I Am A Man Who Marched With Women And Found My Resolve PHOTOS+OPINION: Women's March Los Angeles 2017
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I wasn’t originally planning on attending the march. If I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t really on my radar. I had a handful of friends ask me if I was going to participate, but I kinda shrugged it off since I was busy emailing various publicists and looking through entertainment calendars to find a politically charged post-inauguration concert to attend and document instead. Anyways, it was a “women’s march”, right? They didn’t need me to march with them, right?
The weekend before the march, I went out for drinks with a few friends. My buddy Alex (a guy) asked me if I was going. I started telling him what I was thinking of doing, but when my response hesitated for a moment, he jumped in and bluntly said, “You’ve got to do it, man. It’s bigger than women’s rights. This is everything.” I assured him that I’d consider it, and we continued to enjoy the rest of the evening sans political discourse.
But as the work week started up, and really disheartening reports about various cabinet hearings started popping up in my news feeds, I kept thinking about what Alex had said. I care deeply about women’s rights, but there are a handful of other issues that mean a great deal to me as well. Among them are education, the environment, voting rights and the Supreme Court. What tipped the scales for me was when I watched video from Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing. I shuddered at virtually all of her responses …. shit… I’m a goddamn music attorney by day, and even I know the difference between “growth” or “proficiency” in the education debate. At that moment, I decided to march because Alex was right. This moment … this march …it wasn’t just for women’s rights. It truly was for everything.
I woke up early and commuted with friends to downtown Los Angeles. We had originally planned on taking the Metro Rail, but friends had advised us that unless we boarded from the train’s origin (the Santa Monica station), we would be hard pressed to actually get into a cabin since they were all packed. I use the Metro Rail quite often, and I have never seen a packed cabin. We decided to hail an Uber instead.
We were running “on-time” but as our ride got us closer to downtown, we all noticed that traffic was more congested than usual for a Saturday morning. As we slowly crawled along on the freeway, we noticed that cars around us were packed with people wearing the pink caps maneuvering around homemade signs. We could sense that this gathering was going to massive.
By the time we had caught up with the rest of our friends, we fixed up our signs and walked towards the designated starting point. The turn out was overwhelming. In fact, there were so many people there to make their voices heard that the overflow organically moved to alternate, “unauthorized” routes. My group ended up retracing our steps to march down 7th street with tens of thousands of others.
Organizers for the event estimated the crowd to be approximately 750,000, but for those few hours, it really felt like I mattered. It felt like everyone mattered. Everyone was there for a reason. To be heard. To be represented. It’s pretty tough for me to write in prose the feelings that I had standing, marching and observing the crowd, so I’ll try to keep it simple:
Though this may have originated as a march for women’s rights, it truly was an opportunity for everybody to voice their own personal concerns. Clearly, the number of pro-women’s rights signage was in the majority, but I saw posters and heard protesters voice their concerns on other important issues including the environment, voting rights, immigration, Black Lives Matter and the possible Russian ties to Donald Trump’s candidacy.
Many of the posters were humorous in nature, but none of the humor took away from the underlying seriousness of the matter it was meant to highlight. On this day, humor was used to its fullest potential [see the additional photos below]. As TS Eliot once said, “Humor is also a way of saying something serious,” and the gravity amongst the laughs was certainly not lost on me.
While there were many different issues being addressed, there was a still an amazing solidarity which united everyone. The respect that everyone in the crowd had for those they were marching with, despite their race, age, gender or issue, was above reproach. Even though there was a record number of people in the streets for this event, the Los Angeles Police Department reported that there were no arrests as a result of the march. That, in and of itself, speaks volumes.
Though I could not capture it all, multiple groups of different ethnicities marched to the beat of their own drum (sometimes literally), dressed in traditional, cultural garb and singing or chanting in their native tongue. It was a beautiful melting pot of various cultural identities standing up for their different concerns, walking together as a show of strength as if to proclaim that that when it comes to human rights, no one would be left behind.
The historic significance of this day can’t be stressed enough. What drove this home for me was the number of elderly women who came out to join in the movement. Mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers … they came out to join the masses of millennials to make sure that their voices were represented as well. These women, who grew up, fought for and even endured the indignity of internment came out in wheelchairs and walkers to make sure they were present.
Yes … I said internment. I first noticed two elderly asian women (pictured) walking with the masses. Being Asian and knowing that the older generation of Asians in the community are not particularly vocal when it comes to social and/or political issues, the two’s presence at the march caught me off guard for a moment. Though I didn’t ask them why they were there, I did tap another elderly Asian woman on the shoulder later in the afternoon to ask her to confirm what my studies in Asian American History in college inferred.
She was Japanese American. She was one of the 110,000+ people of Japanese ancestry imprisoned in an internment camp during World War II. She was marching to express her horror at the current administration’s suggestion that Muslim American citizens needed to be put into registry and carry a registration card noting their faith, stating that such a suggestion was simply un-American and adding that the mere thought gave her nightmares about her past experience of being treated as “less than”.
But perhaps the most uplifting … and beautiful … observation I noted was the number of children marching with their parents in the streets of Los Angeles. Though they may have not fully understood the day’s cultural and historic impact, I could see in their eyes a sense of awe, optimism and hope with every step that they took with their friends and family.
I took a lot of pictures of the children present at the march because they are the most important piece of this puzzle. They embodied everything that we were marching for that day, and it was more than just women’s rights … the environment …. civil rights … voting rights …. We were marching for their future: the future of the nation, the future of humanity, and literally, the future of their world.
We need to be reminded of this as the days go by. While setting record numbers and making history one day is an impressive feat, it means nothing if we don’t continue that momentum and keep the ball rolling. Actions speak louder than words, but steadfast action can make those words a reality. It just takes a little will and determination to make it so.
I’m still leaving messages in congressmens’ voicemail to express my displeasure about, among other things, Betsy DeVos. I definitely plan on making an informed decision during the upcoming midterm elections [November 6th, 2018, put it in your calendar and register to vote!]. I will continue to have meaningful discourse with those who may not agree with my positions to hopefully get them to see my point of view. It will take some effort, but these are not the days to stand idly by and not be heard.
Following the premier of his film “An Inconvenient Sequel”, the follow up to his eye opening 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, at the Sundance Film Festival, former Vice President Al Gore stated, “For any of those who have any doubts, just remember that the will to act is itself a renewable resource.”
I’ve found my will to act. Will you?
If an image below is pixelated, please click through the “view full size” link for a better view.
Derrick K. Lee is a music attorney, blogger, concert photographer and co-owner of Blurred Culture. He goes to a lot of shows and sometimes he writes good. Music is his boo.
All photos are edited with iPhoto. Lightroom edits can be made upon request. For prints and/or approvals for special uses of any photo taken by Derrick, please contact him directly.