Thousands of marchers circled the N.C. Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh on Saturday to tell the world they are still fighting for change.
As the 2019 Raleigh Women’s March crossed the pedestrian bridge to Halifax Mall behind the building, a group of pre-teen girls cheered on hundreds marching below them on the street.
While the parade of families, college students and activists, colorful signs celebrating women, and dogs dressed in protest T-shirts and sandwich signs lightened the mood, those who came to march said they are determined.
It’s time for every woman and every man who stands with them to fight for higher ground, high school student Madison Kimrey said. The Burlington resident urged the crowd to press for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, written almost 100 years ago but never added to the U.S. Constitution.
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Only one state needs to ratify the amendment to move it forward, said Kimrey, who started her ERA activism at age 13 on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
“If we fail to participate, we desecrate the hallowed ground on which we stand that was consecrated by our mothers, by our grandmothers,” Kimrey said. “When we allow ourselves to get dragged down into the ideological quagmire that exists on social media, we concede the ground that has been won through the struggle and the blood of our sisters to those who want to display their desire for our oppression like feathers in their red caps.”
This third annual march — “Women United for Justice” — featured a dozen speakers and roughly 40 community groups.
The march is about uniting people on the issues that inspire them, volunteer Kelsea McClain said.
It’s also about celebrating the record number of women who got involved, ran for office and made a difference last year, volunteer La-Mine Perkins said. That election affirmed for her that the 2016 presidential election did not reflect the America she knows, she said.
Regina McCoy drove Saturday from Winston-Salem to march beside her daughter Nyia Pulliam, a Meredith College junior, and Pulliam’s friend Chaise Brown. Pulliam, who attended the 2017 march, said she came this year with “more vigor, more anger and more passion.”
“Being any woman is difficult right now, but I feel it’s not just about women, it’s about men,” Pulliam said. “It’s time to raise our boys up to realize this is an issue for everyone. It’s time to get our fathers to speak to our sons about rape culture, speak to our sons about the patriarchy, so that when I have a child, and my child has a child, they’ll be able to grow up and realize this isn’t right.”
No national tie
Women Mobilize NC, an ad hoc volunteer group, started the Raleigh Women’s March in 2017. It is not affiliated with the National Women’s March, held last weekend in Washington, D.C.
The New York Times reports the national march was embroiled in controversy this year after Jewish activist Vanessa Wruble, with the founding organization, Women’s March Inc., accused fellow activists Tamika Mallory, who is black, and Carmen Perez, who is Hispanic, of making anti-Semitic remarks.
Mallory also was criticized for her social media comments and attending an event with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has made anti-Semitic comments, the report stated. The controversy has prompted some to abandon the Women’s March, and others to call for Mallory and Perez to step down.
Women Mobilize NC addressed the controversy on its website, stating: “Women Mobilize NC is NOT affiliated with the National Women’s March and has organized each event in Raleigh independently. We are appalled by the rise of anti-Semitism and the pain and suffering it causes.”
The reasons why people marched Saturday are numerous, McClain said. For her, it was about abortion rights and a woman’s access to care. As community outreach director for A Woman’s Choice of Raleigh, she said, her job is to ensure people know about the clinic.
“I think abortion care providers, especially due to the violence that occurred in the ‘90s toward providers, have kind of lived in the shadows out of fear,” McClain said. “The last decade has been just marked by attack after attack on abortion access,” sharply reducing the number of independent clinics in North Carolina and creating hurdles to care for women and clinics, she said.
Volunteer Penney DePas said she wants to build a better world for her daughter and soon-to-be grandchild. The nation and the state have been moving in the wrong direction on women’s rights, she said, while families earn wages that no longer pay their rising costs.
“My sense in the ‘70s when I started working was that [women] would like to be more ambitious,” she said. “We went to college, we had our expectations, and I think those expectations are being shoved backwards.”
Still, there is hope for addressing the issues “in a rational, thoughtful way,” she said, “and that more women in political positions, more women in corporations that are leading, will soften some of the hard line and be more inclusive and accepting of people.”
Durham resident Denise Zavaleta proudly talked about how her 12-year-old sons, Jack and Nick, have become strong justice advocates. They attended the first women’s march, brought flowers for teachers to the education march, and Jack spoke at the March for Our Lives last year in Durham, she said.
“Women deserve their rights,” Jack said. “They need their rights.”
“I learned from my mother that for every dollar that a white man would make, she would only make 51 cents,” he continued. “I think that’s absurd. It’s not a good thing to be letting this continue to go on. We’re supposed to be honoring everyone the same.”
“It’s like when you see that [statement], she is someone’s mother, she is someone’s daughter, she is someone’s wife,” their mother said. “No, she is someone. She doesn’t have to be defined and get credit just because she belongs to a man.”