Opinion: Duluth people use their voices at Twin Ports Women’s March

  Participants in the Duluth Women’s March all gather at Duluth’s City Hall on Jan. 20 to listen to speakers. Photo by Zack Benz

Participants in the Duluth Women’s March all gather at Duluth’s City Hall on Jan. 20 to listen to speakers. Photo by Zack Benz

Hundreds of people marched from the Building for Women down West First Street to Duluth’s City Hall in support of women's rights Jan. 20.

People from all walks of life participated in the event sponsored by Duluth’s Feminist Action Collective and co-sponsored by numerous community groups, including UMD’s College of Democrats, Commission for Women, LGBTQ studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality studies.

Chants like “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” and “Love, not hate, makes America great!“ reverberated off of the downtown structures, reflecting the voices of change. Voices that refuse to be kept silent. Voices that, according to Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, were kindled last year.

“This is a really important marking of one year of activism,” Larson said. “With women in particular raising their voices, and men working in concert as allies, with that. It's really amazing that as a community we continue to keep up the pressure and keep lifting our voices. Today is just one more day we get to do that.”

Mayor Larson, along with other public officials, participated in the Women’s March, walking side by side with citizens and engaging in chants. Friends, colleagues, students and strangers all walked with a purpose: equality.

“The collective term ‘women’ does not consist of solely one type of person,” UMD Associate Professor Arshia Khan, a spokesperson for the event, said. “Women are comprised of different races, religion, sexuality, and so much more. What we do hold in common is the desire for equality.”

This desire for equality is what brought out all participants in Saturday’s march.

“I marched to support women and be supported by other women,” UMD student Morgan Campbell said. “In our society [women] are sometimes treated unfairly just because of our gender identity and that’s not okay.”

Basic human equality should always be safeguarded, regardless of a person's gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other personal identity, especially when those in position of authority threaten it.

“People are like tea bags, and they don’t know how strong they are until you put them in hot water,” Mayor Larson said as she started her speech with a paraphrased quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. “So here is what I say to our leaders across the state, to our president in the White House, bring on the boil.”

 Marchers moved down West First Street as they yelled chants. Photo by Zack Benz

Marchers moved down West First Street as they yelled chants. Photo by Zack Benz

A combined voice such as this women's march is one of the greatest strengths our nation has. When someone is put down, others will help pick them back up and say to the oppressor, this will not be tolerated.

“People are afraid to use their voices due to fear of backlash,” UMD student Kelli Bailey, who participated in the march, said. “Events like this women's march encourage people to come together. When people come together, there is a barrier that has been broken.”

UMD Assistant Professor of graphic design Terresa Hardaway also spoke at the event. She said when she first moved to Duluth she did not know what to expect.

“With only 1.9 percent of the population being black, I didn't know if I was going to find a community that was going to accept all of my identities,” Hardaway said in her speech.

Hardaway spoke of how she made the move to Duluth in order to escape an abusive relationship, one she stated was rooted in white supremacy.

“I refuse to be silenced or sensored,” Hardaway said. “I refuse to be controlled. I refuse to be accepted as a woman without the acknowledgement of my blackness. And I refuse to believe that you don’t have the ability to change your actions, your words, your thoughts, your spending habits, and your determination and dedication in this fight in a system that affects all of us.”

Speaking up for women’s rights does not have to be limited to just one day a year. There are numerous opportunities where one can stand up and fight for equality. To learn more on how you can use your voice visit feministactioncollective.org.

 

VoicesZack Benz