Going into Alice’s March for Equality last Thursday, I was expecting a small group of Friends school students walking along the sidewalk holding up some signs and pictures of Alice Paul.
I was way off.
As soon as we walked up to Philadelphia’s City Hall, I saw the scope of people who had come to the march. There were Friends schools, but in no way were their numbers tiny. A group of Girl Scouts from Moorestown had also shown up in support of Anna Holemens, the Friends Select student who had organized the march as part of her goal to earn the Girl Scout’s highest honor — a Girl Scout Gold Award.
Once at City Hall, we were greeted by a perky high school staff member from the march who taught us some cheers and gave us bracelets, buttons and posters. It was at that point I learned that we weren’t just marching to commemorate Alice Paul, but we were marching to gain support for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Once the march began the TV cameras started rolling, darting in between the police officers on bikes, desperate to get the perfect shot. As we marched the student who had given us the bracelets began leading us in the cheers, such as “Build a bridge, not a wall” or “ERA means equal pay.”
The roads had been cleared for us to walk. The planning and organization needed to make this all happen must have been tremendous, especially for a high school student.
Along the way to the Art Museum, where the march would end, we were cheered on by some little kids who were too young to participate. The signs that most of the marchers chose to display were actually quite witty. One read, “Rain Drop, Drop Top, Wage Gap, Gotta Stop-Stop.”
Once we reached the stage located in front of the Art Museum, we were led in a few more cheers while we waited for the speakers to get situated. The ceremony began when the high school participants gathered on stage and gave the reasons they were here. For about an hour and a half after the opening speech, the stage was graced with the presence of multiple speakers from the Girl Scouts and school administrators, who spoke about equality for women. After all of this, Anna came back on stage and delivered a speech directed to President Trump. She asked for his help in giving women equal rights, but also detailed that the movement wouldn’t slow down or wait. It would continue with or without him. That line got lots of applause.
The march wasn’t at all what I was expecting. However, it was really inspirational to see high schoolers get together and organize a way to express themselves. The image of people of all ages and genders getting together to declare their beliefs is one I will never forget.