by Kara UhlOn an unseasonably warm Saturday morning in January more than a million women and men gathered around the world to participate in what’s being hailed as the largest peaceful protest march in United States history. First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati was well represented, both in Washington and Cincinnati.
For some, like myself, the journey was relatively easy: about 20 total hours of driving in a packed minivan with my mom, mother-in-law and dear friends (including fellow First Church member Jana Albritton). We had warm beds and home-cooked meals at my in-law’s house in Reisterstown, Md. Many of us had support back home—husbands handling all family matters easily, my dad (fellow First Church member Gary Gebhart) cheering us as we drove away. My father-in-law provided transportation for all of us to and from the Shady Grove Metro station. Our pockets were stuffed with energy bars, our bodies with intent, purpose and pride.
But my experience was mine alone. Every person who marched, whether in Cincinnati or Washington, had deeply personal experiences, interactions and reactions, although we all held the March’s mission in our hearts: “to work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.”
Take First Church member Michele Wright, who made a difficult, last-minute decision. Her mom was in home hospice, and only had a few more days left.
“It was a life-changing experience I will always treasure. I’ve never been part of something this big and probably never will. Half the time you couldn’t move and just had to wait for a chance to slowly move the direction you wanted to go in. Everyone was so kind and helpful. It was exhilarating to be surrounded by passionate people of every background who share the common ideal of love for everyone.
“I told my mom all about it when I got back on Sunday. I don’t know if she could hear me, but I’d like to think she did. Life and liberty are precious. Hold on to those you love and fight for their freedoms when you get the chance.”
Wright’s mom passed away two days later.
Here we share, in words and images, our congregation’s personal journeys. And for all of us, the setting of the sun on January 21 didn’t signify the end of the March. As my crew arrived at the Shady Grove station, the end of the Red Line, after eight-plus hours on our feet, we got off the Metro and listened as the physically tired yet mentally exuberant marchers erupted in cheers. The cheering continued as we rode the escalator down to see the Station Manager, who was wearing her own pink pussyhat, cheering and high-fiving all of us as we exited the station. The collective cheers were more than celebratory. The loud noise that erupted from the Metro station as we exited was a rallying cry for what’s next, a unified voice of commitment to fight this, fix this and be heard. We all know we have much work to do to create the beautiful, ideal America we all—all—deserve in the days ahead. This march was simply the beginning. And we, at First Unitarian Church in Cincinnati, are ready to dig in.
Here are our pictures, and our words.
Through the Lens of Lyn Martin
If I had known in advance that participating in the Women’s March in Washington D.C. would involve standing in one place with no room to move or even stretch for seven hours straight, there is no way I would have signed up to go. Boy am I glad I didn’t know that would happen — because had I stayed at home, I would have missed one of the most uplifting and memorable experiences of my life. I have been despairing since the election that all the values I hold dear seem to be under attack. I went to D.C., not to protest President Trump, but to stand up (literally!) for these values — values that are reflected in the seven principles that guide our Unitarian Universalist faith. Finding that a half million people in D.C. alone, and an estimated 5 million people worldwide, share these values, gave me great hope. It’s a feeling I experience every Sunday at First Church — the feeling of being surrounded and supported by people who believe in the “inherent worth and dignity of every person” and are willing to act on this belief.
Our location at the intersection of 4th Street and Independence Ave. was a perfect vantage point to see and hear the many, many inspiring speakers at the rally. But after standing for seven hours without moving, everyone was eager to march. It was exhilarating to parade down Pennsylvania Ave. with thousands of other people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and abilities. And then, I had the unforgettable experience of ending the day at the historic All Souls Unitarian Church in D.C. for a “solidarity sing” by candlelight. We rehearsed and performed the song “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen. The chorus includes the words “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Our democracy is experiencing many cracks right now. As it appears that our new leadership plans to focus our country inward and build walls to the outside world, let’s hope there are opportunities to let in the “light” of our UU values and that we never back down from “standing on the side of love.”
Through the Lens of Mary Lutz
Through the Lens of Rozy Parks
I’m not really a protesting type of person, so I wasn’t sure I was going to attend the Women’s March. I had been planning to attend my daughter’s gymnastics meet that Saturday. And yet, every day hearing the news on NPR, I heard more and more that made me feel like I needed to support this march, this protest, this “yawp” — to quote Dr. Seuss — for the rights of those who have traditionally been overlooked, defenseless, and who, standing together, would be stronger.
And, yes, I felt frustration and anger at the fact that I would have to call Donald Trump “President” — this small-minded, boorish, unintellectual curious man. I was angry and wanted to be with others who are similarly concerned about the future of our country (in the next four years and beyond) falling to those who seemingly no longer care for integrity, honor or class in a President. So, I did march, in part, out of anger. I think it’s generally better to protest in favor of something and not against something, but I’m only human.
So I weighed the benefits and risks and realized that there was little to no risk of missing one gymnastics meet to attend the march, and there was great benefit to me to feel solidarity with like-minded people that I knew would do things in a non-violent and positive way. Plus, I figured that my children would later on see this as one positive example of ways to stand up for things they believe in.
(I did have a very small concern that something troubling might happen at the march, but I put that away right away when I was walking towards Washington Park that morning and saw all the supporters, men and women and children, with smiles on their faces and some with whimsical outfits and funny signs.)
My 13-year-old son, Park, came with me mandatorily, and I figured this would be a good learning experience for him. He came willingly after I told him that he had no choice.
