“We attended the march in DC,” Wilmington resident and artist Lauren Lassiter describes. “It was without a doubt the most beautiful event I’ve ever participated in.”
Lassiter and her friends went to the US capital prepared with a list of supplies. They walked through the crowds of women and men with their names and emergency contact numbers written on their arms in Sharpie.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” she continues. “But, as soon as we got off the metro and walked up to the street, we were overwhelmed with warmth and security, and all that was felt was love.”
Aside from half a million or so marchers who showed up in DC, 673 similar rallies and marches took place worldwide on January 21, 2017, garnering upward of 4.8 million participants globally. While the rally cries for equality were overwhelming and hopeful, to carry over that feeling into the days, months and years, the real trick is to not allow inaction to thwart progression.
“Marches are fascinating because they bring a ton of people together for one day and usually the enthusiasm fizzles out after that,” muses Lassiter’s friend, Beth Peddle. “I was so charged up after the Women’s March on Washington—like I had an obligation to these people who marched all around the world and to those texting me who could not be there. Then, when I got back to Wilmington, I realized my town had over 1,000 marchers!”
Peddle and Lassiter are ensuring the cause stays at the forefront of local’s minds. The cause being, of course, the ongoing battle for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). After women won the right to vote with the 19th Amendment in 1920, suffragist leader Alice Paul introduced the ERA in 1923. The amendment guarantees rights to all persons regardless of sex and has been pushed toward becoming a part of the Constitution for nine decades now. Still, the ERA is not a part of the federal Constitution; it has been reintroduced (and turned down) in every session of Congress since 1982. While many states have ratifications to their own laws to include equality, 15 do not, including North Carolina. This is what keeps Peddle and Lassiter motivated.
10 Actions for the First 100 Days was started by the Women’s March Organization. Peddle and Lassiter have spearheaded Wilmington’s participation this week: Write a postcard to your senator.
“It is very important we continue to speak out and fight for what we deserve,” Lassiter says. “And it’s great to have a plan to be able to do that.”
Lassiter and Peddle will be writing to NC senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr. Among several concerns, they’ll be penning about education, increasing teacher pay and health care.
“Being in North Carolina, I think we need to keep pressing the issue of HB2 that has gone on for too long,” Lassiter continues. “Women’s reproductive health is another big one.”
However, attendees can write about whatever they choose—whether it’s the current media gags on internal governmental agencies, like the EPA and USDA, or the recent immigration ban, or the GOP closing the hearings on Flint’s water poisoning, or, yes, even the ERA becoming an official amendment to the Constitution. Lassiter and company will have informative resources on Women’s March “Unity Principles” for anyone needing a bit of inspiration.
“Some consist of ending gender-based violence, [as well as supporting] reproductive rights and women’s health, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, religious freedom, environmental justice, affordable healthcare…” Lassiter lists.
Nevertheless, in regards to the Unity Principle on reproductive rights, there’s still divisiveness among some women who identify themselves as “pro-life feminists.” For example, one encore Facebook follower commented on the magazine’s pictures from the local march: “It would have really been an inclusive march if they would have let the pro-life feminists march with them.”
To be clear, no organization or person with alternative values was turned away from the march, refutes Peddle. “Lauren and I personally walked past pro-life feminist groups,” she notes. “Even though the Women’s March is explicitly pro-choice, [and] they chose not to have pro-life organizations as sponsors. I don’t think we can say the Women’s March was not ‘inclusive.’”
Peddle explains how not everyone will agree on every line item all the time, mainly because everyone is different, with varying values, from divergent backgrounds and cultural upbringings. That’s the current state of intersectional feminism. It’s more reason for community members to engage, ask questions and have discourse—while also remaining respectful of personal beliefs.
“Yes, pro-life and pro-choice feminists have different ideologies when it comes to abortion and choice,” Peddle says. “However, many of them agree on the cyclical nature of oppression and other injustices women face daily.”
That being said, Peddle and Lassiter will not exclude anyone from their postcard event. In fact, they encourage disparate opinions—but that does not mean disruptive behavior. “As long as we maintain a peaceful atmosphere,” Lassiter secures. “If you have different ideologies, OK. That is your choice. There are many other issues at hand—not just reproductive rights. So if you are able to come with an open heart and open mind, you are more than welcome to come fill out a postcard.”
“Hear Our Voice” postcards will be provided at the event, along with stamps and other supplies. Folks are encouraged to take pictures to share on social media and use the hashtag #whyimarch. Anyone who can’t show up at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, can still fill one out at Satellite Bar and Lounge later in the evening or even the next day.
“You can leave them there, and we’ll collect them and send them off together,” Lassiter adds. “We will have buttons made for purchase for $1, and those proceeds will go directly to Planned Parenthood.”
Anyone can download and print a postcard on their own by visiting womensmarch.com/100, or to stay up to date on the actions to come. Lassiter and Peddle also plan to organize and share the next nine action events on Women’s March on Wilmington’s Facebook page.