Suzannah's Voice

THIS is What Democracy Looks Like! The Women’s March on Washington

One sign read: The Women Are Going to Be Trouble 





All over the world, sisters, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, nieces, neighbors, and friends– and some of their men– stood together to say “Not today, patriarchy!” We were lucky enough to be in D.C. at the heart of it all, part of a human hive humming through the jam-packed streets, shoulder-to-shoulder and hip-to-hip.  Democracy looks like THIS!




Selfie by Suzannah Gilman 01/21/2017

From Florida, three Sirens traveled to D.C. to be part of history herstory! Lisa and I flew up to stay at the home of her friend Vivica, and Susan flew up with Sister Siren Jocelyn to stay with friends Nikki and Pam. That’s us on the left with the White House behind us. Aren’t we stunning in our power and might? Yeah, and we’re kind of cute, too. But watch out– this sextet of pussycats will scratch. To quote a sign we saw (and there’s gonna be a lot of that here), we’re

Not Ashamed, Not Intimidated, Not Waiting, Not Asking, Not Sorry.  


That violence you saw on the news on Inauguration Day?  We weren’t there.  That had nothing to do with the Women’s March at all, in fact.

Lisa and I were in our socks, cozy in Vivica’s family room in front of a fireplace, watching the circus with her and her husband.  Looking at this still I snapped, I’d caption it “Folks, I know this much about being president,” but what came out of his mouth was even more shocking than if he’d made that admission: He basically said “Folks, these guys knew this much about being president,” while he was surrounded by the former presidents he was dissing.  That’s about the extent of the ugliness that I saw when I was at our Nation’s Capitol.

Be Nice

I’m sorry I saw it.  And I’m sorry that President Obama saw it, and I’m sorry that Mrs. Obama saw it, and I’m sorry that President Clinton saw it, and I’m sorry that Secretary Clinton saw it, and I’m sorry that Mrs. Biden saw it, (I’m sorry if Vice President Biden saw it), and I’m sorry that Mrs. Bush saw it, and I’m even sorry that President Bush saw it.

Bad form, Mr. Trump.  Bad form.  You made a lot of people unhappy, fast.  You’re pretty good at that.  I saw a sign that said Build a Wall Around Trump, but it looks like you’re doing that already.  Building a wall is not a good thing, Mr. Trump.




No wonder the rain started to fall.  Rather than think the sky was crying, I’d like to think Mother Nature was hinting that you should start with a clean slate, Mr. Trump. But you seemed to be so busy blowing your own horn that you couldn’t possibly pay attention to anything but yourself.

Hate Won’t Make it Great



That night, we set to work making signs for the Women’s March.  Vivica is an artist who has a studio in her house.  Lucky us!  Her 8 year-old daughter and 11 year-old son made signs, too.  Her son’s showed understanding, humor, and a lighthandedness in poking at something that deserved to be poked out.  It said I Make Hockey Great Again.   Her daughter’s said  If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It, and she believes it and I can’t wait to see her get to it. Vivica made a sign with a private reference to woman-owned businesses as a nod to her mother, who owns a family-run business.  Here’s what Lisa and I came up with.


Four Democratic Congresswomen put on a 7:30 a.m. Pre-March Breakfast at the Madison Building of the Library of Congress. Lisa wanted to go to it. I said okay.  She wanted to get there at 7:00.  I said okay.  I back-timed it for us.  When Lisa’s alarm went off at 4:00, she curled up into the fetal position, put her hands over her ears, and stayed that way until I told her that if she wanted to turn her alarm off, I’d wake her again in a few minutes.  “Mine?” She must be the only person who had never used her iPhone as an alarm clock.  I’m not sure I’d seen her confused before.

Thanks to Lisa, we  arrived at the Library of Congress before 7 a.m. and were among the lucky few who got into that breakfast. We later learned that the Metro was shut down on our line at around 11 a.m. because the lots were full. Again, I credit Lisa for our easy morning, because she wanted to go to the breakfast and get there early.

Before the entrance line formed at the Madison Building, we went around the corner to a café for coffee. While I was composing a text to our friend and Sister Siren Julia, in walked Julia with her Florida companions, Shea and Carly. What luck! I’m With Her We took coffee back to the short entrance line that grew while we waited to be let in and that was as long as the Amazon by the time they opened the doors and started letting us in– slowly. Very slowly. Security was tight, and the process took patience as well.  After we were inside a while and the room was full, I texted other Florida friends who were still outside, giving them the best advice I had, “Go get coffee and a bite at the place around the corner.  You’ll never get in here now.”

