By SHERI GASSAWAY
(Updated on Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. with new attendance estimates and sister marches.)
Almost 10,000 are planning to take to the streets Saturday, Jan. 21 as part of a march and rally in St. Louis to show unity in the fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups.
The Women’s March on St. Louis, which coincides with the national event Women’s March on Washington in Washington D.C., will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in downtown St. Louis. The event is inclusive, and all women, men and children are welcome to attend.
“We are so excited with the amount of energy surrounding the event,” said Valerie Brinkman, one of the St. Louis organizers. “We encourage all participating to watch the weather forecast and dress accordingly because this event is happening no matter what.”
The theme of the event is: March. Rally. Act. The march will begin near Union Station at Market and 18th streets, proceed east on market and end at Luther Ely Smith Park at 1 Memorial Dr. The route is about a mile, and it’s expected to take about an hour.
The rally, set to begin at 10 a.m. at the park, will include the following guest speakers:
- Mo. Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City), who will address the importance of women in politics;
- Dr. Ghazala Hayat, a neurologist who serves as a board member for the Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls and as a spokeswoman of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis.
- Margaret Flowing Johnson, an activist for lesbian rights, feminist issues and peace and justice for more than five decades in St. Louis;
- De Andrea Nichols, a board member of Forward Through Ferguson and Creative Reaction Lab who received a 2016 Visionary Award for community impact in the city of St. Louis;
- and a Planned Parenthood representative.
The “Act” portion of the event, set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Phyllis Wheatley Heritage Center YWCA at 2711 Locust St., will include an action fair in which participants can visit booths and learn more about various issues important to women from organizations working with policy makers and elected officials.
Some of the organizations that will have booths at the fair include: National Council of Jewish Women, Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, American Association of University Women, League of Women Voters, National Women’s Political Caucus-St. Louis, YWCA, American Civil Liberties Union, and others.
THE NATIONAL MARCH
The idea for the Women’s March on Washington, which takes place the day after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, originated shortly after the general election by a diverse group of women who were unhappy with Trump’s win and trying to figure out how move forward while facing national and international concern and fear.
Those feelings were sparked by the campaign rhetoric of the election cycle in which Trump took aim at women, immigrants, the African American and Latino communities, those with diverse religious faiths, the LGBT community, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault.
The concept for the march started from a single post on Facebook and quickly grew into a mobilized, nationwide effort. In just under a month, the group formed a national committee, named officers and developed a website and related social media pages.
To date, thousands have pledged to attend the Washington event and 616 local marches have been planned worldwide. Visit womensmarch.com/sisters for the updated list of sister marches.
“It’s amazing to me the bravery of the women across the world who are taking part in marches to make a statement,” Brinkman said. “In some of these countries, women’s rights don’t even exist.”
THE ST. LOUIS MARCH
Like the national event, the local march unfolded in the same manner. Brinkman, a St. Louis mother of four, and other women who met in a local Facebook forum got together to plan the event hoping to offer women who couldn’t make the Washington march the opportunity to take part in the history-making demonstration.
Since then, organizers have formed the non-profit group DefendHERS to manage the logistics and financial necessities of the march. For more information on the St. Louis event, visit womensmarchonstlouis.weebly.com.