On 77th Street and Central Park West in Manhattan, penned in a holding pattern while an estimated 200,000 people waited to march, an ocean of blue was at a standstill. Situated in a cluster of about a hundred women and men was something like a roving art installation: at its fore, two six-foot pink “gates” reading “PUSSY GATE” and “TIME’S UP,” decorated with brightly colored cat silhouettes by the veteran feminist artist Joyce Kozloff, who stood nearby, leading the charge.
Behind the gates, a phalanx of fellow artists, scholars, activists, and poets representing the loose collective We Make America—including painter Lizzie Bonaventura, sculptor Mary Frank, critic Melissa Ragona, poet Bruce Andrews, and choreographer Sally Silvers—carried ocean swells, some with representations of progressive women Democratic politicians surfing the waves. The concept was, according to the feminist painter Angela Dufresne, who carried a stick topped with a blue curl, that “the gates open and the flood of the blue wave comes flowing in, drowning the SS Shithole, a box of lies that’s sinking. We’ve really made a focus on women of color who are running in flip states... We need a serious left that is organized and is ready to take back this country.”
On the second anniversary of the Women’s March, We Make America’s mood—festive, determined—was representative of the day, and its express goals were emblematic of the focus that has developed over the past year. Today, as the official Women’s March convenes for a rally in Las Vegas themed “Power to the Polls,” it’s evident that their message has been absorbed, and the right is facing a purposeful, organized opposition with an eagle-eye towards the midterm elections.
While the Women’s March was criticized in 2017 for its perceived lack of focus, organizers both within and outside of the official organization have spent the year channelling that momentum into tangible results. In New York, roving teams of volunteers were registering people to vote, while left-of-Dems political organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America marched in official factions. “It’s the entire landscape, not just Donald Trump,” said Melissa Ragona, the art critic and historian. “The wave is much more important.”
Jeanne Sullivan, a venture capitalist and cannibis activist/investor who lives near to Trump Hotel and was protesting in front of it, said she still remains focused on Trump and “his administration, how unfair they are.”
“I believe it’s stupid white men that keep making dumb decisions, and they don’t really care about the people, or the programs and plans that could support people,” she said. “I’m fascinated by the signs, because it really shows the fervor that people have about what is going on, and that hey, we have a chance to make change.”
The timeliness of the ongoing government shutdown cast an even more urgent pallor upon the march, and its reasons were at the forefront—signs representing immigrant rights, the continuation of DACA, and protesting the racism of the administration were abundant, as were signs protesting Republicans’ use of CHIP as a bargaining chip in their fight against DACA.
Amelia, a 16-year-old student fron New York who attended with her father, carried a sign that said her reasons for marching are simple—she is female, immigrant, Latina, feminist—and said that she felt the diversity of the movement has improved since last year, when many women of color and trans women felt alienated from it. “I definitely see a lot more, I wanna say, ‘familiar faces,’ and I wanna say I see a lot more people fighting for immigrants’ rights. I see a lot of signs just straight-up say, ‘We want more intersectional feminism,’ so I’m happy about that.”
But have women’s overall political hopes changed since the last women’s march? “Yes,” said Amelia. “I want it more.”