The Women’s March Takes Manhattan

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Indian women in the march Photo - Lavina Melwani

Indian women in the march
Photo – Lavina Melwani

The Women’s March in New York: Poetry of the Streets

All Photos: (C) Lavina Melwani

It started like a whispering rustle around the world, a soft rumbling and become this mighty force of marchers from Paris to Washington DC which also poked its way into my quiet apartment in New York. It seemed almost sacrilegious to be just spending a cerebral work afternoon at my computer when right on my streets so much action was taking place. It seemed futile to create mental protests just in my head when people were actually hurting, when lives had changed so much. How could I be a silent spectator on the couch, watching other people speak up, stand up and fight for what we all believed in?

I go for a daily walk but today’s walk would be for a higher purpose.  Instead of walking, I would march.  I got almost a rousing GPS report when Salman Rushdie wrote in a Facebook posting, “Second and Third Avenues rock solid mass of demonstrators and cross streets too. The march is not marching – the people have burst through the fences and are everywhere shouting GO TO FIFTH. The crowds are taking over the whole east side in midtown. It’s good-natured but totally out of control and YUGE.”

I met with protesters and became part of the march

I chatted with protesters and became part of the march

So I headed down 2nd Avenue on 60th Street, sure I’d be able to catch up with a bulky march that was hardly being able to march, due to the astronomical numbers. It was a nippy cool day and there was a festive feel with large groups of women, many in pink pussy caps, headed in the same direction as I was. When I saw even men wearing this infamous headgear, I realized this was not just an all-women thing at all – it was a human thing.

I knew a lot of South Asian women were participating together in the marches from DC to Boston to New York but I had not really coordinated with anyone.  In a way sub-consciously I wanted to be a particle in the larger anonymous American flow, letting the brown blend with the black and the yellow and the white.

I March for All Too Afraid to. Photo: Lavina Melwani

I March for All Too Afraid to. Photo: Lavina Melwani

There’s a joy in speaking to complete strangers and learning the cadences of their lives. I might have eaten upma and coconut chutney for breakfast and someone else may have had eggs sunny side and bacon, yet we all had so many things which bound us together – we all wanted equality, fairness and respect and a decent world for our kids

 

Marchers take Manhattan Photo - Lavina Melwani

Marchers take Manhattan
Photo – Lavina Melwani

 

Once I reached the 40’s I was part of this huge surging mass of humanity, a cascading river of marchers – men, women, children and babies. There were three generations of women – grandmas, mothers and daughters and the strong men who loved them. There were girlfriends and boyfriends and every relationship in-between. There was a wonderful electric energy in the crowd and as we all marched, one could see the camaraderie amongst strangers, a solidarity born in that moment. This army bore no guns or baseball bats – there was no physical violence, no altercations with the cops and no setting fire to vehicles.  Their only weapons were  placards of paper, some angry, some funny, some sarcastic – many made by kids.

Placards as Weapons Photo: Lavina Melwani

Placards as Weapons
Photo: Lavina Melwani

 

As one placard proclaimed, “Make America Think Again.” One asked, “If I make my uterus a corporation, will you stop regulating it?” Another noted, “Respect existence or expect resistance.”  Hundreds of words venting people’s anger and frustration, and yet also underlining people’s love for each other and the unity they want to emphasize.  A Caucasian and a Latina spoke with me about what brought them to the march: “It’s the compassion and humanity in all people – we are a country made for all people. It’s amazing to see all these people here today and we are here together in solidarity.”

 

I also met up with some Indians, each of them carrying placards about women’s rights.  As one of them said, “I’m here to fight for equality of women. Trump doesn’t acknowledge women as being important and as equal to men. It’s frustrating. We had a black president and we made so many strides. And now we are taking a hundred strides back.”

A Muslim woman who works in the city had this to say: “I’m here today because I’m American and I’m don’t feel comfortable that I’m being thrown out of my own country. He’s being so racist against all of us – I’m educated and I’m really trying to do good for the world so how can you claim we are all bad people and all terrorists? That’s not true.”

A Muslim student from New Jersey said:   “A lot of us felt ignored after the elections. We came here to share our anger as a lot people are afraid of losing their rights and their health care – things which are important to us. Yet many are standing up for Muslims and we came here also to show our unity and spread our love.”

On her cheek she had painted a big crimson heart  – using her face as a placard to share the love. In the end, maybe love will conquer all…

 

Love Trumps Hate. Photo: Lavina Melwani

Love Trumps Hate. Photo: Lavina Melwani

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the march and share your anecdotes and photographs in the comments below.

 

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About Author

Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. Twitter@lavinamelwani & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

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