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Ordinary Women Seize the Day

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On Saturday morning, January 21, Erica Littlewood Work gathered march volunteers into the downtown library meeting room to provide a quick briefing on crowd and traffic control. As she stepped back outside 20-minutes later she could see that the crowd had already surged far beyond the predicted 2,000. She faced a wall of people that had filled in between the library and City Hall.

In the weeks leading up to the Women’s March on Washington a local group of friends who had previously worked together as a Relay for Life team raising money for the American Cancer Society had set up a Facebook page on which they had received approximately 2,000 responses. No one could have predicted the final number of 10,000-plus for Bellingham’s historic march.

January 21, 2017, became the single largest day of protest in U.S. history. It was a day of unity, love, human power, and a tidal wave of support against the ideologies of hate, racism, and sexism that newly elected President Trump represents.

“It was stunning and overwhelming,” Erica said. “I was thrilled to see so many people come together to support one another.” After the November 2016 election, she and her friends shared feelings of depression and a loss of hope, but seeing thousands of people in Bellingham marching – and millions worldwide – was inspiring.

Missing from the march both nationally and locally was any single organization that could claim the event as their brainchild. Erica describes herself as non-political; however, in November she had completed a successful campaign as Chair of the Whatcom “EMS Saves Lives” funding levy.

“The march was not intended as an overtly political event,” she said. “It was about bringing people together to show support for marginalized groups. People asked a lot of questions when we were making signs, like ‘What can or can’t I say on my sign?’ But it was really a free-speech event with a range of issues that galvanized a cross-section of the community as never seen before.

Erica coordinated logistics, march permits, police relations, public works contacts, food trucks, and the medical team. Her career as a public educator with the South Whatcom Fire Authority gave her skills used for this event. Other team members coordinated speakers and the Community Connections Fair held after the march.

“The Fair was a great success,” Erica said. “It provided a way for people to connect with local groups that can take ideals forward beyond the march and fill in the gaps for people.”

Another friend and local teacher, Jackie Brown, coordinated speakers, musicians, poets, and interpreters.

“It took over my life for a few weeks,” Jackie said, “but I felt inspired by people rising up and being heard. The march showed me how diverse we are as women and how important it is to honor our diversity. One of our group is a ‘stay-at-home mom’ so she coordinated the volunteers. Another younger woman put together our Facebook page.” Now people are begging for more, Jackie says.

What’s next for Bellingham? The group will hold a public meeting 4 to 6 p.m. Sat., Feb. 4, at the WECU Education Center 511 E. Holly St. to reach out to people interested in continuing the work they began. Speeches given at the march will be published on their Facebook page at “Womxn’s March on Bellingham.”

Ordinary women like Erica and Jackie, who put aside their personal lives long enough to bring Bellingham into solidarity with an extraordinary national and worldwide movement of resistance, now need help to sustain the momentum.

Protests alone won’t be enough to fight Trump’s version of America. A powerful, unified resistance must be built, and these local women are providing that leadership.

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About Anne Mackie

Writer • Member since Aug 21, 2016

Anne Mackie joined the anti-war movement in 1966 as a Western student and quickly linked up with other political movements such as Radical Women Seattle, where she was a founding member [...]

Comments by Readers

Charis Snyder-Gilbert

Feb 04, 2017

Excellent article.  Thank you!

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Carol Follett

Feb 04, 2017

Thank you, and all of the people who are working for peace and justice in this unsettling time. I believe we will be able to direct our energies into the positive, proactive, work needed to build a resilient community and provide a brighter future for our descendants.

I wonder if there may be a constructive way for us to participate in the proposed February 17th national strike. I am not certain about doing this so soon, and without a direct, achievable aim, but it may be a general message that we are able to unite with a greater impact than gathering in the streets. What do you think of this?

Forget protest. Trump’s actions warrant a general national strike

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/30/travel-ban-airport-protests-disruption

 

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Dick Conoboy

Feb 05, 2017

 Great article on the effectiveness of local organizing where people are often surprised by their own power.  Citizens are galvanized at the moment and we should take advantage of the collective awareness.  We also must take care not to allow these grass-roots movements to be co-opted by corporate backed “leaders” who would use this energy to their own ends. 

We need also to be supportive of the community rights movement which is connected to no party but answers only to the citizens who have created it.  Read Stoney Bird’s article on this site regarding bills of rights for communities. 

I am all for a national strike.  The sooner the better.

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Carol Follett

Feb 05, 2017

I agree we must not be co-opted as has happened to many movements in the past. Those of us who are older, and have lived and read the lessons of history, know how to spot disrupters and the self-serving. I wonder how we may pass this understanding to the youth who are going to inherit the consequences of our choices now.

I believe we have to hold a common vision of how we want our future community to live. We cannot live in community of peace and justice in the future if we do not practice peace and justice in our movement. I hope we will always start our conversations with what we hold in common, a love for life, for our children, a desire to meet our needs and the like. It is not “them” and “us,” it is just us with differing understanding and information.

 

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