Women’s March Philadelphia 2018

At 9am I flipped my ponytail through the back of my VERVE ball cap, tossed my VERVE water bottle in my VERVE backpack, zipped up my marching boots and headed out the door, half a dozen signs tucked under my arm. The sun protected me from the cool morning air and in my mind I travelled back a year to the frigid London weather. After 10 hours on the streets of London on January 21, 2017 I remember thinking I would never be warm again. Mother Nature had smiled down on us in Philadelphia, offering fifty degrees and sunny weather for our march this year.

I walked first to Southeast by Southeast, a Southeast Asian community arts center in South Philly to meet up with approximately twenty Bhutanese refugees, men and women, who I would be marching with. We had only a few common phrases as the translator had unexpectedly been unable to join but this didn’t stop us. We all held up our signs and one large beautiful banner that said “Women of the World Unite.”

Women's March Philli_C.Ryder

We managed to make it the few miles to the starting point at Logan Square across from the Franklin Institute. We met up with other folks focused on immigration and started chanting “No Hate, No Fear, Refugees are welcome here!” Philadelphia’s City Hall was in the background with the William Penn statue on top, looking down on us as we began to march. The birthplace of our nation, home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, echoed with the demands for justice and equality. Some signs were funny, mocking the ridiculousness of many of our politicians. Some were painful, as women bared their souls on poster board to declare “Me Too.”

Women's March Philly_C.Ryder -2

There were children, men, and those who identified as women in mind, body, or spirit flooding the Benjamin Franklin Parkway headed to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art where the stage was set for the rally. The speakers reminded us of the tragic neglect Puerto Rico has endured since the hurricanes. They encouraged women to run for elected office. They talked about the work their organizations had done throughout the past year. A high school girl talked about the campaigning she had organized to get an openly Islamophobic man off her school board—and won!

In the crowds of tens of thousands I wasn’t able to find all the incredible women I knew were out there but I was proud that nearly all the women from our Philadelphia Prosecco Think Tanks were in attendance. I had criticisms of the march, as an organizer I always will. But they are symptoms of the struggles of the movement in general—whenever there are so many people involved in a goal there will be conflict, disagreements about how to reach those goals and even how to define them. I look forward to talking this out at our next Prosecco Think Tank and I feel grateful to have a group of women with whom I can safely share my concerns and my hopes.

Women's March Philly_C.Ryder - 3

When I got home, exhausted from the massive job ahead of us and frustrated by the flaws in the movement I flopped on the couch, my VERVE bag beside me. This bag was one the first pieces of VERVE swag I received and it has been with me since London. The buttons and badges I’ve collected over the past year are pinned on it, creating a map of my journey since the first Women’s March. Several VERVE pins, of course, Women’s March London, Women’s March Philadelphia, Women for Refugee Women, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Immigrants are Welcome Here, Build Bridges Not Walls, Nevertheless She Persisted. I felt the tickle in my nose that warns the tears are coming. There are so many of us, so many organizations, unofficial groups, individuals in this fight to make our society something better than what it has always been. I felt so connected to them all that day. The Women’s March had done its job. The March isn’t the real work. The real work is happening in campaigns and direct action and education and people taking families into their homes. The real work happens between the marches but the marches help to connect us, to remind us that we are not in this fight alone. There are a lot of us and we aren’t going away.

They wanted a wall and here we are.

We are the wall protecting our loved ones from their hate, their ignorance, their fear.

We are the wall protecting our gay brothers

Our trans sisters

Our immigrant neighbors

Our Muslim friends

Our Black leaders

Our disabled children

Our mothers, sisters, daughters.

They cannot climb over us.

They cannot go around us.

They cannot get through us.

And they cannot tear us down.

They wanted a wall and here we are.

Women's March Philly_C.Ryder - 4

Article by Claire Ryder

VERVE Operative USA & Humanitarian Activist