When news of the Women’s March hit social media, women I knew talked about attending. I’ve never attended a march like this and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I knew it was controversial and could continue to divide our already hurting country. However, as more women talked about it, the more curious I became.
When several clergy women friends posted requests for housing that weekend, I realized that, even if I wasn’t terribly interested in going, I could certainly extend hospitality. The idea of a march in Washington organized and led by women intrigued me, especially when I knew that it wasn’t centered around one political agenda.
A Quaker pastor asked if I could host members from her church—four students from Earlham College in Indiana, where our seminary is located. Of course! They felt like extended family. A Lutheran pastor from Pittsburgh also asked if I had room. While I have never met this woman in person, I invited her to stay, along with her four-month-old baby. We haven’t had a baby stay in our home in years, but I knew we could make it work. Babies, after all, find a way to warm our hearts and gentle our spirits.
The college students could take care of themselves, but Pastor Kerri was traveling on her own and with an infant in tow. While I was still indifferent about the march itself, I thought I could go to be with Kerri and help her with the baby. When I noticed how many other parents were bringing children to the march, I decided to bring my 7-year-old daughter, Kailea. She is inquisitive, compassionate, and outgoing. And she loves taking care of babies.
As soon as we got on the Metro, Kailea met a new friend, another girl about her age. Her mom and I talked about why we were marching and why we brought our girls with us. There was an unusual atmosphere on the Metro. People were respectful. They offered their seats to those in need. They smiled. My new friend was able to nurse her son on the train without self-consciousness or fear.
Leaving the station, we walked to Independence Avenue and stood with others to watch the large screen, listen to the speakers, and observe the gathering crowds. Realizing there was another group of women clergy just a block away, we set off to find them. But after squirming and wriggling through the throng of moving bodies, we realized that any dreams we had of meeting up with friends or even getting back to our original spot were dashed.
Then the baby started crying. And the crowds began to part. Complete strangers respectfully cleared the path for us once they saw the infant.
We made our way to a tent on the Mall that we thought was set up for nursing mothers. Little did we know, the tents and cartons of water bottles were left over from the inauguration. Women came and found respite as they nursed their babies. Surrounded by this congregation of nursing mothers and hungry babies, Kerri fed her son, Kailea and I ate our lunch, and the crowd of marchers continued to grow.
After lunch, we walked alongside fellow marchers who carried signs and called out their chants. I didn’t agree with every sign I saw and I didn’t agree with every chant I heard, but I knew that I stood in solidarity with all my sisters and brothers marching in DC. People marched for climate change, for refugees, for women’s healthcare, and a myriad of other reasons on issues related to justice and peace.
Every time a new chant came up, Kailea would tug on my coat and ask if it was a chant for us to join or not. It was a teachable moment for me to be able to share why we were marching and what we were marching for.
We chanted for unity. We chanted for justice. We chanted for peace. We want to build bridges, not walls. We know that we are better together and that united we stand, but divided we fall.
We didn’t chant anything that singled one person out. We were there to welcome people in, not single people out. We didn’t chant anything that was degrading, disrespectful, or unkind. We wouldn’t want others to say those things about us, so we wouldn’t say those things about others.
We didn’t chant about a person’s physical appearance. We have all been created in God’s image and so we celebrate that, we don’t demean it.
At two points in the march, two separate groups of men started chanting “F**k Trump!” I immediately called them out on it, reminding them that children were with us. Both times, the groups stopped and apologized and we kept marching together. The exchange was kind and respectful, and for that I give thanks! While we may not all be mothers, we’re all children of mothers. Today I got to be mother to more than just my children. Sometimes it’s helpful to remind ourselves that our big mouths can damage little ears.
We ended our march at Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street, where Kerri nursed her son once more before we headed home. As we took a break to feed the baby, I began to consider how my daughter and I had been fed that day as well.
I didn’t come to the march to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration. I didn’t come to the march to protest against anything. I came to stand for something. I came to stand for peace and love and justice for all of God’s children and for all of God’s creation.
Mr. Trump won the presidency according to the system that our country has in place to elect our president. I respect him for working as hard as he did on his campaign and for bringing to light a voice that our country hasn’t heard. And his campaign unified women in our country and around the world in a way never seen before in history. Because of this campaign, I am more involved in politics and more keenly aware of current events. I no longer have the luxury of choosing to be blissfully ignorant of what’s going on outside of my own secure world. I am more convinced than ever of the importance of how we treat our friends, neighbors, and even enemies.
When my daughter told me that Trump was mean, I reminded her that he has said some mean things, but that does not make him mean. I have never met President Trump in person and neither has she. We have both said things that have been mean. When we do, we want others to call us on it so we can make it right. We marched to make it right.
Mr. Trump has said that he will be the President for all American citizens. I do not march to say that he is not my president. He is. My hope and prayer for his presidency is that he will listen to all the voices crying out. He will discern the voices that need his attention from the voices that are just trying to agitate him.
And while he may be my president as I am a citizen of the United States of America, he is not my God nor my king. I do not bow down to worship him. My faith, my hope, my trust is in Christ alone. My allegiance is to the kingdom of God that is right here, right now on this earth so that I can continue the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together. And for that reason, I march.
Mandy North is pastor of faith formation at Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren.