Together We Rise: The Women’s March – Behind the Scenes At The Protest Heard Around The World
The Women’s March Organizers and Conde Nast
Dey St. An Imprint Of Harper Collins Publishers
Publication date: January 16, 2018 $30
On January 21, 2017, the Women’s March took place in Washington, D.C. and grew into a worldwide statement against the event that happened the day before, the inauguration of Donald Trump as President.
More than 5 million people participated in marches around the world. Women from 82 countries and on all seven continents rose up in solidarity, hosting their own marches to share a common message: Hear our voice.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat from Massachusetts, said onstage at the march in Boston, “We stand shoulder to shoulder to make clear: We are here! We will not be silent! We will not play dead!”
The Women’s March was put together by three extraordinary organizers, Carmen Perez, Tamika Mallory, and Linda Sarsour, in just over two months months, starting right after the election on November 8, 2016.
The numbers from the march were astonishing: 3,300,000 people marched in 653 marches in the United States, and 13 places in the U.S. reported a march of one person. There were 2,200 permit applications for buses bound for the Washington, D.C. march. 60,000 pussy hat patterns were downloaded before march day from pussyhatproject.com.
There was a 76-year age difference between the oldest speaker, Gloria Steinem, 82, and the youngest, Sophie Cruz, 6, at the DC Women’s March.
Together We Rise is the definitive oral and visual chronicle of this historic event, and as Jamia Wilson writes in the introduction, “This extraordinary moment had been made possible by an impassioned collective of organizers. In less than three months,they had done the unimaginable: Using activism as alchemy, they transformed one of the most divisive moments in American history – the election of Donald Trump – into an unprecedented movement that was both intergenerational and intersectional, embracing all aspects of its participants’ identities. And the 653 marches in the United States and sister marches on all seven continents were only the beginning. A wave of protest and activism followed the march and sustained itself through the first year of the new administration.”
The origins of the Women’s March came in the most grassroots way possible in the 21st century, with people seeking each other out on social media in the days after the election.
Teresa Shook, the founder of the Women’s March, writes, “At first I was depressed and felt hopeless. I jumped on Facebook hoping to find some women to commiserate with – to help make sense of what had happened. I got on a thread where women were feeling the same, and the more they expressed hopelessness, the more I felt that old fiery urge to ‘do something.’ So I commented that ‘we should march.’ One woman in that thread said, ‘I’m in,’ and that was all I needed to hear.
“I jumped off the Facebook page and went to make a private event. Before I went to bed that night, there were about 40 women attending and another 40 or so who had indicated that they were interested. When I woke up the next day, there were over 10,000 women attending and another 10,000 women interested. I started saying ‘oh my God, oh my God’ to myself over and over, trying to take it all in. Then I got busy bringing more women on board.”
Organizers Carmen Perez, Tamika Mallory, and Linda Sarsour confirmed they would join the March team as cochairs on November 17.
Once they got involved, and December arrived, the March got its momentum as civil and human rights organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation Of America, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Amnesty International, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People came on ad official March partners. This gave the March further legitimacy for organizations, donors, and individuals who were still deciding whether to get involved.
Perez writes of getting groups involved, “One of my first calls was to the AFL-CIO because we needed the union members’ support on the ground on march day, and I said, ‘I need your help.’ Workers have always been central to major movements.
“The partner conversations started around seven in the morning, and Paola (Mendoza. Artistic Director of the March) and I were having conversations every half hour with a new organization or group of people. And every single day we would get on a mass partner call to kinda update where we were – and that would be a conference call with 80 people from different organizations. Or I would be on a call at 11 P.M. with my face on a screen with 200 people in the room.”
Sarsour wrote, “Planned Parenthood came on as one of our premier partners, and Gloria Steinem and Harry Belafonte had come on as honorary cochairs. We were able to make those two announcements to the press. That’s when all of the partnerships snowballed.”
Perez wrote of telling Belafonte, who she works for as part of her work with Justice League NYC, “When I first told Mr. B that I was one of the national cochairs and I asked him to be an honorary cochair, he felt a deep sense of gratitude, but also pride, that all the years he had been working with me had come to fruition. He could feel like he was passing the baton in real time, that the organizing he had exposed me to, grounding communities across the country in nonviolence, had prepared me to create a space where I could bring these communities along.”
Steinem writes of getting involved and the expertise she brought to the March from her long and storied career, “I caught the excitement of the march idea in the same way so many did – hearing it in the street and in an online explosion of energy. This was in response to the perfect storm of the 2016 presidential election. Trump, an unsuccessful businessman who became a TV brand name, was an unqualified presidential candidate. He actually lost the election by more than 10 million votes, nearly three to Hillary Clinton and almost eight to other candidates. He only won because or the electoral college, itself a remnant from the days when slave owners demanded additional electoral votes based on the number of slaves in their state.
“I was distracted worrying about march logistics. I knew from past marches on Washington – also Chicago and Detroit and other cities – how complicated mass events can be. The initial organizers hadn’t been through the long process of getting public permits, police protection, and fleets of buses, not to mention plotting a march route and staging areas, plus Porta-Potties. People with experience began volunteering their knowledge, but I still worked and emailed myself into a stew.”
The Women’s March was the start of a movement that has only grown, and reached another major moment when they had the Women’s Convention in Detroit in late October.
Sarsour said of choosing Detroit for the Convention, “Detroit is a city with historical and political significance. Many of the issues that led us to march in January 2017 are happening in Detroit and surrounding areas: economic inequality, environmental injustice, de facto segregation, ICE raids, violent policing, and overall unequal access and opportunity. At the same time, nearby Dearborn is a city with the largest Muslim population in the U.S. And Detroit is home to a long and radical history of grassroots activism. Just like our movement, Detroit cannot be compartmentalized.”
An inspiration for the Women’s Convention would be Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, and her now famous phrase from a House Committee meeting where her questions were dodged: “Reclaiming My Time.”
With Congresswoman Waters’ blessing, that phrase became an official theme of the Convention, which has the goal of bringing thousands of new activists together to tap into the power of women as a force for chance. She contributes an essay to Together We Rise about bridging the generation gap.
Mallory wrote of their impact, “I believe that the Women’s March will go down in history as an incubator. So many women who got involved had not been engaged in social action before, including many people in leadership roles. And they got a very crash course. They got educated quickly on issues that they had been ignoring or they just didn’t know existed, for whatever reason.
“White supremacy and misogyny is in the fabric of the country. We needed people to see and understand that. Since the march, we’ve seen a lot of women get active, get out there, and say, ‘I’m sorry that I didn’t know what you were dealing with, but I’m here now. I want to be in the movement.’ For some, it moved them to a place of action. But I also think that there is something to be said about a greater level of consciousness, for women who were directly involved in the march and for women who just attended or watched from the periphery.”
Together We Rise features contributions from writers, political figures, actresses, artists, journalists, and other prominent feminists, including Ashley Judd on delivering the speech of her life, America Ferrera on overcoming election grief, Roxane Gay on her initial ambivalence to marching, Ilana Glazer on marching, chanting, and feeling angry; and Yana Shahidi on being a political teenager.
The book features a guide on how to get involved in Women’s March-endorsed organizations that handle these important issues: civil rights, workers’ rights, ending violence, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and environmental justice
Women’s March plans to share revenue generated from Together We Rise to three grassroots, women-led organizations: The Gathering for Justice, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and Indigenous Women Rise.