Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
In 2017, women marched in response to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
A message of getting to the polls dominated last year’s encore demonstration, which also occurred at the dawn of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
This year, organizers for Santa Fe’s 2019 Women’s March hope to continue the momentum with a celebration of a “Women’s Wave” in local and national politics, even as national leaders of the Women’s March movement are facing controversy.
“We really feel like this is the part of what we’ve been working toward for decades … it’s just an amazing moment for us all to be together,” said Cecile Lipworth, a co-organizer for this year’s event.
The march starts 11 a.m. Saturday on the east side of the State Capitol. The crowd will march down Old Santa Fe Trail to the Plaza, where speakers and performers will take over the Bandstand Stage.
The march is being organized by local activist groups and volunteers. The main organizers are Lipworth, owner of Ripple Catalyst Studio, a business that promotes creative events for social change; NewMexicoWomen.org; and 3 Sisters Collective, a Native women’s empowerment group.
Planning started just before Christmas, when supporters of the march discovered that last year’s organizers were not going to continue this year.
The city’s crowd estimate for 2018’s march was 3,000 to 5,000 on a cold day with snow and slush on the streets. In 2017, 10,000-12,000 people filled downtown out for the inaugural year and created what was apparently Santa Fe’s biggest political event ever. This year’s organizers hope to have at least 2,000-3,000 participants on Saturday.
Hoping to ‘ride the wave’
As a result of 2018’s midterm election, a historic number of women won seats in Congress and the U.S. Senate. On a local level, New Mexico elected Michelle Lujan Grisham as governor and two women – Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small – for U.S. Representative seats.
Thirty-one women won seats in the 70-person state House, the number of female judges on the state’s Court of Appeals doubled and the first female land commissioner was elected.
“I’m really hoping this year people will ride the wave, to keep that metaphor going,” said Lipworth. “I think people are motivated again in a celebratory way.”
City Councilor Renee Villarreal, a program co-director for NewMexicoWomen.org, credits the Women’s March with helping to inspire women to be more actively engaged in politics, whether it’s by voting or choosing to run themselves.
“I think it’s played an integral role to get women fired up (and) realizing their power in various aspects, whether it’s running for office, helping with elections, getting voters to turn out, but also registering new voters, and just being more active in community and local and regional and national politics,” said Villarreal, who said her work on the march comes from her role with NewMexicoWomen.org rather than her city councilor position.
The Santa Fe march will also emphasize intersectional feminism – in which different forms of discrimination based on factors such gender, race, age or sexuality intersect – and what that means and looks like in New Mexico, according to Villarreal.
The presenters, she said, will address issues including missing and murdered indigenous women, immigrants rights, the environment, and more. Other speakers will talk from their perspectives as members of the LGBTQ and Muslim-American communities, she said.
“They’ll reflect our communities and represent the demographics in our communities,” Villarreal said of the lineup. She added that it is also a chance for people in Santa Fe to reflect on how we can heal from “past historic traumas,” including racism and sexism.
“These kinds of marches are to get people excited and reaffirm what we’re doing in the community, but it’s a commitment to resistance, and the work for gender justice and healing for all,” she said.
Presenters who are already confirmed include representatives from Tewa Women United, Somos un Pueblo Unido, Northern New Mexico College and Girls Inc. The afternoon will also feature poets, singers, a beat-boxer and a performance from 3 Sisters Collective. Dancers from Santa Fe’s Studio Nia and Española Moving Arts will also perform between presenters.
Anti-Semitism issue arises
This year’s march is happening as the national Women’s March organization is facing turmoil among its top leaders, including allegations of anti-Semitism.
Recent news reports of alleged anti-Semitic comments made toward one of the original co-organizers around the time of the first march came several months after leaders also received backlash for their association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has also been criticized for his anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
According to statements posted on the national Women’s March website, the organization condemns all forms of bigotry.
“It’s become clear, amidst this media storm, that our values and our message have – too often – been lost,” organizer Linda Sarsour wrote in a Nov. 20 statement. “That loss caused a lot of harm, and a lot pain. We should have been faster and clearer in helping people understand our values and our commitment to fighting anti-Semitism. We regret that. Every member of our movement matters to us – including our incredible Jewish and LGBTQ members. We are deeply sorry for the harm we have caused, but we see you, we love you, and we are fighting with you.”
The controversy has led some sister marches across to the country, which are separately organized, to distance themselves from the national organization. At least one city, New Orleans, reportedly canceled its march over frustration with the national group.
Lipworth, who herself is Jewish, said the Santa Fe organizers want to emphasize the need to foster better understanding among women of all backgrounds, as well as the importance of women marching together as one to create change.
“We absolutely all of us denounce any anti-Semitism, any fanaticism, any of the -isms,” she said. “We feel that we’re not all perfect all the time. And we all truly have to show up with our integrity and know that people make mistakes. It’s those times that we make mistakes we’re able to reach deeper understanding and have conversations that are difficult to have.”
“When you’re talking intersectional feminism, it’s often evolving, and it’s often complicated and messy,” Villarreal said. But it also requires activists to reflect and deal with their own implicit biases, she added, “so we can remain accountable to each other and our communities.”