Carolyn, a woman who has lived in Chicago for 49 years, stood with a sign draped down her body that read “U Can’t Comb Over Biogtry.
Although she couldn’t make it to the march last year, in the wake of the Trump administration and the bombardment of hateful rhetoric spewed by the United States’ current Commander-in-Chief, she decided to make it a point to march today with her friends.
Carolyn said, “I think it’s important for us to take an opportunity for an expression of free speech, which is our first amendment right.” She continued, “I think that it’s important that we as women come out and show our strength in numbers and to stand up for some basic human rights we have.”
Carolyn wasn’t the only person that felt this way, as the sounds of chanting expressing similar sentiments hit the air on Michigan Avenue.
A sea of colorful signs hoisted above heads that called for equality for everyone was proudly displayed by protesters who represented different ages, races, genders and disabilities.
These people came to support each other and strengthen the voice of their neighbor with the resilience of their own.
Before the march began, a rally was held between 11 a.m and 12:30 p.m. between Congress Parkway and Columbus Dr.
The rally had a multitude of influential speakers who addressed a wealth of different topics, including women’s rights, the need for women to hold more positions of power in the government, deportation of DACA recipients and Dreamers and the need for people to continue to fight for equality and fair representation of all citizens through the ballot box.
Tahera Ahmad (Associate Chaplain and Director of Interfaith engagement, Northwestern University), Asha Binbek (Council on American-Islamic Relations), Channyn Lynne Parker (Transgender Activist), K. Sujata (President and CEO, Chicago Foundation of Women), Bridget Gainer (Cook County Commissioner), Chakena Sims (Board of Directors, Chicago Votes), Anna Valencia (City Clerk of Chicago), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (U.S. House of Representatives), Celina Villanueva (New Americans Democracy Project, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights), Rep. Bill Foster (U.S. House of Representatives), Tom Steyer (Founder and President, NextGen America), Michelle Mbekeani-Wiley (League of Women Voters), Lisa Madigan (Illinois Attorney General), Kim Foxx (Cook County State’s Attorney).
Binbeck, wearing a dark fuschia hajib with pride, decried Trump’s idea of what, “Makes America Great Again” in her speech.
“Our different backgrounds, should be celebrated,” she spoke with impassioned candor to the crowd. “Our race, our gender, our sexual orientation, our religion, whether you were born on this soil or sought refuge here or a future,” she continued “being able to come here to celebrate each other and support each other’s causes.”
“This, THIS, is what makes America great!”
Binbeck continued her speech by urging her peers to continue to strive to make equality and justice for all a reality, even after the march ended.
“Our need to be civically engaged has never been more important than it is now!”
Parker shared the harsh truth. No one was going to save them from Trump, if the protesters wanted to be saved they would ultimately have to rely on themselves to change the current political tide by voting.
“Your silences will not protect you and that the only thing more frightening than speaking your truth, is not speaking at all,” she remarked.
Gainer, Valencia, Steyer, Madigan, Foxx shared the same sentiments as Parker, encouraging protesters to not only vote in the primaries, but strive to elect women or run for office themselves.
Steyer addressed the crowd by saying, “This year we have to be more purposeful. There is going to be 435 congressional seats up for grabs, 33 Senate seats up, 36 governorships up and there is going to be 78 legislative polls up around the country.”
Steyer stressed what November 6, 2018, would require from the crowd if they really wanted to see change later this year.
“We are going to have to be organized, we’re going to have to be engaged and we are going to have to get to the polls and flip those seats”
Villanueva brought to light the struggles that Dreamers and DACA recipients are facing on a daily basis.
“With each passing day, 122 immigrant youths lose their protections from DACA and become more vulnerable to Trump’s nasty deportation machine,” said Villanueva.
“That’s 851 people each week who lose their ability to drive, to enroll in colleges and universities, to have access to in-state tuition, to basically take care of themselves and their families,” she continued.
Villanueva urged the audience to call their representatives in Congress and the Senate and demand for a clear Dream Act to be created to stop the detention and deportation of nearly 1 million undocumented workers who would benefit from the act.
To close out the speech portion of the rally, McKenzie gave a stirring speech noting the power and persistence displayed by women will transform this country’s politics this year.
McKenzie denoted that equal pay, a living wage, paid sick leave, a fair justice system, access to healthcare, and strengthening our public schools are just some of the demands that women want to be met in 2018
“This isn’t a wave, it’s a seat change that you are apart of.”
One plain sign, displaying powerful and poignant wording read,
“Support All Your Sisters, Not Just Your CIS-TERS!”
Another one, similarly as plain but equally compelling, used a quote from Angela Davis,
“I AM NO LONGER ACCEPTING THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE. I’M CHANGING THE THINGS THAT I CANNOT ACCEPT”
Another sign took a more comical route saying, “ WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE ELEPHANT IN THE WOMB” with a GOP elephant being placed inside of a picture of a uterus.
Protesters like Frita Beauchamp and Sierra Hill came to show solidarity and encourage growth with women being represented in politics. Beauchamp said,
“ I wanted to show how important it is for change, especially amongst women and women of color; there needs to be more of us…so that’s why I’m here. “