As a community organizer and digital campaign strategist for an environmental network, Salma Mirza is no stranger to having to steel herself for a political fight.
Then came Nov. 8 and the election of Donald Trump as the next president. The following morning her spirit was shaken. Nearly broken.
“I think I really thought the world was going to end,” said Mirza, a 29-year-old Durham resident who is Muslim and gay.
Her thoughts turned toward her mom who wears a hijab and other Muslims who had felt targeted by Trump during his unconventional campaign. She worried about people of color and others troubled by what the next four years would bring.
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Then a renewed resolve exhilarated her and she found herself among a group of Triangle women organizing a “sister march” in Raleigh on Jan. 21 to coincide with the Women’s March on Washington.
“I think I just felt like I don’t have a choice, we have to do this,” Mirza said.
When several hundred thousand people are expected to gather in Washington, D.C., the morning after Trump’s inauguration, more than 2,100 plan to gather in downtown Raleigh instead of joining others in the nation’s capital.
Anna Grant, another organizer of the Women’s March on Raleigh, wanted to do something in her home state after the elections and encouraged Mizra and others to channel their energy into a local event. That, they concluded, could help set up a network for people, groups and organizations interested in women’s issues.
Their desire to move forward and organize one of several “sister marches” scheduled in North Carolina has a backstory with some of the same threads that led to the national rally inspired by Teresa Shook’s Nov. 8 Facebook post and Bob Bland’s post with a similar idea.
Triangle women heard about a meeting being held at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh on Dec. 13. Fifty people filled the church auditorium that first day. They’ve come together every Tuesday since then to further develop the Raleigh event.
“We wanted to commiserate but also to look forward and move people forward,” said Gailya Paliga, president of the NC NOW chapter and a chief organizer.
Like the planners of the national march, the Raleigh organizers pay homage to the many women who have been on the front lines of some of the country’s reform efforts – voting rights, civil rights, equal pay, reproductive rights and more.
This effort, North Carolina organizers say, aspires to be more intersectional with a more sweeping platform.
Women, they point out, are not monolithic and like-minded, defined solely by gender. For that reason, the organizers hope to convey their desire for any social justice movement to show how a wide range of issues – affecting immigrants, working families, Muslims, African-Americans, the LGBT community – ultimately are “women’s issues.”
They plan to rally for living wages, affordable and accessible health care, paid family leave, paid sick leave, child care for all workers and “fully funded public education that respects our teachers and the future of our children.”
The march organizers hope to show how racially-biased policing and mass incarceration affect North Carolina families, as well as the impact of health care initiatives designed to exclude transgender residents.
Even though the event is called the Women’s March on Raleigh, organizers want to make it clear: Men are invited. So are children. Many people who were interested in showing support for the national event wanted to do something locally that would make it easier for families to attend.
They also want to keep the focus on some of the state legislative agenda items where they think women can add an influential voice.
“From the get-go, we want people plugged in,” said Grant, 28, who in addition to being an organizer works part-time as a Bilingual Parent Liaison for Durham Public Schools and at Carolina Jews For Justice. “We have big fights ahead in our state.”
Though some might hold up signs protesting Trump at the march, organizers say the president-elect is not their focus.
“We’re not focusing on Trump at all,” said Paliga, a mother of a high school-aged daughter. “Our theme is women mobilize North Carolina.”
IF YOU GO
When: 10 a.m. Jan. 21
Where: Gather at City Plaza on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh in front of the Marriott Hotel.
March: Begins at 10:30 a.m.
Rally: Moore Square in Raleigh at 11:30 a.m.