Critical Mass: the weight of change








I was there, in that picture, just a few weeks ago. The Women’s March. That Saturday, I traveled to Los Angeles, where I used to work, and where I would see plays and opera and dance performances. But that was a long time ago. I didn’t know it until I got there, but I was afraid of downtown Los Angeles. I’d been away too long and I didn’t know it anymore.

But I took my cue from the people around me: I followed them out of the train, and then on to the metro and then out into Pershing Square.  There were outrageous signs, and pink pussy hats, and lots of sunglasses. And people smiling big white teethed smiles.

There were…so many people. So many women. So many races. So many helicopters and pot smoking hipsters and families who brought their small dogs on a leash.

I was, I’ll admit it, worried.

What if there’s an earthquake right now?

I tried to focus on the beauty of the crowd, the amazing women dancing and marching, the men linking arms together and chanting slogans that made you laugh.

Now would be a bad time to have an earthquake.

I could look around and see a lot of children: children in strollers, and carried in backpacks. Children with flags and signs and hats.

It seemed like there were hundreds of people, thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people. I have never seen so many people together in one place before. The weight of all these people around me, made me feel a little panicked. My chest felt tight, and I could hear my heart beating in my ears. I was supposed to meet friends at eleven o’clock. I think I was ready to leave now, before something bad happened.

But I looked at the parents of all these children – and they didn’t seem worried about an earthquake. They were marching and struggling with water bottles and sunscreen and missing flip flops. The parents seemed to know how to handle this crowded feeling.

Now would be a bad time for a riot.

I stopped and realized, no one would bring their dog to a riot. There were lots of “Excuse me, coming through”, as folks tried wiggling around the marchers. “Sorry, I need to step in front of you here, thank you…” “Love your sign, can I take a picture of it?” “Great!”  “Will you take a picture of me with your sign?” “Look at that sign!”

Now would be a good time for you to kick those fears out of your head.

So I kept breathing, with those 750,000 people there, breathing, and I braved the March for a while longer. And listened.

After a couple of hours I found my friends and we sheltered in the shade, and watched. After a while, the noise started to sound like an enormous beehive, with the music, the sirens and laughter and the drums and shouting.

I was so grateful when we went inside the City Hall building, our friends flashing their City Hall Employee badges to the police ringing the doors.  We climbed the back stairs of the building, past the watchful eyes of more policemen. And with some of the other city staff, we were briefly allowed access in the tower, to look out across the city of Los Angeles. We watched the masses of people, and heard them roar in response to what the speakers were saying, and what they were feeling, and what needed to be heard. I will never forget that noise. Or the weight of all those people, coming together to show up, march, and be counted. I know this moment with 750,000 people will be a part of our culture going forward, part of our theater, our stories, our history. I think there will be more of these, and I intend to be there.

And before I left, I took this photograph from the tower.







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