Photo: Women’s March Oʻahu
Women and their supporters marched and rallied in all 50 states this weekend on the anniversary of the first Women’s March to celebrate the spirit of resistance efforts over the past year and to renew the commitment to building a positive and just future for all.
The main event took place Sunday, Jan. 21 in Las Vegas instead of in Washington, D.C. Organizers focused largely on registering and mobilizing voters ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Cecile Richards, head of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), Alicia Garzia, co-founder or Black Lives Matter, and Nina Turner, president of Our Revolution, were among the speakers at Sunday’s Power to the Polls rally.
The Women’s March 2018 events page shows a map of scheduled rallies, marches, meetups and seminars across the country and around the world.
“We started 2017 with perpetual outrage and now we are at the moment when we have perpetual outrage, plus a plan in place for 2018,” Linda Sarsour, co-chair of the Women’s March, told The Guardian. “One year ago, we had millions of people marching in the streets. The idea is that we march the same people and their families and their friends to the polls in 2018.”
In Kona, on Hawaiʻi Island, hundreds marched in the “Wahine Power, Kona Women’s March Anniversary 2018.” The event honored women and the resistance movement with a march, followed by a rally with “booths, art, music, healing, entertainment, speakers, informational tables and more.”
On Maui, three counter protesters attempted to crash the rally at Maui Community College but were drowned out by a larger group of marchers that included Annie Nelson, wife of Willie Nelson. A sign-waving event at the Lihue Airport entrance was well-attended on Kauaʻi.
On Oʻahu, organizers created the “People’s Rally,” which featured women speakers and an “activism alley” with tables from local organizations that support the mission of the Women’s March: “to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change.”
Participating organizations included the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, Rainbow Family 808, Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking, Save Medicaid Hawaiʻi, Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA) – Hawaiʻi, Hawai‘i J20+, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaiʻi, Compassion and Choices – Hawai‘i, Refuse Fascism Hawaiʻi, Hawai‘i Women’s Voices Theater Festival, ACLU of Hawai‘i and 808RAN.
YPDA board member Natalia-Hussey Burdick spoke at the event, connecting women’s issues with that of climate change and the need for a sustainable future.
Not everyone was happy with this year’s focus on an expanded coalition of organizations. Kuleana Academy program manager Aria Juliet wrote in a Facebook post: “S E R I O U S L Y disturbed that the Women’s March on Oahu turned into the People’s Rally ‘because it is not just about us.’”
The Hawaiʻi chapter of Amnesty International withdrew as a participant early on in the planning of the event after disagreements over the way in which the event was being organized. “It is not because we do not believe or support the Women’s March vision, but rather a programmatic decision,” said Beatriz Cantelmo, the director of the Hawaiʻi chapter.
Kapiʻolani Community College student Maile Murphy, who spoke at the 2017 Women’s March Oʻahu event on behalf of YPDA Hawaiʻi, had an intersectional critique of the planning of this year’s event:
Due to the erasure of the focus of the original intent of the Women’s March and the subsequent rebranding it to the neutral “People’s Rally” I will not be participating in this years event. In addition, I have misgivings about the inclusion of WOC’s and Trans+ women in the original event. My speech at last years March was on the subject of intersectionality, and a year of perspective has taught me that the organizers of the national rally have little interest in serving the needs of non-white women. I will not be party to an event that so wholly misses the point of a solidarity movement.
After the event was created, YPDA board member Randy Gonce was alerted to a potential lack of inclusion and representation of the Hawaiian community within the event by Dr. Kalama Niheu of the Standing Rock Medical Council.
The Independent reached out to event organizer Karolina Turska, who is also a member of 808ran, for comment on the criticisms. She provided the following prepared statement:
Last year, Womenʻs March began as a unifying single-day protest at the time when we all needed assurances that there were others, just like us, galvanized by the disdain for the newly elected president and his administrationʻs policies. What started as a one-day event became a movement called Womenʻs March.
For the past year, us women and our allies continued our work advocating for legislation and policies protecting human rights, including women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights. The trajectory of the movement was always to not only maintain the momentum but to churn toward action in November 2018.
As a result, the one year anniversary events, under the banner of Womenʻs March, focused on creating local actions. The national team did not repeat last yearʻs march, but instead organized a rally in the battleground state of Nevada under the theme “Power to the Polls” to get women to the polls to put other women and their allies in power. Honolulu’s anniversary theme was “Peopleʻs Rally” to honor the collaborative spirit of local activism.