From the front of the room, we heard the Congresswomen speak— Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (former chair of the DNC), Lois Frankel, Val Demings, and Stephanie Murphy.  Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) and House Minority Whip, Senator Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also addressed us briefly, taking turns wearing a pink scarf and declaring themselves women for the day. (Yeah, and I’m black for a day!  This is easy!) The sentiment was appreciated, anyway.  I was close enough to the stage to do Facebook Live video of the speeches for the benefit of those I knew who couldn’t go to the march. Here’s Val Demings speaking at the breakfast.


Hundreds of women were still waiting outside to get into the breakfast when we left.  And we got lost from Julia, Carly, and Shea.  The dark, empty streets we’d stepped up into from the Metro when we arrived were now alive with color, bodies, and pink pussy hats.  This is a Pussy Riot!



Similar to the moment when Julia, Carly, and Shea walked into the coffee shop, just as I asked Lisa, “Are you calling Susan, or am I?” I turned to my left and there, fifteen feet from us, were Susan, Jocelyn, Pam, and Nikki.  At that moment we thought we were lucky, but we had no idea how lucky. As we neared the National Museum of the American Indian, I was texting with Julia. The crowd grew more and more dense. Julia told me exactly which statue they were standing under, fifty feet from us. We could not move through the crowd to get to her.

For the rest of the day, even though I had four dots of reception according to my iPhone, I couldn’t text, call, use apps, or get online except for a few of times.  There were simply too many people trying to do use their smartphones at once for any of us to get service.  I lost contact with Julia when my battery needed a recharge.

Lisa and I never would have found Susan, et. al. if we’d walked a bit ahead and gotten sucked into the human quicksand first.  So we were very, very, extremely, some might even say divinely, lucky.

The six of us— Lisa, Susan, Jocelyn, Nikki, Pam, and I– formed a human train and held the collar of the one in front of us so we wouldn’t get separated.   We Need a Leader, Not a Creepy Tweeter  So Nikki led the way for our sextet, and I was the caboose.

The feeling that we were there marching for something bigger than ourselves permeated our group.  Lisa and I used a blue Sharpie to write on our arms the names of those we were marching for.  I posted on social media that if someone wanted me to add her name to my arm, let me know.  And they did.  Some publicly, some in private messages.  Love, Not Hate, Makes America Great  Another friend attending the march saw that and said she’d carry names on a piece of paper in her pocket. (Sharpies aren’t for everyone, and we found out the ink isn’t permanent, even for a day.  It rubbed off on the inside of my sleeve, and it ruined my brand-new lavender FitBit.)

Lisa and I inked onto our skin the names of friends we’ve lost to domestic violence, those who are bullied and shamed, and those who are discriminated against because of lookism, sexism, racism, and homophobia, among others.  Yes, I had men’s names bleeding into my skin, too, because Women’s Rights are Human Rights.  And, of course, if you look you’ll see my daughter and daughter-in-law’s names on my arm.  They were first.  (There are other names written on the underside of my arm.)


Lisa and I are both mothers of gay daughters.  Her daughter is engaged; my daughter ended her engagement early in January by getting married, because she didn’t trust a Texas county clerk to issue a same-sex marriage license in Trump World. Liberty and Justice For All isn’t the way it always works.

Though we marchers didn’t set out to be a diverse group, we were. With our six and Julia’s three, we also had two lesbian couples– one in a committed relationship, one married– the daughter of a closeted gay father, and the mother of a special-needs young man.

We are women who have endured body shaming, sexism, lookism, sexual discrimination, homophobia, and sexual assault.  Women who have been there, done that.  We are not only still standing, but marching. We are women with children, women without children, women with grandchildren, women who’ll never have grandchildren, women with partners, women without partners, women with careers, women without careers, women with hobbies, women with careers and hobbies, women with degrees, women without degrees, women who teach, women who are being taught, women finding our way, women finding our way again, women who always find our way, women who are the way, women who are showing the way.  You know.  Women like any other group of women who had gathered to march together that day to Protect Women’s Rights.

