This upcoming weekend—January 20th and 21st—marks the first anniversary of Women’s March on Washington and the massive, nation-wide demonstrations that coincided with it. As organizers across the United States, and beyond, continue to transform that moment of the 2017 Women’s March into a sustainable movement, Women’s March and its affiliated and adjacent organizations are pushing forward with #WeekendofWomen: while the official national march sponsored by the Women’s March will be occurring in Las Vegas, NV this year, anniversary events are scheduled all over the US that will continue highlighting key issues and are aiming to drive voter turnout for the 2018 midterm elections.
Last year, I spoke with Emily Patton, the State Outreach Coordinator for the Virginia chapter of the Women’s March on Washington, to get the scoop on the march on our nation’s capital. I reconnected with Ms. Patton to talk about the event her organization—now known as March Forward Virginia—is sponsoring this year: March to the Polls D.C. The following is some of our conversation, which has been edited for clarity and length.
What issues is March Forward Virginia focusing mobilization efforts on for the midterm elections?
Under this administration, women’s reproductive rights have been targeted from day one. We continue to experience a gender pay gap which inordinately effects African American, Hispanic or Latina, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander women. Disproportionate minority contact with the justice system and over-policing of communities of color have led to destructive generational effects. Our sisters in the immigrant community face increasingly hostile policies that affect their abilities to live, work, and support themselves and/or their families.
If one woman suffers, all women suffer. We must join together to fight for the equality of all our sisters. Through actions taken together to confront racist, sexist, anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ+, classist, and xenophobic policies we can bring about progress. And it is through actions taken individually—truly listening to and learning from other women, facing our own assumptions or prejudices, and committing to doing the work to make the change within ourselves—that can lead to lasting social justice.
Is March Forward Virginia endorsing any candidates, or is the focus largely on particular issues and actions?
We are not endorsing any political candidates. Instead, we are focusing on three key actions, the first of which is to empower and encourage women, especially women from diverse and intersectional communities, to run for office. Secondly, the DC march will be a part of the massive movement by the national Women’s March to significantly increase voter registration and voter engagement. And the third key action we are focusing on is to identify ways to support and engage in supporting groups who are already doing great civil engagement work in their communities.
How much coordination is there across state lines with other similarly oriented organizations, specifically those that were dedicated to the Women’s March last year?
This year March Forward Virginia is sponsoring the 2018 Women’s March on Washington/March to the Polls D.C. We have reached out to organizers from neighboring states and districts and are hoping to find ways to coordinate for the march. We would also like to continue to work together post-march with neighboring activist networks to plan joint events and community engagement opportunities.
What kind of accommodations are going to be in place for folks who are disabled? For women who are nursing?
We are working closely with disability rights groups as well as the National Park Service to ensure ADA compliance and accessibility. We will have several sections clearly marked and reserved for marchers who would like to use those reserved spaces and will have on-site volunteers to assist as needed.
We currently have a medical tent that can be used for women who are nursing and who would like to do so in a quieter and more secure environment.
Who will be speaking at this year’s event?
We will have speakers for the first sixty to ninety minutes of the event, so a significantly shorter program than last year. We’ve been working hard to bring together a dynamic program of elected officials, community groups, filmmakers, and women’s rights organizations. Our goal this year is to bring together a diverse, intersectional and thoughtful group of women and allies who could speak to the power of voting. Topics that will be covered include reproductive freedom, civic engagement, the Equal Rights Amendment, redistricting reform, party unity, and empowering women to run for office. Among those speaking this year are: international disability rights advocate, Judith Heumann; Senator Tim Kaine; the founding director of Not Without Black Women, Brittany T. Oliver; current president of the League of Women Voters, Chris Carson; and many more.
Is there a resource for finding sister marches, since organizations are now more dispersed and/or changing focus?
Absolutely! Two great resources are the national Women’s March’s website and March On’s website. Both websites provide interactive maps that feature marches across the US and internationally that are planned for the #WeekendofWomen. Just enter your zip code and find the march nearest to you!
Like last year, the only qualification to attend and participate is that you believe in women’s—all women’s—equality. People of all backgrounds, race, sexual orientation, gender expression, disability status, immigration status, economic status, or religious affiliation are encouraged to attend March to the Polls D.C., anniversary marches, and Power to the Polls events during the #WeekendofWomen.
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