For the past year, Womenʻs March Oʻahu had the privilege of working on collective actions with tenacious local activists. Some of them were newbies, just like us, and some were fighting the good fight for years, if not decades. But no matter what, Womenʻs March Oʻahu could always count on their support. Therefore, it was a no-brainer to use the event as an opportunity to acknowledge the naturally emerging coalition centered around progressive values, and to honor the work of average citizens focused on creating a better future.
Peopleʻs Rally was meant to give all progressive organizations and movements a platform to connect to even more voters ahead of 2018 elections. Our Activism Alley facilitated conversations between activists and people interested in being more involved and featured a very successful collective voter registration drive. Our rally focused on featuring the voices of the resistance, “the people,” instead of the politicians. We are proud of the voices represented by our speakers: women and men; cis and transgender; gay, lesbian, and straight; Native Hawaiian, kamaʻaina, guests of the Aina, and immigrant; Kanaka Maoli, Latino, Asian and Caucasian; sexual assault and harassment survivors, but most importantly, “the people” who have been working tirelessly for the past year, and whoʻs message focused on the action: what more can we do to create just and equitable Hawaiʻi. As we enter 2018, Womenʻs March Oʻahu is forever committed to continuing to include even more diverse voices of our community.
Womenʻs March is no longer just a one-day protest, but a sustainable movement focused on action. Itʻs a movement relying 100 percent on volunteers: average people with regular jobs and family obligations, spending whatever time they have left to create a transformative social change. As a brand new organization, we are learning a lot as we go, and experiencing inevitable growing pains.
The anniversary event gave us all a crash course in event planning. It also showed us that some pain runs deep. Despite statements of support for Kanaka Maoli rights included in both Womenʻs March mission statement and the anniversary event description, it was still too easy for a lot of people to assume the worst—that we were intentionally excluding Kanaka Maoli voices.
We hear you. This is not about assurances because too many false assurances were given over the past century, primarily by white people. This is about action. And Womenʻs March Oʻahu is committed to act and support Kanaka Maoli, and most of all, to listen.
We want to take this opportunity to thank Kanaka Wahine: Dr. Kalamaokaʻaina Niheu, Kalaniopua Young and Laulani Teale for their counsel, understanding, and grace and their inspiring message during the rally.
We look forward to the continuing dialogue, advocacy, and collaboration in 2018. We take all feedback very seriously and are committed to growing as a movement.
Our theme for 2018: know better, do better.
Aloha nui loa,
Womenʻs March Oʻahu
Niheu was one of three Hawaiians that opened the day’s proceedings, first with a pule and welcoming by Brad Lum, and then with speeches by Niheu and Tatiana Kalani Young. Niheu also addressed the organizing on Facebook:
It was a pono thing that the organizers of the women’s march had Kanaka Maoli lead into the rally. In many places First Nations women were tokenized and marginalized in what is predominantly a white, cis, women’s movement.
I reached out to Karolina Turska who admitted that she was relatively new to organizing and that no offense was meant. She reached back and agreed to participate in a message of solidarity.
Our message was a dream of end of empire and global destruction. It was a decidedly different message from the majority [of speakers] who focused on voting. Last year, when the Illegal Overthrow was mentioned [at the Women’s March Oʻahu], you could hear boos from the audience. This year there was solid support.
While we know that Hawaii is illegally occupied, we also know that we unite on a very deep level with women of conscience everywhere who may not have a lot of experience in resistance, but who know that something is deeply and fundamentally wrong with this system.
I lift up a pule to Kaiona that we can bring everyone home to the care of our Mother Earth. And that we take the time to be kind when it is our turn to lead the way for those who are lost.
The 2017 event far surpassed expectations, organized in just two months after Maui’s Teresa Shook started a Facebook event page and invited her friends to march on Washington in protest of President Donald Trump’s election. Officials estimated that about 470,000 people attended the march in Washington, D.C. while 750,000 marched in Los Angeles. Dozens of marches took place around the world, including two in Antarctica. Estimates for the 2018 numbers have not been posted yet.
“Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers to engage in their local communities through trainings, outreach programs and events. Women’s March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.”
In addition to editing The Hawaii Independent, Will Caron is also a board member for YPDA - Hawaiʻi.