by Barbara Sherf
On Saturday, throngs of men, women and children biked, took public transit and drove to Center City for the Second Annual Women’s March along the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.
Among the mass of humanity was a large contingent from the Chestnut Hill West train with placards and backpacks in tow.
According to the march’s website (www.phillywomenrally.com), this year’s event theme – “We Resist. We Persist. We Rise.” focused on telling the stories of ordinary women doing amazing things in the fight for women’s rights. While there was no official crowd count, attendees from the first march and organizers believed the numbers were up over last year’s estimate of 50,000.
In the first car were East Mount Airy residents Stephanie and Emile Bruneau with their children, Clara, 6, Atticus, 3 and their grandmother, Judy Elsan.
“I thought it was important as a family to have three generations marching for respect and dignity for all, and not just today but everyday,” Elsan said, as the children showed off the colorful placards they had made.
Dan Evans, 65, of Wyndmoor noted that his first march ever was last year for the Women’s March.
“I liked the feeling that I got last year, which was that I felt I was part of a group with a shared purpose and shared values,” Evans said. “The collective energy is so exciting. I’ve lived through the Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran Contra, but I never marched even though some people I knew in college did. Last year’s presidential inauguration was a big shock and people were crying. Now they are rallying around good candidates and causes, and that fear and shock has turned into action.”
Maplewood Music School Founder Richard Rudin got on at the second stop of the train and hovered over me, as it was standing room only, despite the fact that SEPTA had added extra cars to all trains. He and a friend were there to participate with a new group called Voices Rising Philadelphia formed by Jane Hulting and a cadre of musicians and singers following the march a year ago.
Formerly of Mt. Airy and currently residing in Elkins Park, Hulting served as music director for the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir for 22 years. She now serves as music director at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration in East Mount Airy and sings with the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
“Last year my husband and I went and we were struck at the time because there was no music in the march,” said Hulting, who sang with a group of about 60 people on the parkway. “There was some drumming and chanting, but there were no groups of people singing. I had seen film clips of civil rights marches with people locking arms and marching and singing, and I wanted to see some of that.”
At the end of the rally, the group took to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to lead marchers in the song “I Can’t Keep Quiet” by singer MILCK.
‘What we find with song in this situation is that it uplifts the heart and it can help release fear, not with just one voice but many voices together,” Hulting said, noting that the group gets together several times a month to practice. “The vibrations of many voices together are both energizing and calming. Vibrations are much more powerful, and although they can be overpowered by the bad and the ugly, right now they are a ray of light that has come to earth and that’s why I think it’s a very important thing to allow people to have that experience in raising their voices as one.”
The West Philadelphia Marching Band was also apparent in the march with lettering on the trombone that said: “Believe Women.”
Signs ranged from plain pieces of cardboard to colorful artwork. “Ikea Makes Better Cabinets” showed up on several signs, along with “Think Outside My Box” and “We Resist, We Persist, We Rise.”
Newly elected Philadelphia Controller Rebecca Rhynhart was one of several speakers who took to the stage. Rhynhart had been working in government this time last year and had attended the rally. She shared with the audience that she didn’t feel she had as much of a voice as elected officials and so she ran for office and is now the first woman controller in Philadelphia.
Chestnut Hill resident Janet Mather was again on the train with a group of four women friends, and while weary on the return trip, she felt encouraged by the numbers at and organization surrounding the event.
“I find it heartening to be around such a large crowd with people of all ages, colors and categories uniting and agreeing on the importance of compassion and justice,” said Mather on the ride home. “My feet are sore but I’m glad I did it.”
Barbara Sherf shares the stories of businesses and individuals and can be reached at Barb@CommunicationsPro.com.