In the 2 a.m. darkness outside NYSUT headquarters, teachers, NYSUT staff, children, spouses and retirees were wide awake as we climbed aboard a bus bound for the Women's March on Washington, D.C. Our gear? Pillows for the long ride, snacks, a battery-operated hair curler, boots made for walking, cell phones to record history, posters calling out for human rights, and 56 seats worth of camaraderie and chutzpah.
Similar buses were being loaded throughout New York State, from United University Professions, the SUNY higher education union; to NYSUT members from Long Island, New York City, Central New York and Tarrytown. Educators also marched and stomped in Albany; in the Seneca Falls March honoring suffragettes; and the New York City March for Women, supported by members of the Professional Staff Congress, the CUNY higher education union, and United Federation of Teachers. They joined millions across the country and around the world who came to cheer:
"This is what democracy looks like!"
In D.C., no one could have prepared us for the power blast of people. Anywhere from 800,000 to 1 million people. People with a purpose. So many people, the official march was rerouted. We walked, shoulder to shoulder, then hand to shoulder, singing, chanting, talking. Some of us leaned up against a metal fence, talking about the election, voicing urgent concerns about women's rights, workers' rights, health care, the environment. Our concerns were as long as the rivers of people, which were deepened by feeder creeks and tributaries of more people. We stretched. We wandered. We walked. We laughed, and sometimes teared up. We followed crowds in curving lines. We sang "We Shall Overcome," and, shortly after, saw someone holding a sign that read "We Shall Overcomb."
Always, the eyes. We looked and looked and looked. We looked at Joan of Arcs, suffragettes, Uncle Sam, Rosie the Riveter and superheroes in pink capes. We looked at "signs, signs, everywhere a sign," as the Five Man Electrical Band once put it.
Posters criticized current presidential actions, such as one that read "Not So Much a Cabinet; More Like a Junk Drawer." Many posters called for kindness, action, hope and outrage, and many pledged that the "Woman's Place is in the Revolution." We signed The American Constitution, unfurled on a lawn. We pledged to take action. And we will.