in D.C., Boston, NYC, Atlanta, Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Pittsfield, and Portland
So far, the major coverage of the upcoming Women's March has been underwhelming. The NYT carried an article in the business section on what bus companies are making great business out of it. The fashion section had an article on two designers who are making clothes for the event. Oh yeah, and there have been several articles on the dissent surrounding the event. Even as I was typing this, my husband came from listening to On the World out of the BBC. "Get this, " he said. "They announce, 'We're going to report on who's not going,'" and then they interviewed one woman who didn't feel safe going. Really? Really? This is the story about an upcoming day when over 200,000 people are going to march on Washington in support of women's issues?
And yet in small town newspapers, march participants are being featured, their causes and reasons more meaningful to me than whatever numbers that turn out this weekend. Wanting to put faces and reasons to this march, I asked among my Facebook friends, "Who is going? And can you tell us about your march?"
I am featuring seven of them here today in the lead-up to Saturday, in order to lend individual faces, hopes, and purposes to the event. On Saturday, I will be sharing their news during the march. And next week, I hope to ask them all to share what they make of it all in the aftermath.
Before I get around to those seven, I'd like to mention a few others. My FSLF (former student lifelong friend) Lisa, who lives in Maryland, will be in D.C., taking the very excellent photos she's been wowing me with the past two years. One of my writer friends from Yaddo days, David, will be on the street in NYC, where he lives, and my poet friend Rosemary will be at a gathering in Pittsfield, MA. My former North Shore of Boston neighbor Margot is heading to Boston, with her tween daughter. Ohio poet Larry and his wife Ann will be in Cleveland, and Aaron (also FSLF), now a teacher in Oregon, is hosting a meetup at his house before heading to the Portland march with his wife and three (very) young children. I'll hope to have news from some of them here on Saturday as well.
Meanwhile here are the seven I interviewed on how they are going and why, what they hope to achieve.
Marching in to D.C.:
Carole, Patricia, Ellen, Kathleen
PATRICIA, who lives in a coastal town north of Boston, is a 70-year old professor, retired but still teaching the occasional course. She's going with a busload of women from Newburyport, none of whom she knows.
I caught Patricia by phone as she was preparing to leave and asked her how she decided to go. She said, "After the election, I was so distraught, I emailed one of my groups looking for anything to do [in response]." She felt then and continutes to feel that it was necessary to have solidarity and concern about women's rights clearly expressed, to have those rights out in the public, to be vocal about them. She found a group leaving for D.C. from Newburyport, MA.
And why is she going? "I just felt I had to, even though it's going to be grueling. I originally imagined we'd all get housing, stay over night, but we're going there and back." Her goal is to make the march public to those who are not there and so, to make people see. She is taking extra chargers, teaching herself how to use Facebook live and hoping to broadcast live as well as take photos. "I want to make this all VISIBLE," she said, reiterating her goal. Another big plus for her is "I know I am going to meet people."
ELENA ELIZABETH HENDRICK is an American coming from Managua, Nicaragua, where she has lived and worked for many decades as what we in the U.S. might call a community organizer.
To say that Elena works as a community organizer with Kairos, which is "dedicated to contributing to the building of a world of justice and love" does not begin to describe the work she has done for decades between churches and college groups in the U.S. and Nicaraguans in villages and neighborhoods. Check out their website to get some idea of the scope of her love and involvement. She has a joyful but crushing workload, so deciding to take on the task of travel, marching, then returning to work was a big decision, and she wavered for a bit. At the last minute before she left Managua, she emailed me, " I am flying into New York City, I'll see my mom quick, and take a bus or car pool to D.C. I am going on behalf of Kairos, our team, and behalf of the women of Nicaragua. Why am I going? I am going because...I can't not go."
CAROLE ELCHERT, of Findlay, Ohio, is a professor, photographer, and speaker, whom my husband and I call "our friend who is friends with the Dalai Lama" (and she is), an activist on Tibet, and most recently, with the artists of Cuba. She describes herself as "one of 15 children raised on a 65-acre Northwest Ohio farm of mostly pigs, sheep, and hungry children."
She told her hometown newspaper, "I've taught Gender Studies & Global Perspectives on Women and Culture at the University of Findlay, which is the main reason I am going and walking because, as I encouraged the young women in my classes, we must all get involved and walk our values. To practice what I preach, I will walk for them, to improve and advance the lives of their generation. I am walking, frankly and with delight, for those who cannot," as you can see on my sign.
Asked if she is wearing or carrying anything of import to her, she said, "I am wearing Phil’s [her husband's] sky blue sweater to remind me of the hope I feel when I look into that blueness that shields life on Earth from a dark universe. Of course, it’s Phil’s sweater, and his affection too will accompany me." Like Patricia, she is traveling as an outsider with a group she doesn't know all that well, the Bluffton Mennonites. "I’m not one of the flock, she says. "However, I am supporting them, so local women realize the power in organizing, gathering/working together, and carrying each others’ needs to Washington and then forward to change policies, norms, laws, belief systems around the globe."