Still packed into the crowd near the Museum of the American Indian, we could hear nothing that was happening on stage, wherever the stage was, and we couldn’t see the Jumbotron.  But we were getting packed tighter and tighter as the crowds pushed in.  

We had to get out of there.

Somehow, step by step in that human train, we did.  No one understood why we were moving in the opposite direction, but they let us by.  Then one guy said something about us going to the bathroom line.  No, that wasn’t it, but a bathroom wouldn’t be a bad idea.  The crowd loosened and loosened some more.  We no longer had to hold on to each other.  And then– wow.  Clear ground.  Grass.  And a long line of porta-potties!  Woohoo!

We’re Nasty Women?  Someone put small locks on all of the porta-potties.  Who’s nasty now?  No matter.  Several people in the crowds, male and female, arranged it so that the porta-potties opened (don’t ask me how) so we could use them.  Respect Existence or Expect Resistance 


After that, we felt a great sense of relief in knowing that the marchers worked together to make sure everything would come out okay for us all.   But after that episode, certain themes among signs became apparent to us.





I’d wanted to make a sign that said Immigrants Get the Job Done, praising the worth ethic many immigrants have.  I often think of the mother of my childhood best friend, a woman who came to the U.S. from Puerto Rico with her two children, married a man who had two, and then had a child with him.  He left her with all five kids one day, vanishing into thin air.  She worked two full-time jobs and did more than make it through.  When our power was turned off for nonpayment once, she let my mother run an extension cord to their apartment to keep our refrigerator running.

The women in this photo have my heart, too.








We hit the streets again and marched in heavy crowds.  After about three hours of marching, Nikki, who knows D.C., led us through some back ways, away from the crazy streets, to an area near Chinatown so that we could get lunch.  Many packed restaurants with long waiting lists later, we were seated at a nice place with good food, a good bar, and several TVs tuned to CNN.  The sound was down, but we read the crawl.  We saw Madonna but didn’t know what she was saying.

Imagine our surprise when we read on the crawl that no one was going to be able to march in D.C.– after we’d been marching for three hours!  “It didn’t start yet?” we asked each other, incredulous.  After partaking of food and drink and using the restroom more than once, we were going back out to not march some more!

Be Kind Our restaurant was very hospitable.  They were letting anyone in off the street use their nice, clean restrooms.  Each of the four restrooms was its own room with its own door off an L-shaped hallway.  The restaurant had installed a man to tell those in line when a restroom became available, which he did by motioning to us, and to refill the paper rolls and keep the restrooms clean.  Who would want to be doing that hour after hour? Surely that’s not what he was hired to do. We tipped him, which no one else was doing. He was surprised and grateful.  When he thanked us, it was with a thick Mexican accent. We’d been marching for him, though we hadn’t known it.


We still didn’t hook back up with Julia, Carly, and Shea, but as you can see, the young women were marching their hearts out. And judging by the number of times I saw it, that is the official salute to the Trump hotel.


Marchers all had something to say.


I mentioned there were men there.  Man, were there men!  The manliest of men.  This is What a Feminist Looks Like guy would be our instant new best friend if he lived in our town.  His fiancé might have been, too, but we’ll never know because he was on the phone the whole time.  Yes, he had reception by then!  It was nearly dark when we met This is What a Feminist Looks Like guy.   


Before Susan, Jocelyn, Nikki, and Pam headed one way (back) and Lisa and I headed another way (to the National Mall), we all goofed off a while.  Why?  Because there was space to goof off!  Did I mention that Lisa gave me a selfie stick for my birthday a few months ago?


There were men who were asshats, as well.  When we got onto the Metro at L’Enfant Plaza, the cars were empty.  Then three Trumpeteers got on and hulked over the others on the train car, and bellowing about how great yesterday was compared to today. Because the other riders were not big, tall, white asshats wearing red hats.  They were ruled by mob mentality and clearly meant to intimidate.  But as the train traveled north on the Greenbelt Line, it filled up.  The asshats were cramped like mice and were no longer in the majority, so they stopped their crap talk.  Big men.  Ha!


And finally, the train was empty.  Our Women’s March was over. I was still so excited that I was shaking.  Either that, or my new phone was defective.  You decide.


The next morning, Lisa and I left Vivica’s house and farm for the airport.  See those packed suitcases, that rented car?  See that home opened up to strangers?  People taking actions like that “just to carry a little sign around” is exactly what democracy looks like.





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