Despite national controversy and local concerns about diversity and respect for annual MLK Day actions and celebrations, a third year of January marching and organizing for women’s rights activism is coming to Seattle with Cal Anderson again an epicenter of action in only a few short weeks.
Liz Hunter-Keller, the communications chair for Seattle Womxn Marching Forward, which organized the inaugural march in 2017 and has continued to shepherd anniversary events, estimated that 50 to 70 organizations are involved in making this year’s Seattle Womxn’s March a reality.
“There has to be more work and more connection, and more love and more understanding and that comes from deeper experiences, like the ones we’re going to try to provide at Seattle Center,” Hunter-Keller said.
The Seattle events haven’t been easy to pull together. The 2018 Women’s March in Seattle was planned by another group as officials and organizers were unsure how many thousands to expect on Capitol Hill.
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But a larger problem has forced a ripple of reorganizations and shifts in the Women’s March movement as leaders of the national organization behind the marches have been criticized for their ties to with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. In Portland, new leaders have also stepped forward to organize this year’s march. Some cities like Chicago have canceled their events saying the anti-semitism issues and costs drove the decision. Other large marches planned for January 19th include Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Starting on that Saturday, the 2019 iteration organized by Seattle Womxn Marching Forward and the Seattle chapter of the Women’s March will feature three days of activities for those involved or hoping to become involved in women’s rights and activism in the northwest.
CHS reported late last year about Womxn’s March Seattle’s work with the groups that hold the city’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march and rallies to coordinate on an event in 2019 that brings the two efforts together with respect for both and without overshadowing either cause.
On Saturday, January 19th, a rally and march through Seattle will begin at 9 AM in Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park.
A diverse set of activists and organizers will lead the day.
“These speakers represent Seattle Womxn Marching Forward’s commitment to meaningful activism, and lifting up voices of marginalized communities,” Keala Aronowitz, co-lead of the event committee for Seattle Womxn Marching Forward, said. “We believe these speakers will provide a deeper understanding of systemic injustice here in Seattle and across the country, and fire up our marchers to take action in the year ahead.”
The two masters of ceremonies for the morning rally will be Colleen Echohawk, executive director of Chief Seattle Club, and Monserrat Padilla, a coordinator with the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network. Speakers include poet Hanan Hassan, Reverend Bianca Lovelace of the Washington Poor People’s Campaign, Washington Dream Coalition’s Cinthia Vazquez, ChrisTiana Obey Sumner, who is a social equity consultant, and Dr. Reverend Kelle Brown of Plymouth Church Seattle.
From there, the march through downtown Seattle will start around 10:30 AM as participants make the trek to Seattle Center, where there will be panels throughout the day until 4. Those panels will be hosted by First United Methodist Church, The Vera Project, the KEXP Gathering Space, and Theater Puget Sound.
On the 20th, there will be five hubs hosting discussions throughout Seattle for the second annual Womxn’s March Day of Action. The current list of locations includes The Riveter: Capitol Hill, the Phinney Neighborhood Association, Plymouth Church Seattle, Casa Latina on 17th Ave, and Youngstown Community Center.
These discussions will last from 10 AM to 4 PM, with an MLK Day Kickoff Youth Celebration party at 2 p.m. at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.
Similar to 2018, organizers are partnering with Food Lifeline and Seattle Indivisible to collect non-perishable goods at each hub. Last year, nearly one metric ton of food was donated by attendees.
And on the 21st, Seattle Womxn Marching Forward is working with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Organizing Coalition to take part in the long-running celebration for the civil rights leader.
Organizers hope to provide a unique opportunity to be involved each day.
“You can do something totally different every day and not be bored and feel like you come out of that weekend like a new person ready to take on the challenges of the year,” Hunter-Keller said. “There will be enough there for women and their allies of all shapes and sizes and colors and religions to find something that they love, find a way to help, that doesn’t take up too much of their space and puts them in a non-judgmental atmosphere.”
Seattle Womxn Marching Forward is hoping to raise $50,000 to cover expenses including portable toilets and emergency workers.
While reaching that goal before the 19th will be tough, Hunter-Keller expects organizers can simply make enough to put some money down to cover expenses, and earn the rest during the weekend’s activities.
In 2018, tens of thousands of people filled the streets of Capitol Hill, stretching from Cal Anderson Park to downtown. It was the largest event the neighborhood’s central park has ever hosted. The Seattle march, part of rallies, marches, and protests across the country, first stepped off in 2017 as around 120,000 people marched from the Central District to Seattle Center the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump.
Hunter-Keller is expecting a smaller crowd than the last two years but thinks 80,000 people in attendance would be great, while she expects similar numbers to show up for the second day of discussions. Two to five thousand participants took part in the 2018 day of action.