On the weekend of Jan. 19 – 21, we honor the third anniversary of the Womxn’s March on Seattle with a march, rally and hours of community-led programming.
As the local chapter of the Womxn’s March, every year we ask the question of what to present on Womxn’s March weekend that best honors our Unity Principles and best speaks to the needs and issues in our communities.
Among the valid critiques of the Womxn’s March movement is that it has failed to fully center the experiences and leadership of nonwhite and trans womxn.
As some march signs put it more succinctly: Feminism Without Intersectionality Is Just White Supremacy.
This year, we took this critique to heart and made significant changes in our organizing and programming process. Here’s what we did and what we learned.
In August 2018, Womxn’s March Seattle convened a group of frontline activists and community organizers and asked them to serve as leaders of programming for the Womxn’s March anniversary.
Over several meetings in the following months, this diverse group of 20 womxn shared their individual experiences and the struggles of their communities. What emerged from those listening sessions was striking, but not shocking. Again and again, we heard comparable stories. By the end of two meetings, several themes had emerged as these women shared their experiences: health and healing, peace through justice, strength at our intersections and building power.
The first, healing and thriving, revealed Seattle’s crucial and consistent health disparities. We heard about undiagnosed disease and unaffordable services. We heard about chronic illness, addiction without support for recovery and untreated mental health issues. The intersection of race and disability was a busy street corner filled with repeat hospital admissions, skeptical physicians and few resources.
The second theme centered on our broken justice system. From the school- to-prison pipeline and the cash bail racket to racist laws and housing displacement and forced migration, we are criminalizing poverty and immigration, ensuring that those with the most to lose have the least to spend in their defense.
These themes, universal in their ability to keep poor people and people of color struggling, are evidence of systemic, baked-in inequality, which our individual actions must address. We need the kind of change that only concerted, ongoing efforts from large swaths of people and elected officials can affect. The kind that the Womxn’s March numbers could affect.
Two themes emerged out of hope. First, the idea of intersectionality being our strength, a source of creativity, innovation and resolve to change broken systems that are not adequately serving our communities. What if, instead of looking at overlapping identities as soft spots on a newborns’ skull, to be handled gingerly and avoided until they’re much older, we saw them as the strong knots in a treasured sweater?
And the second theme of hope that emerged from our core programming team was one of building power. For the first time since the Womxn’s March movement first sparked, there is a small but burgeoning sense of the power that comes from many different contingencies of womxn working together as one. That is the power that has always been latent within the Womxn’s March movement: the building of shared understanding and diverse coalitions with one goal — liberation.
On Saturday Jan. 19, listen for Womxn’s March speakers — chosen by the core programming team — to address these themes in their speeches, sharing these truths with thousands. On Sunday, join us at any of the 50 unique events planned for the Womxn’s March Day of Action that embrace our collective power, lead us to healing, reinforce strength at our intersections and tackle systemic injustice.
We look forward to a weekend of learning and listening with our hearts, and we thank the womxn of the Womxn’s March 2019 core programming team for their contribution to the Women’s March movement.
“We are all part of one movement, and we pledge allegiance to the survival and liberation of all people.”
Liz Hunter-Keller is the Communications lead, Seattle Womxn Marching Forward, Seattle Chapter of the Women's March.
Read the full Jan. 9 - 15 issue.
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