ALINA PANEK & SHANTI BASU — In 2017, the Women’s March began honestly and humbly, through a Facebook event created by Teresa Shook shortly after the announcement of Donald Trump’s presidency in November of 2016.
Seeing the need for continued engagement, Shook became one of several Women’s March co-founders, as the original single-day march quickly grew into a nationwide movement.
Other leaders include Mari Lynn Foulger—a fashion designer turned entrepreneur with a sideline in activist politics, who had assumed the name Bob Bland, as well as Vanessa Wruble and Evvie Harmon. Wruble then recruited Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez to serve as co-chairs of the march, alongside Bland.
Two years later, the group has fractured.
Wruble, a Jewish activist and one of the early leaders of the Women’s March, said she told the organizing group that her heritage inspired her to help repair the world. Tamika Mallory, a black gun control activist, and Carmen Perez, a Latina criminal justice reform activist, women who were invited by Wruble because of their meaningful and successfully activist work, replied that Jews needed to confront their own role in racism.
Soon after, Wruble left the Women’s March and founded March On, a political strategy promotes continuing the work started by the Jan. 21 2017 Women’s March.
Since then, Mallory, Perez, and Sarsour have also been criticized for months for their longtime support of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a history of anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Mallory refused to condemn Farrakhan’s statements but stated to not support them on the View on Monday, Jan. 14. And nine liberal rabbis endorsed the Women’s March after meetings with organizers Sarsour and Mallory and sharing their concerns about anti-Semitism.
The Women’s March Alliance, a nonprofit, directed by Katherine Siemionko. Siemonko is a leader that was previously associated with Women’s March on NYC. Due to public demand for continued information, education, and events that support human rights, the Women’s March on NYC created this nonprofit whose mission is to raise women’s voices through education and activism. They equip their communities with the tools necessary to demand change and defend our rights.
In 2018, Agunda Okeyo created a NYC chapter of the National Women’s March group, originally founded by black activists. Because the Women’s March Alliance held the only official parade permit, Linda Sarsour, another member of the National group.
Around the country, local iterations of the Women’s March have popped up around the country since the first nationwide event. Denison students have attended the marches since 2016, to represent and advocate for their views.
Sara Hartsock ‘18, has attended the Women’s March since its conception. Located now in Los Angeles, Hartsock could not attend the March this year but acted on the ideals she personally supports by encouraging customers to come into her workplace and show their government ID during the shutdown for a complimentary treat. In addition, she also knitted and gave out several “pussy hats” to the women in her life and some to strangers “to encourage impact and power of the movement.”
“The issue of collective action always draws me,” Hartsock said. “The Women’s March stands for so many issues but the central point is to raise our voices in numbers which I love. It’s so powerful to see people from all walks of life coming together to support one another.”
Hartsock was aware of the split between the leaders of the Women’s March and was disappointed to see its division.
“My support and respect for the Women’s March organizers disappeared when everything came out about the antisemitism,” Hartsock said. “That won’t be stood in any capacity. A movement that has so many different issues being addressed can of course get messy, but that’s no excuse for hate. So while I support the raw ideas of the movement, I no longer support the organization.”
Yet while she recognizes the cause and consequences of the division, Hartsock firmly believes that the motivation behind the movement shouldn’t lose its steam. “It’s important for people to know that we as individuals have power. There’s strength in numbers but that doesn’t mean you can’t make change on your own…show support in public, call your elected leaders, donate, and have conversations. Your activism doesn’t have to be behind an overarching collective or group, it can be personalized and on your own.”
As put by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to crowds on the chilly Saturday in New York, “Justice is about making sure that being polite is not the same thing as being quiet.”