Inside the Women’s March (and what’s next)

FIRST C IN D.C.: Karen Richardson Dunn and son Dylan joined a van carrying members of Asheville's First Congregational United Church of Christ to the Women's March in Washington, D.C.
FIRST C IN D.C.: Karen Richardson Dunn and son Dylan joined a van carrying members of Asheville's First Congregational United Church of Christ to the Women's March in Washington, D.C.

BY KAREN RICHARDSON DUNN

We gather in the parking lot of Asheville’s First Congregational United Church of Christ on a raw, misty Friday morning: 25 women, two men, my teenage son, Dylan, and his best friend. We’re mostly members of First C, along with a few other local folks, clutching our coffee cups and clear plastic backpacks (recommended for security reasons), ready to head to Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March.

Those in van 3, in which I’m a passenger, are ebullient and a bit nervous. As we drive up Interstate 81, we’re thrilled when we pass two RVs plastered with “Nasty Women Onboard” signs, our first indication that we are entering “march territory.” At our next rest stop, a convenience store in southern Virginia, a mini-reunion takes place in the parking lot as a group of pink-hatted ladies, also driving up from Asheville, stream from a Subaru to hug the women from our own group. A moment later, an elderly lady pulls up beside our van, rolls down the window, and instructs us to “give ’em hell” up in Washington.

Back in the van, Sondra Helton-Moeller, the organizer for our trip, takes the wheel. Helton-Moeller retired from the U.S. Army after 28 years of service, then made the move to Asheville to begin the next chapter of her life. When I ask her why she felt compelled to organize marchers from First C, she explains, “The evening of the election seemed like the longest night of my life. [I wondered] How could this be happening? How could we as a nation be so willing to set ourselves back from all that we have worked so hard for? I had such a sense of helplessness until I heard about the march in Washington.”

She continues, “The march may not change the outcome of the election, but our voices will be heard. I am marching for the strength that we will all need and will gain from one another … to bring healing to so many of us. And I would like this march to not only bring healing but bring awareness to those who have been blinded by hate and discrimination.”

Around 6 p.m., we arrive at our destination, Little River United Church of Christ in Annandale, Va. We are given an exuberant welcome and a marchers’ feast, then sent off with our “host families” to bed. The next morning, we hit a packed, sea-of-pink Metro train by 7 and gather at First Congregational Church in downtown D.C. for breakfast. I catch up with the two men in our group, Greg Clemons and Jeffrey Whitridge, who are celebrating their recent engagement.

"I RESPECT AND STAND FOR WOMEN": Asheville marchers Greg Clemons and Jeffrey Whitridge joined  the Women's March in Washington to show their support for women and protest the election.
“I RESPECT AND STAND FOR WOMEN”: Asheville marchers Jeffrey Whitridge, left, and Greg Clemons joined the Women’s March in Washington to show their support for women and protest the election. Photo by Karen Richardson Dunn

“When we heard the announcement in church back in Asheville about the march, we turned to each other and said, ‘Let’s go!’” says Clemons. “I support women. We came from women. I respect and stand for women. And I’m here, too, to protest the election. The new administration needs to see we’re not going to be quiet. This will be transformative.”

Whitridge adds, “I want everyone’s voice to be heard. This is the right thing to do. The theme of our wedding is Love Is Everything. We need to keep changing toward the positive.”

We head out into the gathering crowds, passing the Capitol Building and the fog-shrouded Washington Monument until we come to a complete halt, unable to move even an inch forward or sideways. I am elated but also concerned, and I ask my son, Dylan, how he’s doing. He smiles, looking around him at the roaring, jubilant crowd waving banners and snapping photos with their cellphones, and says, “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.” He pauses for a moment and adds, “It gives me hope.”

I have no reply. I have no words at all. This isn’t my first D.C. march; I’d participated in others in my younger days. But as I attempt a squished, up-on-tiptoe, 360-degree turn in place, it’s not the immensity of the gathered crowd that leaves me speechless — it’s the magnitude of their joy.

If only, I half-pray, all the world could be like this.

Yet, the next morning as we board the vans to return to Asheville, I can’t help but ponder the words of Jen Psaki, the White House communications director for the Obama administration, who warned: “I worry [that the Women’s March] will give too many people license to congratulate themselves for their activism and move on with their daily lives.”

