Pittsfield — The trains are sold out, most of the bus seats are reserved, the women––and men–– are packing their sensible walking shoes, and many a pussy hat is being speed knitted after the girls have wired themselves up at Dottie’s or any Berkshires coffee institution.
No, we can no longer shy away from that “p” word, even though it…well, it wasn’t our fault that classy conduct has gone the way of the dinosaurs.
So far it looks like more than 200,000 marchers will descend on Washington, D.C., this Saturday, Jan. 21, the day after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. The Women’s March on Washington is meant less as a protest than counterweight to what many voters feel was alarming campaign tough talk from Trump about women and other vulnerable citizens.
“The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us,” reads the official statement of the Women’s March. “…women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim and Jewish, people of color, people who identify as LGBTQIA, gender fluid, and gender non-conforming, Native and Indigenous people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.”
Likely more than 9,000 of those marchers will come from Massachusetts, which, according to the Massachusetts Chapter of the WOMAWA, has so far the second most attendees of all the states.
“At this point there are very few bus options,” says the state chapter’s website, a clearing house for practical march information, and also “strongly” suggests carpooling if you didn’t get those train or bus tickets.
But there are always bus seat cancelations, so state march organizers say to keep checking the www.letskedaddle.com site, which monitors transportation changes.
Many will choose to stay in solidarity by staying put, however, and for that there are 616 sister marches around the world. As of Wednesday afternoon, 1.4 million sister marchers had said they were attending one of these. All 50 states and Puerto Rico will have at least one of these events Saturday.
In Berkshire County, we have a free indoor sister solidarity event at the Colonial Theatre that day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event was organized by a local steering committee that includes Kristen van Ginhoven of Lenox-based WAM Theatre, which focuses on work by female theater artists and stories for women and girls, and volunteers Jayne Benjulian, Lynn Festa and Mary Lincoln.
“People are welcome to stay the whole time or come and go between 10 a.m.-2 p.m.,” van Ginhoven said. “We will be streaming the DC Rally from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the theatre, along with having some other action oriented activities in the lobby. We are having a curated program from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. inside the theatre that will highlight readings from the Constitution and original writing created especially for this event by local writers. The committee came together to organize this event because we wanted to offer a local alternative for everyone who can’t make it down to DC but wanted to support the March.” (A full schedule and more information can be found here.)
Van Ginhoven said an anonymous donor rented the theater for the sister event. “We just wanted a place to gather,” she added. “The impetus was that I was going to be sitting around my house because I knew I couldn’t get to D.C. but wanted to be in solidarity with them. I looked around on Facebook and connected with about five people on the steering committee for this event.”
The event will also have a social media station and Post-it note project. A food table run by That’s a Wrap Café will be on duty for takeout orders so no one has to leave the theater and miss something, and food will be allowed in the theater.
“During the last hour, actors and local writers will perform monologues they’ve written especially for this event and will perform portions of the U. S. Constitution like you’ve never heard it before. Local luminaries appearing include MaConnia Chesser, Joan Coombs, Lori Evans, Corinna May, Brenny Rabine, Jennifer Browdy, Sheela Clary, Barbara Newman, Grace Rossman, Rachel Siegel and Lara Tupper.”
For some, the day will be one for sassing back at Trump after a campaign season of screaming at the television set or commiserating angrily at the long farm table over espresso at Rubi’s in Great Barrington. No, this is not Trump-land; one is hard-pressed to walk these Berkshire hills and find a supporter, if one would dare even reveal themselves.
Outside Town Hall on Friday, January 20, Great Barrington, Gotta Love HoUSatonic will hold a “Not My President” gathering from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
And Thursday, January 19, Barrington Stage is hosting a nationwide theatre project called Ghostlight, to “light a light in these dark times,” and asks participants to bring a light. It starts at 5:00 p.m., at the BSC Mainstage on 30 Union St in Pittsfield, and lasts one hour. It is sponsored by the Four Freedoms Coalition, whose spokesperson Sherwood Guernsey wrote that the event is to support “our common values of inclusion, participation and compassion no matter who you are or where you are from, regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
Great Barrington-based playwright and actress Rachel Siegel said she went to ukulele makers the Magic Fluke and asked someone to teach her how to play her grandfather’s ukulele for her act. It took 20 minutes. She’ll be singing the preamble of the U.S. Constitution to Schoolhouse Rock “with a school marm intro as if I’m speaking to Trump as if he is a child and teaching him the Constitution,” she laughed. “Though a little more serious than that.”
Indeed, this is all some serious business. Siegel pointed out one example of fears to vulnerable populations stemming from Trump’s policy talk and appointments so far. As the parent of a child with Down syndrome, Siegel said she’s worried.
“The thing that really got me after the election, and the thing I couldn’t stop crying about, was having a president — who is a symbolic leader, a figurehead — who sees my son as having no value.”
Siegel noted that Trump’s Department of Education pick, Betsy DeVos, didn’t know about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) though the federal law hit the books in 1990. “She said it should be left up to the states, which is terrifying,” Siegel said. “There’s already a lot of ignorance about people with disabilities.”
WAM’s van Ginhoven said march organizers had done a great job making this a “positive gathering for anybody who supports equal rights for all” rather than a “protest.”
“The event is about dignity and respect,” she added. “We want to send a message to the world that the U.S. stands for human decency. This is not a political protest about what’s happening Friday.”