Black Women Advocate for Change at Women’s March

Alexa Imani Spencer, Howard University News Service

Thousands Gather in Washington to Focus on Female Voting Power

Photo by Alexa Imani Spencer, HUNS: Members of Baltimore-based organization, Not Without Black Women, congregate at the Lincoln Memorial.  They were among the thousands of women demonstrating at the second Women's March.

WASHINGTON – With trademark pink “pussy” hats bobbing through the crowd and signs scattered through the participants urging women to vote and to fight off sexual assault, as well as placards denouncing President Donald Trump’s administration, thousands of women and men paraded through the streets of Washington.

This year’s theme was Power to the Polls. Similar marches were organized in numerous other U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.  Last year, nearly 500,000 women jammed the streets of Washington on the exact same day in protest of Donald Trump’s election and inauguration.

The 2017 Women’s March on Washington took place the day of the inauguration of President Trump—a historic protest against his transition into office. This year, once again, black women were disproportionately outnumbered—yet their voices did not go unheard.

Brittany Oliver, 29, director of Baltimore-based organization Not Without Black Women, was one of several female entertainers, organizers, and politicians, who addressed the crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

With her organization surrounding her in a horseshoe formation, Oliver delivered a call for awareness and support.

“Black women’s issues need to be at the forefront in order for this country to move forward. Issues where black women are defaced include sex trafficking, police brutality, rape culture, wage equality, street harassment, workplace discrimination, immigration discrimination, all of them,” Oliver said. “Black women are the face of these issues and we need you.”

At the end of her speech, Oliver engaged the audience in a call-and-response.  She called out the names of black women that have died due to police brutality.

“Aiyana Stanley,” Oliver shouted.

“Say her name,” the crowd responded.

“Kendra James,” Oliver said.

“Say her name,” the crowd answered.

“Rekia Boyd.”  “Say her name,” the crowd replied.

“Sandra Bland.” “Say her name,” the crowd yelled.

Bryan James, originally from Chicago, is currently an engineer at NASA. He was one of few men, many of them accompanying women, advocating for the rights of women.

“Leadership positions should be open to men and women,” James said. “Men have things to offer. Women have things to offer. If we don’t take from both genders, we’re not going to be a great nation.”

James noted that women are responsible for some of the nation’s greatest success and played a pivotal role in the history of his organization.  As depicted in the movie “Hidden Figures,” three black women mathematicians and engineers were integral in the early stages of the U.S. space program.

Marcher Yevette Jordan, a 57-year-old college professor from Maryland, talked about her experience as a victim of sexism and racism.

“There are some experiences that I experience, because of my race, that women that are not black don’t understand and don’t get.” Jordan said. “For instance, the issue of black women talking back. You speak up, you’re considered an angry black woman. You voice your opinion, you’re considered uppity, out-of-your-place. I’ve experienced a confluence of those things.”

Despite the steady drumbeat of news reports of sexual assault and gender discrimination, Jordan remains optimistic.

“I’m just ready to get rid of these barriers that black women face,” Jordan said. “I am for coalitions of people of color and also with whites who are conscious to break down barriers for opportunity and to fight back against some of the accesses of corporate America, as well.”