CITY MARKS 3RD WOMEN’S MARCH

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY ANN DOSS HELMS AND JOE MARUSAK [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com you Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @An­nDossHelms

The 2019 Women United March in­cluded speak­ers who cel­e­brated gains and chal­lenged par­tic­i­pants to do more.

An evolv­ing women’s move­ment held its third an­nual pep rally in up­town Char­lotte Satur­day as thou­sands gath­ered for the 2019 Women United March.

The event, an off­spring of the world­wide women’s march that emerged the day af­ter Don­ald Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion in 2017, in­cluded speak­ers who cel­e­brated gains and oth­ers who chal­lenged par­tic­i­pants to do more.

Su­san Har­den, who an­nounced at last year’s march that she would run for Mecklenbur­g County com­mis­sioner, came back with an up­date.

“Guess what? I won,” Har­den said to cheers. “I was one woman that was part of a huge wave.”

The 2018 cam­paign saw record num­bers of women mo­bi­lize as vol­un­teers, can­di­dates and ul­ti­mately elected of­fi­cials, the Ob­server has re­ported. But sev­eral speak­ers at Satur­day’s two-hour rally said get­ting women elected or deal­ing with tra­di­tional women’s is­sues is too nar­row a fo­cus.

Cat Bao Le, di­rec­tor of the Char­lotte’s South­east Asian Coali­tion, told the crowd she hes­i­tated to ac­cept the speak­ing in­vi­ta­tion be­cause she sees the women’s march as “an event that has not demon­strated that it’s com­pletely com­fort­able with the com­plex­ity of what it means to be a woman.”

Le and other speak­ers chal­lenged the group to go be­yond ral­ly­ing for main­stream is­sues and start work­ing with groups they may see as, in Le’s words, “too ag­gres­sive.”

“Will we — will — show up at marches that push you be­yond your own com­fort?” Le asked. “Will you do work for the col­lec­tive with­out hav­ing to be ac­knowl­edged for it?”

Myka John­son of Char­lotte Up­ris­ing pushed the com­fort zone even fur­ther. She showed up in a crop top bear­ing the slo­gan “CMPD Killed Justin Carr” — a ref­er­ence to a con­tro­ver­sial the­ory about a shoot­ing death dur­ing 2016 street protests — and opened with a graphic de­scrip­tion of what she, as a trans woman, did to pre­pare her ap­pear­ance for the event.

John­son said trans and non-bi­nary women of color are bail­ing peo­ple out of jail, re­sist­ing im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials and stand­ing up against Pales­tinian op­pres­sion while many at the rally are on the side­lines. She chal­lenged par­tic­i­pants to show up in Fe­bru­ary for the trial of Rayquan Bo­rum, who has been charged with shoot­ing Carr.

“What will you do?” John­son asked. “Fight­ing for women’s rights is so much more than at­tend­ing a march once a year.”

It’s a far cry from Jan­u­ary 2017, when more than 10,000 peo­ple marched through Char­lotte’s streets wear­ing pink knit hats and car­ry­ing signs that protested Trump’s elec­tion.

Satur­day’s march was smaller. First Ward Park, which holds about 5,000 packed shoul­der-to-shoul­der, looked full but had plenty of room to min­gle.

In 2017 and 2018, Char­lotte’s marches co­in­cided with sim­i­lar events around the world. This year it came a week af­ter the “women’s wave” events in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and many other cities. Or­ga­niz­ers in Char­lotte and Raleigh opted to wait a week so last week­end could be cen­tered on Mar­tin Luther King Jr. events.

Char­lotte’s Women United March has a new spon­sor, with the Queen City chap­ter of the Na­tional Coali­tion of 100 Black Women join­ing Char­lotte Women’s March. Or­ga­niz­ers asked speak­ers to avoid par­ti­san rhetoric and fo­cus on is­sues that unite women. The two em­cees and 12 speak­ers were cho­sen to high­light racial and re­li­gious diver­sity, as well as is­sues such as re­pro­duc­tive rights, im­mi­gra­tion, gun vi­o­lence, ac­cess to health care and LGBTQ is­sues.

