own finger-pointing, saggy-suit-wearing, tousled-white-haired political revolutionist Bernie Sanders spoke to all who’d gathered at the march. How do you really and truly describe a man like Bernie, someone who is as close to a deity that we can get on planet earth? Standing in the cold air on hard-packed snow and ice in front of the dully gleaming dome of the state house listening to the masses chanting Bernie’s name is the closest I’ve felt to being a part of something bigger than myself.
This experience will be well-documented by technology and the millions and millions of people who attended sister marches all across the globe, but none will be the same experience as mine. One that is unforgettable and uniquely inspiring and that I know will resonate within me forever. A memory that is mine, but shared by countless others, yet all completely different. I am so glad to be able to say that I had the honor to attend this unprecedented march. A march with messages that will be looked back on forever.