By Paige McGlauflin
WASHINGTON – Two decades after the Million Women March, thousands of people gathered at Seward Square in Washington, D.C. on Saturday for the March for Black Women.
The latest march was intended to demonstrate black women’s central role in racial justice movements and the need to have their voices heard. Deveral other cities across the nation held sister marches on Saturday.
Prior to the D.C. march, activists and artists – including Opal Tometi, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter – addressed the crowd.
“It’s been 20 years since we had a march to uplift the lives of black women,” Tometi said to the soon-to-be marchers. “The time is surely right for us to convene in this particular way.”
“There are a number of reasons that we march here today, and the reasons each of us march might very well be different,” Tometi continued. “And yet we stand here united, under the same umbrella, because we know the stakes are high, and black women deserve it.”
Brenda Hayes, host of WPFW 89.3’s This Light: Sounds for Social Change, was attending the march as a long-time civil rights activist. “I’m a 62-year-old black woman; I grew up during the civil rights and black power movements, so I was steeped in movement and change,” she said. “This march shows me that we are the power that be, and that we have to remember that, and any change comes from the people, historically so.”
From Seward Square, the group marched to Lincoln Park, where it joined the March for Racial Justice and continued to the National Mall.
There was prior confusion as to why there were two separate marches, though it had been reiterated by both organizing parties that the marches weren’t competing. “Black women will be at the center of this March for Racial Justice as we have always been at the center for the march for racial justice,” Dorca Davis, cofounder of the March for Racial Justice, told the crowd.
The March for Black Women was also partly held as a response to the Women’s March, which took place on Jan. 21 – the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Several criticisms came from black women and other women of color that the January march took into consideration only the desires and concerns of white women. Several of the marchers on Saturday said they did not attend the Women’s March and expressed similar sentiments.
“It was kind of disappointing that women of color were not really put forward, you know,” Hayes said. “And probably, many of those women who were marching voted for Trump. Fifty-three percent of white women voted for Trump. That’s why I’m here.”
Maheen Kaleem, a staff attorney at Rights4Girls, said: “I felt like that march didn’t center on black and brown women and girls and their safety in an intentional way.”
Trina Perry, a retired nurse in D.C., was wearing a Women’s March shirt, and said she attended the January event. When asked about how she felt on both marches, Perry said “the intersections of all of our lives have come together, in this moment. I can’t look in the past; January 20th has come and gone. And yet we’re still in the streets; it’s not stopping.”
When asked by TMN how many had participated in the March for Black Women, the organization said on Facebook that the exact number wouldn’t be known until Sunday, but that over 2,600 registered and thousands had shown up.
“Justice is possible, but not inevitable,” Tometi told the marchers, “and we cannot stop until we win.”