Few of the Char­lotte signs fo­cused on Trump, and even fewer bore his im­age. The “pussy hats,” which some have de­cried as sym­bols of shal­low white fem­i­nism, were less vis­i­ble in 2019.

Lo­cal or­ga­niz­ers hope to avoid the rifts that have roiled the na­tional move­ment, where one or­ga­nizer’s ties to Na­tion of Is­lam leader Louis Far­rakhan led to ac­cu­sa­tions of anti-Semitism. Like marches across the coun­try, the Char­lotte event has been crit­i­cized for do­ing too lit­tle to ap­peal to non-white fem­i­nists.

Laura Meier of Char­lotte Women’s March and Re­nee Hill of 100 Black Women opened the rally by ac­knowl­edg­ing the con­tro­versy but high­light­ing what unites the crowd.

“We are in the throes of a women’s move­ment, and some peo­ple would love to see us fail,” Meier said.

The two or­ga­niz­ers asked the group to “make some noise” if they sup­port qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for all chil­dren, ac­cess to health care, the value of im­mi­grants, the right to love who you want, an end to ger­ry­man­der­ing and equal pay for equal work.

They got hearty cheers each time.

“To­day we hope that you will lis­ten to and learn from the diver­sity of per­spec­tives,” Hill said. “We hope you will march with oth­ers who have shared prin­ci­ples, even if we do not al­ways agree.”

The event brought a mix of vet­er­ans and new­com­ers — in­clud­ing a group of UNC Char­lotte stu­dents who came for the first time and some teens from Union County’s Marvin Ridge High who came last year and brought more friends this year.

The Marvin Ridge stu­dents made signs such as “I eat gen­der norms for break­fast” and the Harry Potter-themed “When Volde­mort is present we need a na­tion of Hermiones.”

“We are the next gen­er­a­tion to come out and vote,” 17-year-old Court­ney Gross said.

Teresa Peña, a His­panic ac­tivist from Ire­dell Coun-

‘‘ TO­DAY WE HOPE THAT YOU WILL LIS­TEN TO AND LEARN FROM THE DIVER­SITY OF PER­SPEC­TIVES. Re­nee Hill

ty, said she has been to all three Char­lotte marches. This year’s was the small­est but most in­clu­sive, she said be­fore the speeches be­gan.

“We are one race, the mixed race, and we are go­ing to pre­vail,” Peña said.

Liz Cotto, 18, said she and other young dancers from RL Dance, a Char­lotte dance troupe that pro­motes Latino cul­ture, were ex­cited to be at their first women’s march, to stand up for equal rights.

Bar­bara McCullers of Char­lotte showed up Satur­day morn­ing wear­ing the pink she got at the first na­tional women’s march.

She and two friends from Ac­tion NC, all of them African-Amer­i­can, said they’re proud to be part of an in­clu­sive move­ment.

“We’re here to fight for all women,” McCullers said.

“They’re try­ing to push women back to the Stone Age,” said Wil­lie Daw­son.

There was plenty of so­cial­iz­ing and pic­ture­tak­ing among the crowd, but speak­ers stressed the se­ri­ous­ness of the work ahead.

“You need to vi­su­al­ize your promised land, name it and work to­ward it,” said Rabbi Judy Schindler, a key­note speaker. “The jour­ney to jus­tice is not easy. There will be days when you will walk away in tears.”

PHO­TOS BY DIEDRA LAIRD [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Sup­port­ers hit the street Satur­day dur­ing the Women United March, the third an­nual march, in up­town Char­lotte.

Alma Her­nan­dez dis­plays signs at the Women United March in up­town Char­lotte on Satur­day.

Crowds cheer at the Women United March at First Ward Park, the third an­nual women’s march, in up­town Char­lotte.

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