She laughs as she adjusts the ears of a pink cloth on her son’s head. Behind her, her husband and older son walk hand in hand on the small sidewalk, all three adorning the same kind of square pink cloth on their heads. She sees some people casting her sideways glances – but she just smiles as she explains how she cannot knit. These pieces of cloth will have to do.
An endless sea of hats with cat ears like the one she was wearing can be seen all over the San Jose City Hall plaza. The hats were named “pussy hats” in an attempt to defy President Donald Trump’s statement “grab them by the p*ssy” and to protest the Trump presidency.
On Saturday, Jan. 21, there were no cars parked at the gas station across from San Jose City Hall. Instead, there were people. People who parked themselves in the intersection of 4th St. and Santa Clara St., filling their lungs with air to chant and sing, with their signs raised high into the air.
By 11 a.m., thousands of people had rallied around City Hall to participate in the Women’s March on San Jose, a sister march to the one held in Washington D.C. and to marches held all over the world. For three hours, an estimated 25,000 people marched together through San Jose’s downtown, chanting “love trumps hate” and lifting their homemade signs into the cloudy skies.
Take a look at some of the messages written on posters seen during the march.
The crowd was packed into the roads, shuffling at a slow pace for 0.7 miles in downtown San Jose as they chanted for democracy and fostered conversations about different political issues – from climate change to pipelines being built in the city.
And Michelle Noble McCain was in the middle of it all, singing while
she strummed the weathered acoustic guitar slung across her shoulders. Her daughter never failed to lose step beside her, tapping a tambourine and holding a small booklet with chords and lyrics inside.
“I like music, and I believe in the power of music to move people. At least it moves me,” McCain said. “Most of these songs are traditional protest songs, some of them from the 30’s and 20’s, and some of them from more recent times, but they’re all songs of people trying to strive for better things.”
At the end of the march, the organizers of the march hosted a number of influential speakers on a stage in Plaza de Cesar Chavez. One of the speakers was Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian, a writer and teacher focused on human relations and peace. Below is an excerpt of a poem that she wrote titled “Forward Women” that she performed as part of her speech.
“We will not wait for your lead / Wait to feel the pressure on our open palms, / Pull the small of our backs,” O’Brian said. “Now the lead rises within / It’s caked in our hearts, / Clarity of our mind / And fire in our bones. / We step forward, forward women.”
O’Brian’s poem was written as a way to channel the unprecedented participation and emotion of the elephantine crowds as they gathered all over the United States and the world. She wanted to represent the will and power of everyone who stood up on Saturday and use their voice - to be forward women.
O’Brian described forward women as women who lead by example, and who took initiative to create change, instead of being a follower.
“I wrote this poem for us, for the women in San Jose, in the Bay Area, women in Calif., women across our nation, women around the world – who are joining us in solidarity,” O’Brian said. “This poem is called: Forward Women. Now in my generation, that used to be an insult, being called a forward women, but we’re taking it up, aren’t we?”