The weather was blustery, the forecast daunting, but about a hundred Vineyarders turned out for last Saturday’s march, delighting organizers who were expecting far fewer to show up. And unlike most Vineyard demonstrations, it really was a march: after rallying at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven, most of us walked down the Beach Road, over the drawbridge, and down New York Avenue to Washington Park, near Oak Bluffs harbor.
Five Corners is the go-to place for island demonstrations, with good reason: it’s centrally located, there’s plenty of room to stand (crowd estimates for last summer’s “Families Belong Together” demo ran as high as 350), and even in January the traffic in all directions is pretty much continuous. Five Corners, however, is both noisy and windy, which means that demos there almost never include speeches or music.
Here too, Saturday’s Women’s March broke with tradition by featuring two speeches and the reading of a poem. Organizer and Women’s Committee member Margaret Emerson, aided by a blue bullhorn, kicked off the event, saying:
We are here at a great time in our nation’s history. In spite of the terrible daily news coming out of Washington about the current administration, we live in a time of renewed awareness of what our democracy means and how we can be involved to keep our government on the right track and our democracy strong.
The 2017 Women’s March brought about changes in our federal, state, and local government. Women became mobilized to the point that more women were elected to the US Legislature than ever before; Women-lead political groups were formed in our state and our island, and political activity has energized us to run for office, lobby, work on campaigns and make a difference in the lives of many. Ask any spouse, partner, child, or friend and they will tell you the change is here and it is here to stay and to be passed on to the next generation of activists.
She went on to list the “Why we march?” priorities of the national Women’s March: civil rights and liberties, environmental justice, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, reproductive rights and justice, disability rights, economic justice and workers’ rights, and an end to violence against women.
Next up was Carla Cooper, founder of Indivisible Martha’s Vineyard, who spoke of how the 2016 election and the 2017 Women’s March changed her life:
I went to the first Women’s March in Boston in 2017 because I didn’t know what else to do with my fear and my anxiety. I didn’t know where to put it. It was the first time I ever participated in anything remotely political. And it was a life-altering experience for me. I was surrounded by thousands of beautiful people who turned my desperation into hope, and inspired me into action. And while two years ago, the Women’s March for me was all about Trump, today it’s not about him. It’s about us, and what we have been able to accomplish, in spite of him.
Out of the smoking crater of the 2016 election arose a monumental upswelling of grassroots activism all across the country. We emerged from the dark fog of the aftermath of the election, and we found each other. We’ve grown from a community of reluctant resisters to a community of eager activists and leaders. During the last two years, we organized, we rallied, we protested, we campaigned, we registered voters, we knocked on doors, we wrote thousands of postcards, we laughed, and we cried – and we drank a lot of wine. We agonized over our defeats and we celebrated our victories. We watched women run for office and get elected in record numbers. 102 women were elected to the US House of Representatives! 14 women were elected to the US Senate! And 9 women will serve as Governors! And we helped create the blue wave that won back the House of Representatives!
The rally concluded with the reading of “Who Will Mend Me?,” a poem by Lorraine Parish, another Vineyarder who was called to action by the 2016 election. Despite the bullhorn, most of the words got lost in the wind and traffic noise. Fortunately palmcards with the entire poem, in which the poet speaks in the voice of the United States, were passed out to listeners. Here it is.
Women’s Committee members Cathy Walthers, Maggie Brown, and Maria Black all attended the Boston Women’s March, where they helped with the activities of the Massachusetts Coalition to End Child Marriage. (You’ll be hearing more about this issue. A new bill to end child marriage in this state was recently introduced.)
Also at the Boston march was Lorraine Parish, which is why she wasn’t at Five Corners to read her own poem.