Someone started honking their car horn as my group of friends rounded the corner of Hope St. in Downtown Los Angeles. Usually when this happens, a lewd comment follows. This time, I turned to see a group of smiling faces excitedly point at our freshly painted protest signs. We made eye contact with one another. I nodded my head and lifted my sign up in the air.
I’m in the middle of a huge crowd. A woman next to me is holding the hand of her 8-year-old son wearing a Pokemon t-shirt. A man in front of me hoists his young daughter onto his shoulders. An elderly man and his wife share a fig newton my new friend Amy produced out of nowhere. A young man with green buzzcut to my left quickly pecks his boyfriend. I spoke with a woman named Alysha, who just moved from Massachusetts three months ago and found out what she thought of the Women’s March.
I start to feel a lot of different emotions swell up in my chest. I brought a pair of tinted shades with me, just in case I started to cry. For the last few months I’ve been feeling lost, hopeless, powerless and forgotten. Yet standing in this crowd filled with people who were “different” made me feel safe.
Out of nowhere, a piercing sound of a trumpet came from the roof of a parked van. A bearded man climbed up and started playing America The Beautiful. Everyone sang off key. After the song finished the trumpeter seamlessly transitioned into the Star Spangled Banner. By the time we got to the part about “…ramparts bursting in air…” I was full on sobbing.
The tears came largely because for the first time in a long time — I didn’t feel scared. As an immigrant, I felt welcomed. As a woman, I felt supported. As an American, I felt proud.
The giant crowd started moving towards 7th Street because Town Hall was full. I stopped crying and started laughing at all of the amazing protest signs peaking through. My friends and I were laughing, joking, chanting and looking forward to the speakers coming up.
A Few Hours Later…
We shouldered our way towards the main stage on 6th and Broadway. We weren’t even close but the speakers were carrying a familiar voice. No one could see who was speaking but suddenly someone in the group exclaimed “I think that’s Barbra Streisand!” And it was. Barbs was speaking her mind and the crowd loved every word. I wondered if she was air lifted to and from the stage. That seems like the only proper way to welcome in this legend. Jane Fonda spoke next. They were just a few of the long list of incredibly inspiring speakers who showed up that day.
When we got home and checked the news, we found out that nearly 750 thousand people showed up. Generally speaking, that’s 750 thousand people who believe in the same values and principles we do. And that’s just the people who were able to come out in Los Angeles.
In essence, the people I spoke with throughout the day mirrored my own sentiments about feminism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and elitism. Of course we must now be vigilant. We have to stay informed. We must not be scared but move forward with purpose.
Thanks to this empowering experience, I won’t be scared. I’ll remember the signs and the laughter. By in large, it was a historic day in downtown Los Angeles and in America as a whole.