Sarah Sophie Flicker Reflects on the Year Following the Women's March on Washington

Just four, maybe five days after the Women’s March on Washington last January, I received a call from an unknown number. (This has happened a lot this year.) And, when you’re a mom, you have to pick up—no matter how scared you are of the mystery on the end of the line. So I did. On the other end was Cindi Leive, then the editor-in-chief of Glamour. I had met her once, but didn’t know her well. Nevertheless, she immediately launched into why the Women’s March organizers had to write a book.

That was a year ago. Some of us were skeptical; while we had realized we would not simply be going back to our previous jobs and previous lives on January 22, and that none of us were walking away from the Women’s March, we knew nothing about how to get a book published. And there were other things to focus on. We were already becoming rapid responders to this administration’s immediately brutal policy proposals and beginning to plan “A Day Without A Woman.” But Cindi was insistent—it was almost like we didn’t have a choice—and now, a year later, Together We Rise, this amazing historical document, collection of essays, and blueprint for intersectional organizing, has come into the world. Books often take a year and a half to two years to release; in true Women’s March fashion, Paola Mendoza, Cassady Fendlay, the Women’s March national team, and I, with Cindi’s guidance, compiled this one in nine weeks.

It struck me as we were meeting with publishers and shepherding the book through production how crucial it is for women to tell their own stories, especially when it comes to historical events like the march. My daughter frequently comes home from her very progressive school—with textbooks filled with the tales of white men. So when it came to the march, we recruited (but really begged and prayed she would say yes) Jamia Wilson, who had recently been named the executive director and publisher of the Feminist Press at the City University of New York, to record an oral history and tell our story, warts and all. And, in addition to everything else, she also managed to write the most beautiful forward to the book. It never fails to make me cry.

I’ve said it before: If a truly intersectional feminist movement were an easy thing to accomplish, it would have been done a long time ago. We knew we had to include moments that were less flattering, many of which are still painful to talk about. But at the same time, it was so healing for us to get into it all. This is as much the real work that needs to be done as are marches, rallies, and protests: the critical daring discussions; the realization that, as long as we recognize our shared humanity and fundamental rights, it’s okay to disagree on the smaller things.

In the book, we revisit the challenges of ensuring diverse perspectives were included in the march’s decentralized leadership, and of ensuring the movements that came before, like the March on Washington, the Million Women’s March, and Black Lives Matter, were not erased in the course of planning our own demonstration. There was the inherent sexism we confronted, like when we were asked, over and over, if we had secured the necessary permits for the march. And there are moments that seem relatively minor in hindsight—like the tension between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton surrogates and supporters inside the Women’s March and the progressive movement more broadly. Nevertheless, we worked together, and we did so just a week after the election. Bob Bland has been so transparent about her own journey from being someone who wasn’t an activist to someone who was a major activist over a very short period. This involved, in part, a crash course in privilege and intersectionality and whiteness. Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, Nantasha Williams, Brea Baker, Tony Choi, Janaye Ingram and Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs (and all the women and men of color involved with the Women’s March) have had the patience to work this out with us, despite some rightful distrust in white women. After all, 53 percent of white American women voted for Donald Trump.

“In the days after the election,” Carmen says in the book, “I didn’t know how to engage in conversation with white women, because we had heard that so many white women had voted for Trump.” We have all had to learn how to talk to each other, which has, of course, presented challenges, but these discussions have also produced some of our most rewarding shared moments.

We’re doing the work. We midwifed a movement. None of us feel responsible for this incredible year of activism we’ve seen, but I do feel like we helped set the tone, and we did so with intent. The Unity Principles, for example, which are laid out in the book (including the elimination, and subsequent reincorporation, of a term standing in solidarity with sex workers, another moment of controversy we contend with in the book), were very intentional. The movements we’ve seen succeed the Women’s March this year, like Me Too and Time’s Up, are examples of thoughtful, intersectional organizing. And the Women’s March itself is indebted to those who came before, like Black Lives Matter, without which none of this would have been possible. That’s what a real, vital, successful movement looks like.

In creating this book, there were absolutely voices that were left out, stories that remain to be told, like those of the state, global, and volunteer organizers. We recruited 28 national organizers to narrate an oral history of the march, assembled a toolkit for organizing, drafted a powerful afterword, sought out personal accounts of the march, and recruited 20 essayists to contribute their perspectives. I thought there was no way Ilana Glazer or Roxane Gay would participate—I was wrong. (Folks like Rebecca Solnit and Angela Davis were, unfortunately, out of town. This was, after all, in the middle of August.) These contributors had just a couple weeks to submit their essays, which no writer wants to hear. Yet, with the frantic, rushed pace, they had no choice but to be super raw and honest. Actors Yara Shahidi, Rowan Blanchard, and America Ferrera, Rep. Maxine Waters, and Transparent creator Jill Soloway all contributed. Whenever I’m on the brink of hopelessness, National Domestic Workers Alliance director Ai-jen Poo’s piece and civil rights activist Valarie Kaur’s “Revolutionary Love Is the Call of Our Time” essay both lift me up immediately.

Mass mobilizations remind us that we’re not alone, even if there are just 30 of you marching in a rural, conservative area. The day of the Women’s March helped us realize we outnumber them. Revisiting it now sets the tone for the upcoming midterm elections—which is why the “Power to the Polls” effort coincides so beautifully with this release. We are rolling out voter registration and “Get Out the Vote” campaigns in Nevada, working closely with organizers in swing states. It will only take flipping Nevada and Arizona, and holding onto the seats we already have, to have a Democratic majority in the Senate. In the days of mourning following the election, none of us could have imagined that, by January, we’d be gathering in joy and celebration. That spirit has to sustain us throughout the Trump administration. The issues his election has loudly brought to the surface are not new; Donald Trump does not represent anything that many haven’t represented before him. Out of despair, we can find hope—but it takes all of us showing up.

We end the book with these words: “We must continue to show up intentionally and with strategy, and to do so even for those who we do not know, with the commitment to the fundamental truth that my liberation is bound in yours, and yours in mine.” I etch this into my heart—and with a firm resolve and commitment to love harder and keep showing up as November approaches, I believe that we will win.