The Standard Journal
Nearly 100 people march in the Rally for Abortion Justice
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — “My body, my choice” echoed down Bay Street as nearly 100 people marched in the “Rally for Abortion Justice” on Saturday.
The march was one of over 500 that were occurring simultaneously nationwide, as part of the Women’s March network, to advocate for abortion rights and protest Texas’ S.B. 8 law.
The participants ranged all ages and backgrounds. Representatives from local organizations including the Staten Island Urban Center and Staten Island Women Who March joined and showed their support. Representatives from Planned Parenthood were also in attendance.
Silvia Valentin, one of the coorganizers of the march, reflected on the day.
“We had a lot of strong people here to march with us and offer their support. I’m just so happy, I’m so lucky, and I’m so honored to have been able to do this today. I am very happy with how it turned out,” Valentin told the Advance/SILive.com.
“We got our voices heard and we got our message out and it was a good feeling,” she added.
The march’s final stop was in front of Borough Hall where a few speakers shared remarks.
“One of the things that we have to make sure is that we are in charge of us,” said Kelly Vilar, founder and CEO of the Staten Island Urban Center. “We have to share this message with other people that it is about choice and it is about ‘I am in charge of me, and I have the right.’ One woman one vote, one man one vote and we have to keep that up. Together we fight for all.”
Vilar shouted out the organizers and expressed her excitement seeing young people and men among the crowd.
“This district, our district is going to be the shining example of possibilities and we need to keep doing that,” she said.
Ranti Ogunleye, director of the Gerard Carter Center, also shared remarks.
“This is a movement that we all need to be a part of. When we think about these sexist laws, these racist laws, these laws that are being imposed on us, it’s not right. This war has been waging for such a long time. Now it’s time for the community to come together,” he said.
“This is a pressure point issue in our community and I don’t see enough men here at this march. I am proud to be supporting our women. I have a mom, I have sisters. This is our fight together and I’m going to stand with you all the way,” Ogunleye added.
Some political candidates also participated in the march.
Mike DeCillis, who is running as a Democratic candidate for Congress in the 11th District, hoping to replace Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis who currently holds the seat, told the Advance/ SILive.com about his passion for women’s rights.
“For over thirty years, since I first volunteered for Planned Parenthood, I’ve been proud to support women’s privacy rights and reproductive choice, and I always will. I was proud to march in my hometown with the organizers o the march today,” said
DeCillis. “I will always defend women’s fundamental right to choose, period.”
Brittany Ramos Debarros, who is also running as a Democratic candidate for the seat in the 11th congressional district in the 2022 election, spoke about the movement and different groups coming together for the cause.
“This is a systemic issue happening in Texas not because we are losing but because we are winning. They know that unlike ever before a community of the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalized, the vulnerable, of women, of indigenous people, of people of color, black folks, immigrants; all of us, we will not be pitted against each other any longer,” Debarros told the crowd.
“We’re going to keep coming together. We’re going to keep marching. We’re going to keep calling our representatives. And more than that, we are building a movement so that we don’t have to beg our representatives to do the bare minimum to protect our bodies and our rights,” she continued.
Olivia Drabczyk, who is the Democratic candidate for the City Council seat in the 51st District (South Shore), also spoke at the march.
“I just want to say that I am so grateful for the organizing that happened here. Thank you so much for taking this on and saying Staten Island needed its own march. Staten Island needed to stand up and say that there’s a fight here too,” she said.
“As we are talking about budgets, as we are talking about allocating money and power and space and time and energy; as we are right now as a community grappling with what it means to have a mandate on our body and which ones are we willing to stand up against and which ones are we not. As folks that have spent years and decades talking about choice and now those words are being weaponized for a new movement, that’s important. We need to have people talking about that and we need to make sure that we are relentless in that discussion,” Drabczyk added.
Hailey Kerniskey, the other co-organizer, reminded people, especially young people to use their voice not only in marching but also in voting.
“The young generation, my generation, we’re the generation that can change things and keep moving forward and not going back in time. So if you’re over 18, it is super important that you get out there and vote,” said Kerniskey.