When I had asked the folks from our group before the march what initiatives they hoped to engage post-march, they really couldn’t give me an answer. But about an hour into our return trip, soon after we receive word of the crowd who gathered in Asheville for the Women’s March (estimated by organizers at 10,000), Helton-Moeller turns suddenly in her seat at the front of the van and says, “Hey — let’s meet next week for dinner to talk about what we’re going to do next!” Her words are met with a chorus of “Yes, let’s do it!” At our next rest stop, Whitridge reports excitedly, “Our van was quiet on the ride up, but now we can’t stop talking about what we can do to keep the momentum going!”

By the time we arrive back at First C at 8 that evening, we’ve made a vow: We will commit ourselves to continuing the work of the march — which for us is pretty straightforward: to care for our country and our democracy by caring for the human beings who inhabit it.

I climb out of the van, and Dylan and I head for my truck and home. We ride together in silence for a while, both weary and filled to the brim with everything we’ve seen and heard the past 24 hours, and then he turns to me.

“You know, those of us who are coming of age under this administration — we’re going to see so many terrible things happen. But because we will see all these terrible things, we’ll make sure that they never happen again. My generation will make sure things will be different.”

The Women’s March — in D.C., in Asheville, across the globe — has only just begun.

Karen Richardson Dunn is an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ and a member of First Congregational UCC in Asheville. She facilitates the Southern Conference’s Creation Justice Network.

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39 thoughts on “Inside the Women’s March (and what’s next)

    • Huhsure

      If they were to all be thinking one thing, I think it would probably be collective disgust at the sex criminal con-artist that was elected to the highest seat in the land.

      And if you looked at the signs for even a second, you would see that sentiment reflected pretty clearly.

      But why do you think that everyone there needed to be marching for the same reason. Was everyone who showed up at a Tea Party rally (those tiny little things) showing up for exactly the same reason? I bet if you surveyed 100 TP protesters, you’d get 100 different reasons.

      So why on earth should these protests be any different?

      (Of course, unless you’re setting an arbitrary bar for legitimacy.)

      • “I bet if you surveyed 100 TP protesters”

        No. Not really.

        It’s still an unanswered question despite your fabulous insights.

        We all love it when you chime in, Mr. Huh. It’s like a box of chocolates.

          • Huhsure

            Sez this guy:

            “It’s still an unanswered question despite your fabulous insights. We all love it when you chime in, Mr. Huh. It’s like a box of chocolates.”

      • Huhsure

        Oh, that’s right. There is no Tea Party any more. Silly me.

        (I guess when all that astroturf money dried up, all that was left were a handful of louts and a boatload of tricorner hats.)

  1. Don

    that would be marches PLURAL on seven continents….. and they were all about you and your ilk… and how we need to move beyond your kind (and decided lack of kindness). Go on now… mansplain it all to us… LOL

    • Lulz

      LOL, how are you going to do that? His kind pays the taxes. Who’s going to pay after his kind is gone? The government employees? The teachers? The welfare groupies? They don’t pay jack. They just take. Who’s going to pay loon?

      • Peter Robbins

        Scroll down. How pleased you will be to get a response to your Great Query.

          • Peter Robbins

            Scroll down. The answer to your original question is at the bottom of the thread.

          • “Scroll down.”

            Always a pleasure hearing from Mr. Robbins; even when he struggles with the topic.

          • Peter Robbins

            I’m not struggling to find the answer to your original question. You are. Or you say you are. I’m telling you where you can go. On the thread. To find it.

          • Once again, we hear little that is helpful from Mr. Robbins. It’s reassuring when you revert to form. I look forward to your next syllable with great eagerness.

          • Peter Robbins

            No, that’s it for now. I can’t do any more to show you the answer right there in front of your nose. But I am pleased that you appreciate my comments so much. I can’t tell you how much your longstanding friendship means to me.

          • Peter Robbins

            I assume you’re not talking about your head.

          • Huhsure

            But I read all his posts in the voice of Ralph Wiggum…

        • Huhsure

          Magic eight ball sez: “oh, look, it’s all about me again.”

      • karen richardson dunn

        Mr. Peck: The brevity of my response to you was due to the tone of your question: you’d already decided I was a Democrat, and you were obviously being sarcastic in asking the question. Therefore, it was also obvious that you didn’t really want any sort of in-depth and considered response, you just wanted to be …. biased and sarcastic. So my question to you is: Given that sarcasm is simply anger, what is it that makes you so angry that people here and around the world decided to march together? Isn’t that their right? Why does it threaten you?

  2. Deplorable Infidel

    Tim, in this cesspool of ignorance it is foolish to expect a factual answer … they have been indoctrinated to deny Americans normalcy.
    ‘you WILL be forced to care’ …

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