MARCH ON WASHINGTON
My personal favorite moments at the women's march on Washington 2017
When I first heard about the women's march a few months ago, I didn't think it would be for me. I get a bit suspicious when I hear about "women's" events. Always wondering where Black, trans, immigrant, poc women's identities fit into the narrative. Wondering if the (most likely white) women organizing this event will pepper us in like a spice, or generously feature us more prominently like a side dish. *I don't know why I went with a food metaphor, you get the point. These are all cynical assumptions, I know. But they are also realistic ones.
I'd resigned to skipping the march, staying at home and writing a love song for my people like I usually do. BUT then! Toshi Reagon (musician, activist, sister, mentor, fellow DC native) asked me to sing supporting vocals with her band at the march. Regardless of my assumptions about this movement, I knew I had to be there. And I am so deeply grateful that I was. The event was beautiful. Not flawless, but beautiful. I decided to collect my favorite moments from the day (in addition to some of my least favorite), in an attempt to capture that magic.
1. Awkward high fives in the DC metro!
Walking into the subway at Howard University, first- I saw dozens of students. Young women wearing Howard sweats and black war paint on their faces. Then I we started spotting pink pussycat hats. The numbers of women in the train station growing and growing. Our train arrived nearly packed full of women and their families. When we stepped off the platform at Federal Center-it was crammed with more bodies than the space should safely hold. An anxious person like me would be nervous, disoriented in this space. And I was. Security officers organized a line forcing the group to first walk to the end of the platform, avoiding a bottleneck at the escalator.
As we all walked, people started smiling, cheering. Stress melted into excitement. And we all started high fiving. Like at the end of a scrimmage-when you walk along the line and high five the other team. Adorable. Sweet, yet awkward. We smiled at each other and "wooed" with excitement. Be-you're a fucking softie-i thought to myself as tears welled up in my eyes. This is my city. These are my people coming together in my city for love. This goofy group of strange women in the DC metro really loves me and I love them back.
2. The representation on stage.
Since reading Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks (like the fancy liberal arts educated girl I am), I have never questioned the concept of placing marginalized voices at the center of the feminist movement. Of any movement, really. This wasn't what I expected at the march, but it was what I hoped for. To my surprise, the women's march on Washington hosted a great range of voices and perspectives. I know one voice cannot represent an entire community, but I appreciated that white women's voices were not at the center of the narrative. I heard the voices of Muslim women, immigrants, Black women, Latinx folks, queer folks, elders and youths. Even the organizers representing the women's march movement appeared to be mostly women of color. There was, of course some room for improvement.
We witnessed a few frustrating moments in which certain speakers took up a bit more space than necessary (ahem, Michael Moore, are you fucking kidding me?). That assumption of privilege left less room for other scheduled speakers like Raquel Willis-one of the few trans women's voices represented that day. Her mic was cut mid sentence and regardless of the well intentioned folks behind the scenes-it was hurtful and disappointing to say the least. *other folks were cut mid sentence as well, but most of the speakers cut off had far exceeded the very specific three-minute limit allotted to each speaker.
3. Toshi and BIG LOVELY, THE Band.
The BADDEST band in the land, yall. Toshi, who is fly A.F. on her own-has a gift for bringing brilliant women together and this band is one fine, fine example of that. All women, all kickass musicians, humble, kind and generous human beings-Big Lovely served as the house band for the rally. They brought life and energy to every song they played and remained deeply respectful of every artist as they blessed the mic. I am always honored to play with them. I am honored to know them. And they're all super hot (not that that matters, but facts are facts).
I was also psyched to sing along side Carolyn Malachi, who is THE MOST innovative jazz and soul singer I have ever seen, a grammy nominated artist, lover and preserver of go-go music, and a fellow DC native. *If you don't know her, please find her now.*
Toshi had the vision to bring this band's brilliance to the march, and truly rep DC by asking Carolyn and myself to come in as well. Such a boss.
4. The dudes: Maxwell and Jeffery Wright
I'm not sure if both my gay and my feminist cards will be revoked for this-but Maxwell was one of the highlights of my women's march. I knew (in theory) of Maxwell's magnificence. But watching him sing in person was actually a miracle from heaven. When Toshi emailed me and Carolyn saying something really regular like "maxwell needs vocals on woman's work, yall down?"-I completely ignored it because I knew it was impossible. Maxwell was probably the name of a prominent drag king scheduled to cover the song. There was a reasonable, realistic explanation for all of this nonsense. But no.
I walked to the edge of the stage, looking for a snack when two beautiful men appeared before me. "Be!" Says Jeffery Wright, my absolute favorite male actor of all time. *Background, I was part of a show with him less than a week ago but the fact that Mr. Wright remembered my name was too much for my little heart to bear.* We hugged. "HEY!" I replied in an attempted casual tone. "Do you know this guy?" Jeffery says, gesturing to Maxwell standing next to him. "Um...no?" I say. Not knowing how to respond to that-I mean I know OF him-but clearly I don't know, know him. "This is Maxwell." Jeffery says. And then they proceeded to argue with each other about how wonderful the other one was. And I stood there with heart eyes for a moment, then settled the argument, "you are both wonderful." Then i walked away swiftly because I had somewhere very important to be. *Famous people scare me.*
Later in the day, when Maxwell took the stage to sing-I could NOT contain the joy exploding from my heart. Pretty much every still of every video of this moment catches me blissful, in awe of the incredible music coming from this beautiful man. Overall, his performance, his presence, his voice was grace.
5. Janelle Monae's "HELL you talmbout"