An estimated 300,000 demonstrators—nearly fifty thousand more than organizers counted last year—took to the streets of downtown Chicago on Saturday to mark the one year anniversary of the national women’s march.
Jessica Scheller, who turns 39 next week, lives in Beverly, and is a board member of Women’s March Chicago, said they weren’t sure what to expect, but the impact this march makes during elections is what will really count.
“The real measure of success is going to be what happens in these elections, what voter turnout looks like, and whether or not women feel engaged in the democratic process and a sense of ownership over what is happening in their communities,” she said.
This year’s rally, titled March to the Polls, focused on engaging women in politics and voting. Many of the speakers were local politicians, activists, and community leaders. Speakers also touched on the #MeToo movement. Suzette Wright, a South Side native who was sexually harassed while working at the Ford Chicago Assembly operating plant, spoke on the importance of women raising their voices when it comes to sexual violence.
“It’s important to us at Women’s March Chicago that it’s not just the celebrities’ voices being heard on this issue, but it’s the voices of everyday Chicago women,” Scheller said.
At the Weekly, we wanted to know how speakers and rally goers from the South Side felt about the march and why they attended. Here’s what some of them had to say. To hear portions of these interviews, listen to SSW Radio, the Weekly’s radio hour on WHPK 88.5 FM, on Tuesday, January 23, from 3pm to 4pm.
“Women Power!” Flossie Myles, 60, Riverdale
“I wish it would have a bigger impact. I marched out here last year and the largest group out here of black women were of Black Lives Matter. We need to get out and march and participate because if people don’t know how we feel, nothing will ever get done. I’ve been working in politics ever since the sixties. It’s in my blood, so this is what I’m gonna do until I die.” Dorothy Barnes, 73, Marquette Park
“I’m standing up for my rights. There’s been a lot going on and now is one of the best time to stand up for my rights. I see my mom, my grandmom, all of these women in my life work so hard and they don’t really get the recognition they deserve. I feel represented [here] as a woman.” Vivian Zamora, 15, Back of the Yards
“This is [the] first protest I’ve ever been to and actually it feels really good. You can see everyone from Chicago has come together for women’s rights. I liked the speeches because I felt I could really connect to what the people were saying.” Safiyat Aminu, 16, Ashburn
“My message today is that we are getting out to the polls so all women can be represented. There will never be a group that’s left out saying, ‘What about us?’ So whether you are handicapped, Black or white, gay or transgender, any of those things, Muslim faith. We are all inclusive of the moment and that’s what we are all about.” Suzette Wright, 47, South Shore.
“I was here last year at the women’s march and I think [it’s] generally for human rights, to resist what is going on right now in the government, and making a point that we shouldn’t become apathetic to the things that are going on. I don’t want myself or other people to become desensitized to what’s going on. Making sure everybody goes out and votes, that’s really the message that I see in this [march].” Samantha Madrid, 22, Pilsen
“It’s like an adrenaline rush. There were so many people were there for a common cause. We are from all walks of life. It was such a beautiful sight to see such a sea of people here, just clapping in unison and completely fired up for the what’s next, like this is just the beginning.” Chakena Sims, 24, Ashburn
“I understand that until we deal with this issue of gender and equity and discrimination, we really won’t have racial justice. We won’t have economic justice. And, in fact, if we can merge all of these things together we will really have a movement that will impact us all fairly.” Greg Kelley, 47, Kenwood.