I went to the Boston Women's March yesterday. I don't think anybody - organizers, participants, bystanders, the MBTA - anticipated how massive it was going to be. One of the organizers announced at one point that they'd had 60,000 registered as of early last week, Tuesday maybe, and that that went up by twenty thousand each day until Saturday. And plenty of us, me included, never registered.
I have literally never seen that many people in one place in my life. It was a sea of people across Boston Common from the moment we got up the stairs at Park Street. (At Harvard, two completely crammed-full trains passed through until they sent an empty one in backwards from Central, and we filled it - and then a few more people squeezed in at each stop. "We're making new friends," I joked to Lindsay as the strangers in front of us squashed against us.)
Friday night we made signs, after a long strange desolate day when our new president was sworn in, when he spoke in the rain with old slogans used to vilify my people, when he talked about carnage and tombstones like the country is already a wasteland. We ate sushi and drew with markers and paint and glitter glue that rebellions are built on hope and damn the man save the empire and telling the world we are non-compliant. My sign had rainbows. We joked about things and laughed about how bad we are at freehanding letters. "Is it bad that this is making me feel better?" I asked.
I've been struggling with depression for the better part of a year now, at least. It's hard to pinpoint when it got worse than my normal, but I kept putting off dealing with it. I was still getting out of bed and going to work every day. I was still seeing friends and making plans. It couldn't be that bad. So many others were doing so much worse than me. Surely I could wait. And then the election happened, and I just... I felt numb. I've felt numb and hollow and despairing as the background track for my entire life, even as I went to see Great Comet and saw family and went to parties, like a minor chord being steadily thumped out on a piano behind everything else. Unease. Fear. I'm a queer Jewish woman. And so many others have so much more at risk than I do.
On Saturday we were surrounded by an ocean of people, stretching as far as we could see where we were standing in the middle of the Common. People had climbed up into the trees, onto the monument nearby. We couldn't see the stage, but we could hear the speakers when the news helicopters weren't buzzing too close. There were signs everywhere, some funny, some earnest. People brought their babies and their children and their elders. We were blessed. We sang together. We cheered and we booed. (I've never heard that many people boo before, like some ominous rumble of the earth.) There was an impromptu Hamilton singalong when the PA system played "My Shot."
When the time came to march, the decorative fences of the Common kept us from actually funneling out onto the street; we tried to weave our way through the crowd, and we managed about the width of the common for actual marching before we had to bail. But even that took us like an hour and a half. A kid who looked about eleven or twelve complimented me on my sign, his voice a little shaky; he told me he had LGBTQ friends and he tried to support him. I told him that was awesome, and to let them know he was there for them and to keep doing it. I hope he remembers that and stands with them. I got a lot of compliments on my "bi-furious" button.
I know there were problems with these marches, that people felt excluded; that activists have been doing this and showing up for a long time before now; that the light hand of police presence was in large part due to the overwhelming whiteness of the crowd. I know all this. I know if we don't keep showing up and keep speaking up, the energy will fade and it will just become another failed movement. But for the first time in months I feel a certain lightness of spirit. Today my dad asked, joking a little, if I felt empowered.
"No," I told him. "I felt powerful. And I felt hope."