Reflections on Washington – Birmingham Women Share Their Stories

The Women’s March on Washington, as experienced and retold by the following Birmingham residents;


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photo courtesy of Emily Peterson

“I woke up this morning on a bus full of strangers in foggy darkness at a truck stop in Virginia. Chartered busses filled the parking lot. I made my way off the bus and into the packed convenience store full of sleepy women with flat hair and sweatshirts and pink knit hats. There was a line for the women’s restroom that wrapped out the door. But there was an excited energy in the air — tired, but excited.

As I turned down an aisle with my gas-station cappuccino and packet of donuts in my hand, I bumped into my friend from home who is traveling on another bus. She said, “Oh I thought, ‘That looks like Emily! But with a Breathe Rite Strip on her nose!'” (So I went into public wearing a Breath Rite Strip, whatever.) My friend just wanted to find a place to brush her teeth. I just wanted caffeine and sugar. We hugged, I pulled the sticky strip off my face, and we promised to see each other soon.
When I got back to my bus everyone was waking up. These women — mothers, grandmothers, college students, engineers, artists (and one lone young man) — started talking about why they were marching. They talked about a fear of moving backwards as a society. They talked about sadness and confusion with the people and country they love. Some were angry. Some were hopeful.
My decision to come on this trip was hasty and last minute, so I’m traveling alone. When I explained to my young sons yesterday why I thought it was important for me to go, I told them that I was worried that the new president didn’t have the same beliefs and values as we did. And I needed to make sure that he knew that there were people out there who believed in the things that we do.

So I march for my little boys Cash and Lincoln (because I name my kids like they’re going to form an alt-country band) so that they know it is always important to speak their truth to power. I march for the sweet Muslim children in their classes, because they have just as much right to the American dream as I do. I march for the brilliant and brave Central American students in my ESL class, because they are the hardworking backbone of this country. I march for my LGBTQ friends and family members, because their love deserves as much legal legitimacy as mine does. I march for my friends and family with physical and mental disabilities, because they should never be mocked and bullied and have a right to education, accessibility and quality of life. And I march for my precious niece, because I hope she will always be able to make her own decisions regarding her body and health. I hope she knows that no one ever has the right to grab her anywhere. And I hope she knows that her life, and every other black and brown life matters.”


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Kristi Slawson and Dr. Dawn DuPree Kelley – photo courtesy of Dr. Dawn DuPree Kelley

Jan 21, 2017

I don’t believe anyone expected what we were about to witness and join in. The first sign of what was to come was the excessively overcrowded metro lines even though many new lines were added to “offset” anticipated crowding. Excitement was building as the metro began rushing toward L’Enfant Plaza and Federal where we would spill out of the cars. Songs were already starting, chants were rhythmically pounding with foot stomps pushed by adrenaline. I’m not a morning person but even I felt blood racing anxious with anticipation to just get there. Everyone had signs and backpacks held close as the very gray, damp, cool air was threatening to smear precious words meant to be shared with the new administration’s eyes and the world.

Birmingham friend, Kristi Slawson, and I had driven up all the way the day before. The crowds began to form from what seemed like every available door, tunnel, railing, crosswalk. We knew we needed to stay together as within moments, we found ourselves in the middle of a sea of pink hats and signs. Signs of every shape, size, color, language, and word choice were surrounding us, above, behind, on all sides of us. The message, however, was the same. We were all there to represent all people with all needs. We were there to say we mean to be heard, our voice is important, our rights are important- we are not stats or numbers but people needing to be heard. Messages of Women’s Rights, Anti-Racism, Immigration, Healthcare, Education, Environment, The Supreme Court, Family Rights, Minimum Wage, LGBTQA Rights. People were hugging, singing, nodding in agreement.

I was overwhelmed by the full embodiment of a spirit of cohesiveness and unity in a single voice. Imagine, 500,000-750,000+ people in one place – in trees, on buildings, on top of street traffic lights, in every spot, as far as the eye could see in the foreground with The White House in the background or in the shadow of the Washington Monument – all united in a single message of unity and peace. I was emotional as I reflected over all that had taken place spanning two centuries on the very ground we were marching over, singing over. That day, we ALL believed we were called to that historic place of numerous marches of days old, of incidents of violence, of protests of war to protect ALL people and our rights peacefully and in harmony.

Chants of “What does democracy look like? THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” and songs of our movement’s anthems “I Can’t Be Quiet!” grew louder and reverberated across D.C. as we marched through tunnels.

Now, I return to the decision. “I Can’t Be Quiet,” I won’t be. I choose to continue to act. I will not remain silent as we are what democracy looks like and we are ALL charged with the call to protect it, respect it, honor it and require it. We are one. Hear our Voice!

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photo courtesy of Joellyn Beckham


I made my decision to travel to Washington at the end of December. I didn’t know anyone traveling on a bus, so I booked a flight. A lot of my friends who had been “on the fence” wound up going on busses.

On the day of the march, I took an Uber from Baltimore into Washington. It turns out that the five of us on the ride were all marchers, from all over the country! The other people were blown away that I was from Alabama. I was proud to tell them and other marchers throughout the day where I was from!

The most unexpected thing about the day was the amazing diversity. While most of the marchers were female, there were some men there, too, including a gentleman in an Alabama hat! There were all races, all religions, abilities, folks from all across the LGBTQ spectrum, all ages, people representing so many causes! The most amazing thing I saw were women in their 90’s, who felt strongly enough about this to have their families bring them in their wheelchairs and walkers.

The crowd was packed in, but completely peaceful. Everyone fed off of the positive energy! The crowd became a community, gentle and sweet, with lots of comraderie. I believe that everyone there is genuinely concerned about the incoming administration behaving like they have a mandate. They act like they had a majority of votes and the country is on their side, like we should just get over it. In truth, less than 20% of the population voted for Trump. He received nearly 3 million votes less than Clinton. They can’t pretend we’re not the majority. We are.

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photo courtesy of Meg McGlamery


It was an extraordinary adventure. An adventure that I would do again in a heartbeat. An adventure that isn’t truly over and never will be.

She goes on to describe the rally and march:

We weave ourselves in as Gloria speaks. We are on fire with Alicia. Sophie inspires us in two languages- and she is a child. Michael challenges us to make it a part of our daily life. Ashley spits truth. Everyday people speak to share why they are there- why WE are there.

The march is happening everywhere. No beginning, no end. Signs, chanting, singing, dancing. A continuous roar that shakes my soul. That roar. I won’t forget it.

I have now had a full night of sleep and there is so much to still process, but I had to share. For those who want to minimize this, I understand it can be scary to see people come together like this- especially if they think differently from you. I challenge you not to take a shortened clip of what a celebrity said. Look at this as a whole. People clearly had important things to stand up for related to the rights of women. I am so thankful for my parents who told me they are proud after a thoughtful and thorough discussion with each other. We have different views, but they support me using my voice- especially for the reasons I was there. They have always encouraged that and modeled the way.

This is a movement. A movement that wouldn’t be possible without the people who came before us- Civil Rights, ERA. THANK YOU for creating change for us to continue the fight together.

I am forever changed for the better.

Emily Peterson’s video clip of the presentation during the rally:

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Kristina O'Quinn
Kristina O'Quinn
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