Columnist Frances Henry: ‘Woodstock moment’ for next generations

  • The crowd moves west on Avenue C SW during the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 1/23/2017 7:42:04 PM

I step out of the wave of marchers around me and stand on the pavement to watch. I become mesmerized by the chanting, followed by the roar, followed by a drum’s cadence.

My eyes fill with the pink ears of the woolen hats, the children straddling the shoulders of their fathers. I see signs, many with sly humor like a shock of red hair under the words: “We shall over comb.” I want to sing.

I needed to join this march, as I have marched with women before throughout the 1970s. But, I agree today with Gloria Steinem when she says to the crowd: “I have never seen anything like this before in my very long life.”

For all its complicated gifts of distraction, only social media could bring us the half million people surrounding me in Washington, D.C. Only the sharp tool of social media could inspire and organize the women in Europe to send 10,000 pink hats to be handed out at the subway.

The day before, at the rest stops on the New Jersey Turnpike, I began to see women excited, pulling themselves out of vans, looking quizzically at the women in our van: are you sisters like us?

At 7:30 Saturday morning, our small band steps out of the house to head for the march. I see threading from a half dozen houses up Porter Street women and men with pink hats. We smile and realize something has happened, something is happening. Might we all have the same hope in our hearts?

Half an hour later I stand in Union Station to see wave after wave after wave of trains and buses unload their human cargo to be met with endless escalators packed with people coming up from the Metro. This, I realize, for my niece standing near me, might just be her “Woodstock moment.” That was the moment when I, in August 1969, looked around from my muddy hillside perch in the drizzling rain to discover my generation coming into its own power.

The millennials had made this march happen. They have picked up the torch. That spirit which infuses human being-ness reignites. The truth might be stranger than fiction, but truth also carries infinitely more potency than the lie.

Standing on that pavement, I hear a woman behind me shout: “Tell me what democracy looks like.” In deafening unison, I join with the refrain: “This is what democracy looks like.”

We step back into the throng and we march, we rally down Constitution Avenue. I did not realize how much I needed to revisit my “Woodstock moment.” Now I have no fear, either, that the next generations have theirs.

Frances Henry, of Cummington, is a writer and activist.

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