I was pleased to be there with so many UUs from my church, and pleased that the primary driver of the march — at least not in the way the speakers were presented, and what was said — was not anti-Trumpism, but positive and supportive energy towards the various groups that Trump has disavowed, insulted, and offended during his campaign. In particular, the call to action by Aftab Pureval, Clerk of Courts, to run for public office, echoed similar sentiments of the current Ohio Democratic Party Chair, David Pepper, at an event I attended in my neighborhood last year. David had said that it’s at the local level that we experience politics, and having strong candidates and elected officials at the local levels is as important as having strong voices of integrity at the national level.
Although this did not convince me to run for public office, it made me realize that I have to be more knowledgeable about the votes of my political representatives, and it’s partly my responsibility to keep them accountable for their votes. I’m working on how to do that consistently and in a way that fits into my busy schedule.
I really hope this post-rally high and energy I’m feeling doesn’t fade like my typical new year’s resolution. Somehow this feeling of threats to my UU values feels very real to me right now, and I must not remain silent.
I couldn’t walk even in the march downtown Cincinnati so to join the march there, I took my 15-minute daily walk in Drake Park. When I came back I mentioned this to a neighbor who was doing her physical therapy in the hall of our condo. She said she would join the march also.
Through the Lens of Janet Schenk
Through the Lens of Barb Rider
It was the experience of a lifetime. I have never experienced so much energy and togetherness in such a large crowd of people. I was especially impressed with my wife, Janet, and thousands of others like her who participated in an event like this for the first time ever. They apparently felt called to do something positive for our nation and for all of its people, especially women.
Through the Lens of Dan Schneider
My Women’s March experience in Washington gives me hope for our nation and our world at a challenging time in our history. It was an honor to stand on the side of love with so many others, particularly so many of my fellow Unitarian Universalists.
Through the Lens of Linda Miltner
Saturday was a great day in America. I attended the march because women's rights are human rights and because I want our leaders in Congress and the executive branch to know this: We. Are. Watching. You.
Through the Lens of Laura Hobbs
And I most certainly was not and am not alone. I witnessed a coalition formed from a wide array of interest groups: women, men, people of color, LGBTQ, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Christians, vets and many others. It made me feel ... relieved, I guess, that we have so many allies in the struggle for justice. We all want what’s best for America. We all want to preserve our human rights.
There are a couple of things that I think may not have been adequately reported or portrayed.
There were not as many negative people as you might think. I keep hearing it described as an anti-Trump protest. There was some of that, sure. But the really nasty stuff was not well received by other marchers, especially those who brought their young teen girls.
It was far more of “we are speaking up and standing up for our rights” and “don’t take us backwards” and “you have no right to control my body.” I saw some really creative and clever signs. They feature prominently in the photos I posted in an album on the First Church Facebook page.
The most popular chant around me was a call and response of “Tell me what democracy looks like, THIS is what democracy looks like.” I think that sums the whole thing up very well for me.
Because cell service was jammed and spotty, I was very limited in what I could post from D.C. and was not even able to communicate with other marchers I knew were there. My phone was less useful than I would like. I also had battery issues. I was sorry we from First Church couldn’t communicate and meet up with each other. I did find the UU “meetup” point, and it was lovely to see all the Standing on the Side of Love signs from so many different places. I think a lot of UUs feel isolated and outnumbered in an evangelical-leaning Christian world, and it’s great to go to something like the march where a lot of UUs are gathered and know “THESE are my people!”
I’m also a little mad at the organizers for the program preceding the march that most of you saw on TV, Facebook and elsewhere. I don’t think the celebrity lineup was a good thing for this movement. The celebrity association makes it easy for “alternative fact” finders to dismiss our work as just a show.
But mostly, people were kind to each other. Bill Penzey of Penzeys spices (of the Kind Heart pin fame) would be proud.
We can ALL be proud!
From the Lens of the Moore Family
Through the Lens of Martha WalkerTraveling with a bus group sponsored by the Inter Community Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) of Cincinnati, I enjoyed making new friends and greatly appreciated the wonderful, welcoming hospitality of St. George Episcopal Church in Glenn Dale, Md., (where we slept for two nights) and Sojourners (where our bus unloaded just east of Capitol Hill).
I did not view the March as a protest but as an act of solidarity, a statement that we believe in equal treatment, not discrimination, for all people regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion.
I was thrilled by the large number of participants in the March and how everyone got along in a setting of much physical closeness. I heard no harsh words or rude outbursts when toes got stepped on or when people were starting to feel stressed after standing still for hours. Retrospectively, I realized this event was a rally, not a march (!) because the streets were so full there was nowhere we could move or march to.
The many signs with interesting, important and sometimes humorous statements were fascinating and memorable. The handmade sign of an 8-year-old Latina in our IJPC group had the Mexican flag on one side and the other read, “Please don’t deport my mom.” Her poignant message, shared by countless other people, is still on my mind. I was glad there were many signs about environmentalism, science and the use of reason, but I was disappointed (naively?) with the negativity of some speeches and messages such as “Dump Trump” and “Not My President” because impeachment would be so destructive for our country. We have to maintain a positive attitude in order to work together in the months and years ahead with Donald Trump as president.
In summary, the March was peaceful and it succeeded in getting attention to the fact that many people will stand up for equality during the next four years. Our right to free speech was evident and reinforced. To maintain our freedoms, we all have work to do.