While the majority of participants in recent women’s marches have been White, Blacks were present, in large numbers, during the 2017 Women’s March on Washington demonstration.
The march took place on Jan. 21, with tens of thousands of women, men and children, from all backgrounds, filling the entire parade route that was pre-established for the march. Many Blacks, such as Julia Hazel, an educator from Portland, Maine, came with signs and an agenda to call for women’s rights and to denounce President Donald Trump.
Crowd shot of the Women’s March on Washington. (AFRO File Photo)
“I am here because women really need to come together right now,” Hazel told the AFRO. “Women’s rights are human rights. We must stand for what is right.”
The estimated 500,000 crowd was majority female with a large contingent of men. Many of the marchers carried signs that said things like “The Future is Female”, “Feminist and Proud”, “Only Weak Men Fear Strong Women” and a number had slogans to affirm their rights as women, addressing Trump, who was not present, in a critical and sometimes nasty fashion.
Chants like “Black Lives Matter” and “This is What Democracy Looks Like” could be heard at times and some signs had sympathetic photos of former First Lady Michelle Obama and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton. During the actual march portion, boos and insults were made while they went pass the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
Pink hats were common as both men and women donned them. The hats were worn as a sign of solidarity to all who opposed Trump’s comments regarding women.
The march is a product of women who were upset of Trump’s victory on Nov. 8, 2016. The March organizers were furious that a presidential candidate who demeaned women and had sharp conservative views on reproductive rights could win the White House.
Black women’s participation in women’s marches is not new. Laved Arlington of Silver Spring, Md., told the AFRO that she had a special obligation to participate in this march.
“I pledged Delta Sigma Theta at Howard University at the Alpha chapter,” Arlington said. “Delta participated in the 1913 women’s march for suffrage here in Washington and I participated in that march’s re-enactment in 2013. I am also participating for the benefit of my new granddaughter.”
Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Entertainment, noted feminist leader Gloria Steinem and filmmaker Michael Moore were among the luminaries that made remarks.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) also spoke at the March and U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) were among the leaders on the stage. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) welcomed participants and former D.C. first lady Cora Masters Barry was by her side as she spoke.
Being Black and female is a blessing and not a burden, Kimberly Nelson of Cranston, R.I., told the AFRO and she came to the march to make sure that people understood that.
“I am here to speak up for my freedom and rights,” said Nelson. “People like me who are Black and love someone who is of the same sex have a right to have our views heard. We will not be silenced.”
Bowser’s brother, Marvin, marched westward along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House. The District’s “first brother” said participating in the march was a “no brainer.”
“This is what democracy looks like,” Bowser told the AFRO, pointing to the throngs of people on Pennsylvania Avenue. “You see people of all colors. This is a far cry from what I saw yesterday at Trump’s inauguration activities. Everybody there looked like him.”
Nelson and Hazel said that the march has caused them to step up their activism whether it is in the classroom or in the community.
“I am going to teach my fifth graders to stand up for what is right,” Hazel said.