It was an exceptionally stormy Monday after the march when I found myself with sopping feet pacing through the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum itself was full of the triumphs of African Americans across the span of history. The top floor was adorned with artifacts of garments, pottery, art, music and film. The design was beautiful in the way one feels tiny amongst the grandiosity of accomplishments. Memories of George Clinton, Bootsie Collins, Michael Jackson and so many more engulfed the space.
In the concourse there was an immersive exhibit called "Journey to Freedom" where auction stones and shackles of the slave era and memorabilia of the civil rights movement submerged visitors in the darkest times of African American history. I saw a booth where guests can share an experience around how race affects him or her on a daily basis. I stepped into the silent, evenly lit sanctuary and closed the frosted glass behind me. In my moment of confession my priest was a piece glass with a blinking arrow labeled "look here”, and I watched the 2 minute timer tick down as the words hung on my breath. What was supposed to be some profound speech of whiteness and race seemed dissolve before the muscles in my tongue could catch hold and make it audible. Instead my mind was filled with those that marched on the Mall of Washington across history so many times, but while I marched for what I believe is right, so many before me marched for what was necessary, for love, for a voice, to matter: all of the same freedoms I enjoy daily.
Two days prior the women of the world assembled on the streets of D.C. and on every continent once again, and again the message was one of solidarity. "We are here. We are exceptional. We are equal. We are free. We will not surrender." Three million women's voices around the country stood and told those watching, and yes, everyone was watching, that they will not be victims of a man's world, that their power is boundless and their conviction limitless.
I stood with my mother, an undisputed champion of women, a defender of the powerless and victimized. She knows too well that sting of the hand of misogyny across her womanhood, and is unable to allow another to feel the way she has in the past. The evening she called to tell me she was marching on Washington my face got hot, my eyes glossy, and I knew that I had to be there for her, with her to let her know that I would not be the face of the hand that fed her self doubt, mistrust, and abuse for so much of her life.
On that Saturday I stood with her on the streets of the capital to say that I am not afraid. I am not afraid to stand beside, in front and behind every woman as my equal, not as a supplement to my power. I am not afraid to say that it is time to cease to believe that they are not as smart as us, not as rational as us, not as deserving as us. I am not afraid of the fall of men because it is not a fall but in fact it is a victory for us all; that our mothers, our nurtures, the givers of power, the reason each of us men exist on this planet are the secret to progress when we hold them on high and worship the beauty of the talents only the feminine possess. I was not in Washington to march for my freedom. I can never know what that feels like. I build stages with my camera and my words. The megaphone belongs to others.
It had been a full minute of me staring into the glass, "look here" still blinking. I pressed the cancel button, pushed my chair back from the booth and thought for a minute about what it means to be a white man in America, then I left and continued through the exhibit resting for a minute in front of a video of Obama's presidency and a tear came to my eye. The march on Saturday as those marches before are to echo the constant cry of equality, never to stop until the last person is free.
During my journey, I had the pleasure of sharing some time with the marvelous women that marched. Here's what they had to say.
Nicole - "My vision for the future of women is to keep track of what we lose and get it back, to get even more. We can never go back."
Kimberlee - "We are better than this. I need to be the good in the world. I need to raise my children to be good."
Martha and Alice - "This not right not normal, and we want it on the record."
Sheila - "The masses will prevail as long as they speak up."
Erin - "I felt like I had to come to stand with everyone. I came for racial reconciliation and social justice and the future of my 2 kids."
Kelly - “Climate change is real and we need to act now!"
Stephanie - "tired of feeling oppressed as a woman. Im hoping by coming here that it will show the world that it's not okay to treat women like this. People are listening."
Lauren - "I march because we have so much more work to do to ensure that we build an intersectional feminist movement - one that recognizes and values the diverse experiences of those affected by the inequality in our country. The fact is that white women elected Trump. We have a responsibility to ensure that as much as we are standing in solidarity, we are also doing the hard work of engaging in conversation with those who think differently than us. This march is just the beginning - the fight doesn't end here."
Catherine - "I went expecting to stand up for women's rights and equal rights, and that happened, but I was surprised by how much I got back from participating. It was really healing for me. I felt so isolated after the election and this made me realize that I'm not alone."