At the 2019 Women’s March, Black women were noticeably smaller in number, but they made their voices heard.
“African-American women are present at this march. We want to show our solidarity and support to other women and women’s organizations, because it also impacts us as well,” said Tonya McKenney. The Marylander attended the inaugural Women’s March in 2017 and returned this year with fellow Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority members.
The 2017 flagship march was a direct response to the 2016 presidential election that landed Donald Trump in the White House. In 2018, the march focused heavily on mobilizing for the midterm elections.
The 2019 Women’s March, like years past, consisted of a primary march in Washington, D.C. with “sister marches” internationally. Saturday’s images of marchers flooding streets adorning pink knitted hats and signs protesting the Trump administration also flooded social media. The #WomensWave hashtag trended on social media, serving as an agenda-setting moment for global activism surrounding women’s issues.
Social media played a major role leading up to this year’s Women’s March, after an Instagram post from march organizer Tamika D. Mallory sparked questions surrounding her support for Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan and alleged anti-Semitism. This resulted in the Democratic National Committee, Southern Poverty Law Center and nearly half of the event partners from 2018 pulling their sponsorship and support from this year’s march.
“I love all people, and no one will define for me who I am,” shouted Mallory from the march stage in Washington, D.C.
“To Jewish women, there is a place at the table for you,” said march organizer Carmen Perez. "I want to be unequivocal in affirming that the Women's March, and I and my sisters condemn anti-Semitism. There is no defense of bigotry. There is no excuse for hatred.”
Former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner pointed to a number of social issues including racial inequality, the government shutdown, national labor strikes and growing poverty issues.
“If you are not mad about injustice, then something is wrong with you,” said Turner.
Johnnetta Cole, the new president of the National Council of Negro Women, called for “the end of all -isms that keep us, our families and our communities from thriving.”
“We must ripen the time for the end of any and all systems of inequality,” said Cole, former president of two historically Black all-women’s colleges — Spelman and Bennett. “NCNW is focused on eliminating what is minimally the double jeopardy that Black women suffer from — racism and sexism.”
That sentiment was echoed by march attendee McKenney, who is a member of the Anne Arundel County Maryland NAACP Chapter. Violence against women, gun violence, education and health care are top priorities for her.
“Mainly health care because if we are not healthy, then the rest of our life is off-balance,” said McKenney.
Members of the Metro Washington Bennett College for Women Alumnae Association also marched at Freedom Plaza to bring attention to their alma mater’s #StandWithBennett campaign to raise $5 million dollars by Feb. 1 to keep the HBCU from losing its accreditation.
“It’s [Bennett College] a beacon of Black women and sisterhood, and we want it to continue on,” said Bennett College alumna Kenya Gray. “We came out because we knew there would be women out here that would support our cause.”
Also among the marchers, Morgan State University’s Mister and Miss NAACP, Daniel Gibson and Marketa Lewis, demonstrated how their royal positions are centered in protest, activism and awareness.
“Black women are so strong, and we do not get enough credit for all the work we do,” said Lewis. “We definitely deserve more position and more rights.”
— Nicki Mayo is a digital consultant for The Crisis Magazine and a multimedia journalist for TV One‘s “Fatal Attraction,” “Justice By Any Means” and Thou Shalt Not.” Mayo is also a federal contractor directly affected by the partial government shutdown.