It was a January day in 2017. The day after I found out that I was pregnant with my second child. My second daughter. My Bailey. I woke up early, packed snacks, dressed in layers, charged my cell phone and headed into DC, joining hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children to attend the Women’s March.
Like so many others, I felt a sense of rage and outrage, disgust and disbelief that we were waking up to a country that had just inaugurated Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America.
But on that day, the day after the inauguration, the day of the march, there was a feeing of unity and power. Women were gathering and as the second wave saying goes: The sisterhood is powerful.
I wanted to get there early to get a prime spot. I wanted to be as close to Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis as I could. These two women taught me the meaning of feminism and the long overdue necessity of it being intersectional or not at all.
As the speeches rolled by and the crowds chanted, and the energy blossomed, mine started to wane. I had packed snacks, and I had already eaten through most of them. I checked my watch, and the actual marching of this event was set to start in 45 minutes. Perfect, I thought. Along the route I will find somewhere to quick duck into and grab more food.
Well, what I and many of the event organizers and attendees did not plan for was the massive amount of people that were going to show up. Obviously, a good problem to have, unless you are pregnant and morning sickness, hunger, and nausea has already set in.
I tried to make my way through the solid crowd on the corner of Independence and 4th by Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory. I knew there was a food court inside. Unfortunately, the side of the block I was on was the back entrance and the door was blocked by police. Marchers could only enter through the front, and from the sheer size of the crowd, there was no way I was going to be able to make it around to the other side until the marching began.
So, I found a little corner, somewhat blocked from the cold January day, and sat; it at least helped some of the nausea. I was just going to have to wait it out until we all could move.
Other people tried to get in through the same door I had, and a pair of young women even pleaded with the two officers who were standing there to let them through because they had a flight to catch and they had tried to go around the other way to get out of the crowd, but to no avail. The officers did not budge.
I sat. I waited. I ate my last snack.
I tried texting people I knew who were at the march, but service was so overloaded, and no texts were going out. Even if I could contact someone, there was no way we would be able to get to one another.
I sat, and I waited some more
The time that was on the schedule for the march to start passed, and then the next hour and the next. No one was moving because no one could.
Then, from the back door, the one no one was allowed to go in, a woman came out. She was a worker from McDonalds, swamped by the crowd that was coming through the front entrance, and she was taking her break out back. She looked in my direction and we made eye contact for a brief moment before she glanced beyond me to the crowd.
I don’t know what made her look back to me or ask me if I was alright. Perhaps I had that tell tale look of morning sickness on my face. And though I had not even told anyone in my family yet, I told this woman that I was pregnant and just feeling incredibly nauseous and how no one could move yet because of the enormity of the crowd so I couldn’t get food. She gave a few nods, and then returned through the back door, presumably to finish out her shift at McDonalds.
Several minutes rolled by, and as I looked out at the still stationary crowd, I smelled that distinctive heavenly sent that is McDonald’s French fries. I was obviously hallucinating at this point.
But no. The woman had returned through the back entrance and handed me a happy meal. I think I might have cried, and when I tried to give her money for the food, she refused. She just motioned out to the crowd and said she heard things were going to get moving soon, “We have a lot of marching to do, momma,” she smiled, and went back to work.
That happy meal might have been the best food I have ever eaten, sitting against a wall on a cold January morning in DC waiting to march against what would only be the start of the tyranny of the Trump administration.
Things did get moving, eventually, and I was finally able to make my way through the crowd as Madonna sang ‘Express Yourself’ on the main stage.
I did get to hear the speeches from the women I have come to admire throughout my life and academic studies, but the real lesson I learned that day, the lesson that helped me finish out the march and continue it, in all manner of ways, for the years and tragedies that have followed is that the sisterhood, feminism, activism, and advocacy are giving people what they need when they need it.
So, to my Black sister that handed me a happy meal on that day, what do you need from me now?
And to my fellow white feminists, this is our time to prove our ally-ship. To prove we have learned the lessons from past mistakes of previous waves of feminism. To show up and shut up. To pass the platform and just listen. If we are asked to take a seat or take a stand, to make a donation or make dinner, we do it.
For far too long the powers that be have tried to divide us. To divide us along lines of gender and race and orientation to keep us in our separate corners. They do this because they know what I believe: The sisterhood is still powerful.
Guest Blog Post from Jessica Berg, VP Loudoun County NOW