Yesterday was beautiful — warm, sunny, and a great day to be outdoors. I walked slowly, wearing my knee brace and using my cane. Lots of people passed me, but I enjoyed walking along, seeing the swan boats carrying people on Lake Eola. I saw actual swans, too, and it was a delight to be moving, even though slowly, towards the gathering at the amphitheater. I saw all ages of folks: babies, toddlers, elementary school children, teens, and all ages, right up through folks a decade or two my senior. And the signs! Clever, creative, colorful! Mine was simple — I did it last-minute, found a pre-packaged sign on Etsy early yesterday morning, sentiments that I endorse — paid, printed it and taped it to a piece of cardboard (no sticks). I was glad to have my sign, happy that I chose to wear a pink T-shirt, grateful for the good weather.
I had been in touch with two people in a FB group and tried to meet up with one of them at Panera, but that hadn’t worked out. I was OK being by myself. I had gotten a half sandwich and an ice tea from Panera, sat outdoors with it, and expressed silent gratitude for the opportunity to spend the winter in Florida. Because of my screwed up knee, I had registered for a handicapped seat online, because I knew that I could not stand for 2 or 3 hours. The event website, or something that I had read online, said to not bring chairs, so I didn’t. I didn’t even bring a blanket, but I did have my large hippie scarf, and when I found an available spot of grass under trees near the water and within sight of the amphitheater, I decided to plant myself there. I spoke briefly with the folks on both sides of me, then sat, checked my phone, looked around, absorbed the scene.
As I sat, the crowd grew. It was amazing to watch all the folks flowing by on the sidewalk, carrying their signs, pushing their babies in strollers, bringing their sign-wearing dogs out for an important walk leading to this gathering. A young family of 3 decided to sit on the ground between me and the lake. This seemed to work for them. Two women spread out a blanket between me and the sidewalk, then sat in easy cross-legged pose and meditated. I smiled. Later, we began to talk, and then enjoyed the afternoon together, commenting, picture-taking, listening, sharing bits and pieces of our history and our current lives. Social work and teaching are our careers. One also teaches yoga. We talked a bit about Reiki.
And so the afternoon went. Speakers spoke, or read poetry. The sound system somewhat was cooperative. The crowd streamed on, constant motion on the sidewalk. The group of young people near us decided a large group photo was needed, so we all arranged ourselves and our signs. We took pictures of signs that we especially appreciated.
I had wondered about my choice of pink, but it worked for me, so I wore it. Every variety and color of clothes was represented, so there was no right or wrong. White or purple had been suggested for the suffragettes. Someone posted that the white was racist. Green was suggested for hope. All those colors were worn, and more. Blue, gray, black, prints. All was welcome. One young woman wore a bandana that reminded me of the Rosie the Riveter poster.
The afternoon ended with a march around the lake. We were asked by the organizers to link arms four across and stay on the sidewalk, as that fit the requirements of the rally permit. My new friends and I were three, so we linked arms for a few minutes, but that made walking difficult, so we stopped, and kept moving at a good pace. About 1/3 of the way around the lake, I figured I was close to my parking garage, so I said goodbye, and walked away from the march, from my new friends, from the experience of being a part of thousands gathered in Orlando, more thousands in other parts of Florida, all the sister marches in the USA that had taken place in solidarity with those gathered in DC. I feel the community we were part of building. I know that friends of mine were in DC, others in Ithaca and in Binghamton.
And it wasn’t just in the USA. All across the world, women and men and children marched in solidarity with us as we work to deal with the actions, speech, anger, and impulsiveness of the baby-man that some of the voters in our country put into place to govern us because they believed his lies. The gatherings were peaceful and full of joy and positive energy, even as we feel sad and angry about the effects of the forces moving against us. Our wonderful system of checks and balances may not be enough to keep us safe. Our activism is necessary.