Five Lessons From the Women’s March on Washington

by Vickie Machado, Eco-Steward Alum & Leader

I had not planned on attending the Women’s March on Washington. I wasn’t even sure about attending one of the sister marches in Orlando or Tallahassee. My plate was full of books to read and papers to write, but at the last minute, I thought why not? Feminism had been on my mind a lot, with my studies centered on gender issues and ecofeminism, and I had introduced late 19th-century feminist literature to my writing students. This was an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the justice issues of today as well as those of the past.

The Friday before the buses were set to leave for D.C., I emailed an organizer to see if there was space for one more person on the 36-hour, round-trip tour. There was. And by Tuesday, I knew the details for my bus and the reality of the situation began to sink in.

Why did I march? I marched because I could. I had the opportunity, energy, and time to get on a bus, drive 12 hours, march, and ride 12 hours home. When opportunities allowing for faithful solidarity arise, you do your best to take them. On the long ride back, I uncovered five lessons the Women’s March on Washington taught me:

  1. Strength does not equate aggressiveness, anger or force. I’m a fairly small person and in that whole group, of what some estimate to be up to a million people, not once did I get stepped on or pushed around. Not once did someone mindlessly bump into me or even step on my toe. There is a way to be strong—to march with power and drive— without belittling those around you. There is a way to assert your power and take a stand without hurting others in the process. Our world does not portray this. It says you can’t share and win. But what if you can? What if you can powerfully look after those around you?

    Eco-Steward Vickie Machado finds compassionate crowds at the Women's March.
    Marchers file out of L’Enfant Station on their way to the Women’s March.
  2. Look after your neighbor. During the middle of the March a woman passed out and within seconds there were women offering water, snacks, fruit and comfort. It’s those who were looking after her as a neighbor who seemed to offer the most help. I saw yet another example when bathrooms were low. Women built a shield of coats in order to shade those who needed to relieve themselves in a corner by a building. These small acts of kindness showed a sense of care. The various actions I witnessed displayed how the participants looked after each other.

    Vickie Machado finds compassionate crowds at the Women's March on Washington.
    The Backbone Campaign presents their “We the People” with thousands of signatures.
  3. Stick with a buddy. I met Lori, a new mother, on the bus ride to DC. We were both riding solo and pretty late on deciding to go. After our bus accidentally forgot to call each of our names in roll call, we decided we needed to implement the buddy system. (Someone was going to know my name and if I got left behind!) We stuck together throughout the entire March. In crowds, we held hands and always had an eye out for one another. At one point, I turned around and saw she was gone. I’m sure my face instantly turned to shear panic. A woman nearby waved vigorously at me, while pointing to the right. The panic turned to gratefulness as I spotted Lori. “Thank God! She’s my buddy! I can’t lose her!”

    Eco-Steward Vickie Machado finds compassionate crowds at the Women's March on Washington.
    In the crowd, listening to speakers at 9th and Smithsonian.
  4. Be observant. This march worked so well because it was full of observant, detailed-oriented people. We knew who was with whom. Without instruction, everyone knew their role to play. Groups chained together to create a steady flow of movement through streets gridlocked with people. Patience was implemented as we took our turns while waiting for the moment to march. Grace was given.

    Eco-Steward Vickie Machado marching on Washington.
    Eco-Steward Vickie Machado marching on Washington.
  5. We make history every day with our decisions.  When I worked as an organizer I learned about the relationship between power, structure and society. I learned how people are intentional about their actions and that social movements are created and made by hard working people. Little did I know a week prior to boarding the bus that I would be in the midst of historical change. However, in actuality, every day we choose whether or not to be a part of history through the actions we take, the people we engage with and the world we choose to create. We choose whether or not to get on the bus.

This particular event was unlike any I have ever attended, far outweighing the local marches and rallies I have been involved with through attendance, energy, and magnitude. However, most of all this experience showed me that there is room for peaceful resistance. It showed me we still have a long way to go, but collectively we must mindfully care for our neighbors on a daily basis and stand strong in our quest for a more just society.

Vickie Machado was one of many Eco-Stewards alumni and leaders participating in Saturday’s women’s marches across the globe. Here’s a “reprint” of some Facebook posts from the wider Eco-Stewards community.

In Boston,  Rev. Rob Mark and Becky Evans (Eco-Stewards Program Leaders) attended a centering prayer vigil before participating in the Boston Women’s March. Becky wrote: Inspiring day with Boston’s peaceful marchers. Amazing to hear from Elizabeth Warren and to march alongside both my dear friends and my mom’s dear friends from CT! “Right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant”- MLK, Jr. #bostonstrongandkind

In Santa Cruz, Cali. Heather Lukacs (Eco-Stewards Program Leader) marched for these reasons: To not feel alone. To connect with friends and strangers in my Santa Cruz community. To stand in solidarity with friends from WV and elsewhere traveling to DC to march. To be united across distance with friends in DC, Boston, Portland, Idaho, and so many more places who are marching. To reinforce what I work for everyday – for human rights, for a world and country where all people have human rights – safety, education, clean water and air, and so very much more – Women’s March Santa Cruz County, Women’s March on Washington, Boston Women’s March for America Women’s March on Idaho, and so many more #humanrighttowater #womensrightsarehumanrights #manymorereasons

In Indianapolis, Amber Porter (Eco-Stewards West Virginia) reflected on her day: I’ve always had negative thoughts about the word “protest” and even “rally” especially if it was politically motivated. But today I felt called to attend the Indy Women’s Rally and it was an amazing (and peaceful!) experience. My favorite speaker was a female Episcopal priest who spoke of God’s incredible love for ALL humans, regardless of their race or sins or gender or sexual orientation. It was such a good reminder!! I’m also thankful that I have a husband who is supportive of women in general and always supportive of me. I also have amazing friends who are open-minded and live their lives with Christ-like love! Feeling grateful and hopeful in our future knowing there are so many people who care. Now to determine what’s next!

Emily Kinsel (Eco-Stewards Boston/Vermont) joined the 5,000 strong marchers in Copenhagen, Denmark. Kelsey Stone (Eco-Stewards Seattle) marched in Jackson, Miss, while Rev. Liz Leavitt (Eco-Stewards Program Leader) joined the Women’s March Oahu in Honolulu, HI.  Kathleen Murphy (Eco-Stewards Seattle), Colleen Earp (Eco-Stewards Gainesville), and Mary Schmidt (Eco-Stewards Boston/Vermont) made history marching on Washington. And I’m sure there were others not listed here. Feel free to add your story in a comment to this post!

And don’t forget to spread the word to young adult leaders about our Eco-Stewards “march” on Richmond, VA,  June 5-10 when we “Journey toward Justice Along the James River”— help us recruit the next generation of Eco-Stewards!

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