Though it did usher in a hat trend that has since turned into a catty controversy, the aim of last year's Women's March was "to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change." And girl, did it. On January 21, 2017, the march became the largest single-day demonstration in American history, and the movement behind it is still going strong. Together We Rise chronicles the event in photographs and essays by the "Voices of the March," including Jill Soloway. The comedian, writer, director, and the Emmy-winning creator of Transparent asked the organizers of the Women's March about the book, the movement, and what they hope will be its legacy.
Jill Soloway (JS): My march experience in D.C. was unforgettable—just the sheer number of people who showed up, and the energy of the crowd, were incredible. The entire event was such a feat of organization. In the book you share many of the logistical challenges involved in just getting an event of this magnitude off the ground, and I don’t think that people are aware of many of them. Could you talk a bit about the biggest challenges you faced?
Women’s March (WM): We had many challenges while planning the march. They ranged from only having ten weeks to plan everything, to many of us never having met before launching the March, to the very real fear we all had with Trump becoming president.
We were strangers who were thrown into working 15 hour days, under enormous scrutiny and we had to deal with a lot of issues of race, privilege and ableism. The beautiful thing about organizing the march was that we didn’t buckle under the pressure of it all. Instead, we all rose up together.
JS: I brought my son to the march, and the experience of having him there with me at his first protest was amazing. Being there together was totally inspiring, and a learning experience, for both of us. What made you decide that the time was right to do a book?
WM: We believe that one year after the march is a perfect time to reflect on all the wins and losses we have had as a movement. Equally as important as reflection, we believe that we must look to the future of this movement and what we want to accomplish. We hope that with this book readers will be inspired by what we accomplished that day, and will take that inspiration forward toward the mid-terms and beyond. We must win. And we believe we will win together!
JS: In the book, you talk a lot about how, in the planning of the march, you learned a huge amount from the previous generation of rights activists, people like Harry Belafonte, Gloria, Steinem, and Dr. Martin Luther King. Are you proud of the fact that the march was so inter-generational? Was that a big goal from the start? And who were the activists from the past whose lead you tried to follow and who most inspired you?
WM: Women’s March headquarters were Mr. Harry Belafonte’s office., which meant we literally had pictures on the walls of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 1964 March on Washington. We had Muhammad Ali and Diane Nash staring at us from their perches on the walls. We were completely aware that we did not build this movement, but rather that it was built by those that came before us and we are simply the shepherds of it.
We asked Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, Angela Davis, Harry Belafonte and LaDonna Harris to be our honorary co-chairs because we knew their knowledge would guide us to where we wanted to go.
JS: I was thrilled when you reached out to me about contributing an essay to the book—I literally dropped everything to make the time to do this! How did you decide on the range of the contributors and who to approach? Whose essays were most eye-opening to you?
WM: We love you Jill! You have been so supportive of us from the beginning. We knew having your voice was essential to this book!
The essayists are a reflection of this country. We chose women of all ages, documented and undocumented immigrants, Muslims and Jews, men, women, non-binary people and trans folks because we know this movement must be rooted in what this country actually is. If we are going to present a vision for our country’s future, we want it to be a truthful reflection of who we are.
Roxanne Gay, American Ferrera, Yara Shahidi and Ashley Judd are just some of the contributors whose visions for that future are shared in our book.
JS: And How did you end up collaborating with Conde Nast on this project? Have they been supporters of the March from the start?
WM: Cindi Leive reached out to us a few days after the march and said, “You have to tell your story. You have to share it with everyone!” We were humbled that she felt that way, but we were clear that we didn’t want this book to just be about us. We wanted it to about the people that made this movement possible.
We always say we were simply the midwives, and that the people birthed this movement!
JS: What’s next? Will there be another march? What are your plans for keeping the spirit alive and the momentum going?
WM: We need to focus on the 2018 midterms and make sure that women are winning elections. After that, we need to take back the White House, and after that, we keep fighting for a country that is truly equitable for all!