A South African Living in New York: I was there to march against Trump

By Drum Digital
23 January 2017

"The overall sense was that there's no space for anything but resistance."

By Phumzile Sitole

The subway platform I was on at 2 pm on Saturday the 20th in Brooklyn, New York - a far stretch from where the Women's March against President Donald Trump began - already showed evidence of what was to come.

Protesters were still pouring in from all five boroughs of the city to march in solidarity against injustices and prejudices that have been expressed and executed by the now 45th president of America. Particularly those against women.

Picture/Phumzile Sitole Picture/Phumzile Sitole

Next to me sat a girl with a pink “Fuck Trump” baseball cap who was adding final touches to her poster for the March. We made eye-contact and an acknowledgement was exchanged - this immediate sense of knowing and likeness was about to be a thing I shared with hundreds more.

Empty handed I arrived on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 42nd street, right alongside the landmark station Grand Central. The sound of roaring fans, like that at an Olympic game or FIFA World Cup, echoed from a distance and I wondered what had happened. This cheer, this vocalisation - I soon came to realise didn't come with a particular catalyst - other than the crowds needed to celebrate the unity of SO many different people who probably felt alone in their fears of what America was now faced with.

Picture/Phumzile Sitole Picture/Phumzile Sitole

From infants in strollers, to small kids with cat-ear Alice bands, to old ladies with walkers - the act of surrendering to one voice was a unique thing to be submerged in. Most people came in groups, but being alone worked in my favour as I dipped in and out of the crowd - shifting my perspective and hearing the different tones.

One woman caught my eye as she was in the middle of a laughing fit. After trying her best to calm down, she leaned in and said, "I just saw a FREE MELANIA sign". We then shared the laugh together. My time there was laced with similar encounters and I came to realise how therapeutic it is to laugh with strangers.

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As I inched forward I kept tearing up as I saw hope re-enter the faces of people whose spirits had been crushed the day before during inauguration. The sight of a married couple, moms and their daughters, who would for the next four years deal with a government that rejected their type of family and a president who has a track record for continuously belittling their female gender - made the hairs on my neck lift up. As my tears welled up, they smiled and cheered and tickled their daughters, and I remember thinking if they can have some hope - there's no need to cry.

In fact, the overall sense was that there's no space for anything but resistance.

IMG_1078 r Picture/Phumzile Sitole

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