Signs of Hope: The Women’s March in Cincinnati

Reflections on the Cincinnati Sister March, January 21, 2017

By Kristin Kalsem, Center Co-Director and Charles Hartsock Professor of Lawkalsem-in-author

I wish that I had made a sign.  I was thrilled to learn that a Sister March would be held in Cincinnati at the same time as the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and then I got busy clearing my schedule so that I could go.  I didn’t even think of a sign until I was driving downtown.  But I am so glad that many others didn’t forget.  Passionate and empowering, the signs punctuated the air and the energized buzz of the crowds spilling out of Washington Park.  A mix of funny, angry, shocking, sad, and hopeful, the signs served as icebreakers at this party of allied strangers.

But if I had remembered to make a sign, what would it have said?  I would have been proud to carry a sign protesting the threat to agencies working with survivors of intimate partner abuse.  But I also want to support the Affordable Care Act.  What about defunding Planned Parenthood – that can’t happen. And I loved the sign reading “There is no Plan B” (which if you looked more closely actually said, under a beautiful rendition of the Earth, “There is no Planet B”).   But I simply would have had to speak out against the blatant racism that has so fueled this election, the Wall, the degradation of women.  There are just too many urgently necessary signs!

As I marched along on Saturday belting out rousing cheers of unity, I was thinking that this multiplicity of signs was both heartbreaking and heartening.  Heartbreaking because it is tragic that so many social justice issues are now in such jeopardy.  But heartening in the way it holds out the possibility of people with a wide variety of passions working together in coalition.

Since I am completely enamored with the musical Hamilton right now, the sign inspired by one of its songs, “History has its eyes on us,” really spoke to me in its simplicity and truth.  It does feel like that kind of a moment, a revolutionary moment.  Because SO much that I really can get patriotic about is at stake – liberty and justice FOR ALL, freedom of the press, reproductive justice, democracy itself.  Saturday’s Women’s March lifted me up and filled me with gratitude: for the parents out there marching with their children; for my own students, young people committed to changing the world for the better, who walked alongside me; for the teenagers cheering us on from the sidewalk waving signs of hope, “I am the future” and “My Voice Matters.”

We marched for a long while behind a six-year-old girl carrying a cardboard sign almost as big as she was.  There was a lot going on in her homemade poster but the word “Love” and pink hearts everywhere stood out.  She couldn’t hold it up all the time and sometimes she let it drag on the ground behind her.  But she never asked anyone to carry it for her.  It was as if she understood that it was going to take hard work and struggle to achieve the loving world that inspired her picture and she was ready to do her part.  To me, that is a very good sign.

Author: Verna L. Williams

Interim Dean, Nippert Professor of Law, co-founder and co-director of Cincinnati Law's Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice. Professor Williams joined Cincinnati Law's faculty in 2001. She teaches Constitutional Law; Gender and the Law; and Family Law. Her research examines the intersection of race and gender in law and society.

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