She ended, "I am viewing this Women’s March as a protest against corporate wealth, the power brokers who are buying our country and its policies. Their privileged voices in Washington are compromising the whole system of protections to insure that this country remains of the people, by the people, for the people. Wish us luck and fair weather!"
KATHLEEN A.WELSCH lives in Pennsylvania where she teaches at a state university. Among the courses she teaches is one in Women and Gender studies, in which, she says, she can flex her teaching skills in a positive way.
Kathleen writes, "I could go to the sister march in Pittsburgh – a 90 minute drive south, but I want to be in the capital. I want to be part of that roaring crowd of women! And I don’t want to go solo. The bus is sponsored by my university, and a number of my Women & Gender Studies students will be attending their first march. I want to witness their excitement and passion."
She sent this photo, which she says, "is one of me at an ERA rally in 1982 holding the purple, gold, and white Richmond, Virginia NOW banner. I was 24.
"I’m now 60 and can’t believe we are still fighting the same battles. This event is too big, too important, too historic, too empowering to miss! My sign is completed. My “pussy” hat arrived today. I am ready!"
Marching in Boston: Peggy
PEGGY NELSON lives outside of New Haven, Connecticut. (via Canton, Ohio and Syracuse, New York). She currently co-hosts a weekly radio show about the Arts, “State of the Arts” (WPKN.org – check it out) and she's also a local actress. She's been a high school teacher, saleswoman, director of plays, and best of all mother and now grandmother. And she's always been passionate about the arts, women’s rights, civil rights, LBGT rights and the elderly.
She will be marching with her best friend from high school, "in itself is worth celebrating: a friendship lasting over 50 years," she says. "We were part of the first generation of women to dream of a career beyond housewife and mother. We were idealistic young people who believed in universal peace and love; we remember the assassination of JFK, RFK and MLK; we protested the Vietnam War; we believed in civil rights; we wore bell bottoms and were known as hippies; we almost went to Woodstock; we fought for women’s rights; we were clients of Planned Parenthood." Of her hopes for the trip, she says:
"I see this as a march in solidarity with The Women’s March on Washington. I have a strong allegiance to women, people of color, immigrants, and the LBGT community and I want their rights protected. Mostly, I’m hoping to send a strong message to our leaders and the American people."
Marching in Atlanta: Courtney
She began by saying, "I will be wearing my mother's scarf," a pronouncement that comes clearer when she says why she is marching:
"I’m marching this week for my mother who died in 2013 at just 66 years old. My single mother..a victim of domestic violence in her first marriage as a young mom..a Hillary supporter. I worked alongside my mom as a kid volunteering for John Lewis during one of his many runs for re-election. I march for my multi-racial daughter and son. I march because I am a Girl Scout leader and we teach our girls to be honest and fair, considerate and caring, courageous and strong. It sickens me how people have been treated for speaking up and standing up to the hate over the last few months. I want us to be an example of the good in this world…love, equality, diversity, inclusiveness…. That is what I want EVERYONE to embrace, and to embrace EVERYONE. I march for my grandfather who came here in 1922 at the age of 22 years old from Sicily and whose name is on the registry at Ellis Island. I march for my husband whose safety I fear for as a black man. I march for my son who becomes a teenager this year that he is judged for his character and how he treats others and not for the texture of his hair.
"I march for my interracial marriage that would not have been possible if it wasn’t for people like MLK. I march for my liberal-minded, caring and gentle Muslim friend who often attends mass with his Catholic grandfather. I march as a victim of sexual assault and I march for the reproductive rights for all women. I’m going to the march with Cobb Progressives—formally known as Cobb County for Hillary. These are people I worked with, making hundreds of calls to get the vote for Hillary. I plan to meet my friend of 30 years downtown on Saturday and hope to take my sister with me on this historic march."
Marching in Ann Arbor: Indigo
INDIGO FLEMING POWERS (FSLF) lives in Toledo, Ohio.
And about her reasons for going, she says, "I feel that the march will be a very visible message for both politicians and the rest of the country that women and all the other probable targets of discrimination perpetrated by and during this administration will not just silently endure and suffer (or shut up and look hot, in the case of women). I also think it is a clear message to those targeted populations that they are not alone and the hate-filled voice of America is not the true or only voice of America. Lastly, I think it is an important reminder that women (and the members of every other group that was disrespected or targeted for violence) are actual real people and tolerance and equality are principles the citizens of America have been fighting long and hard to make a reality—a reminder we need because this election season saw feminism and civil rights take a horribly hard hit."
She ended on the positive, which is definitely in keeping with her character: "I also love the idea of a march because it is a clear statement without potential for escalating the violence and hatred we are resisting."