March for Black Women, Racial Justice Unites Hundreds

Demonstrators March Past Trump Hotel to Department of Justice

Photo by Kamilah Tom, HUNS: Three of the hundreds of participant in the March for Black Women hold up some of the many signs and slogans that appeared during the event, which joined withe the March for Racial Justice in a march through woundwntown Washington past the Trump Hotel to the Justice Department.

WASHINGTON – Hundreds of men, women and children from across the nation representing multiple backgrounds and ethnicities marched and demonstrated Saturday morning, Sept. 30, to uplift, support and amplify the struggles of black women in America and focus attention on racial inequities.

“The March for Black Women is about gathering black women, people who support black women and trust black women together to build power for the sake of our collective liberation,” said Charlene Carruthers, co-chair of March for Black Women and national director of Black Youth Project 100 Chicago.

March for Black Women was later joined with the March for Racial Justice, a separate rally that took place in a different nearby park, before the two marched together past the Department of Justice’s headquarters and onto the National Mall.  There, marchers heard from feminist activist Gloria Steinem, Muslim rights activist Linda Sarsour and Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, one of a number of black men shot and killed by police over the past three years.

Castile was shot in July 2016 by a Minnesota police officer who was later acquitted.  His death and the officer’s acquittal served as the impetus for the March for Racial Justice, according to one of the organizers.

The Black Women’s Blueprint, Trans Sistas of Color Project, BYP100 and other organizations came together for the march.

Virtually every aspect of America’s demography was represented by the marchers, women, men children, heterosexuals, homosexuals, transgender people and all races, religions and ethnicities.  A Native American group, for instance, performed and demonstrated as one group.

The boisterous, peaceful marchers chanted slogans continuously as they walked through downtown Washington past the Trump hotel to the Justice Department. 

“Silence is violence,” they chanted, and later.  “Hey hey, ho ho.  Donald Trump has got to go.”

 Hundreds held hand-painted signs on placards and cardboard to express their sentiments.  “Black Lives Matter.”  “I Am Worth Marching For.”  “Uproot White Supremacy.” “Resist.” “I Don’t Want to be Another Hashtag.” “Respect Women of Color.”

A number of marchers held up the flag of Puerto Rico, the American protectorate that is struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.  President Trump has recently criticized the mayor of Puerto Rico’s largest city and said of the island’s citizens, all American citizens, “They want everything to be done for them.”

Kelly Blanchard of Washington, D.C. was one of hundreds of white women who joined the women’s march.  “I’m here because until white women start showing up for black women, nothing is going to change,” Blanchard said. “I don’t want to be a voice here, I just want to be a body.”

Diamond Raymond said she flew in from Oakland, California, to participate in the march.

“It was very critical, not just because of everything we’re going through now, but also everything we’ve already been through as black women that I had to show up,” Raymond said.

“I’ve experienced racism in the women’s movement, and I’ve experienced sexism in the black movement. The Black Women’s March is so historic to center black women in this way. I could not miss this moment.”   

Speakers and women at the event said the march was needed, because the injustices and inequities black women suffer are different from their white counterparts. They pointed to the pay gap between black women and white women, the child birth mortality rate for black women, and the disparity in the rates of incarceration, sexual violence, murders and police brutality  against black women as reasons for the march.

Victoria Garner, George Washington University student, said those were the reasons she was there.

 “I feel like the issues that black women are facing are very specific, and I think that the persistence of state violence against black women as well as mass incarceration and rape and violence is perpetuated against black women in larger numbers than it is other women,” Garner said.

She was joined at the march by fellow George Washington University student Erica Jung.

“Movements like the March for Black Women are especially helpful, because it compounds the recognition and the importance that we need movements like this to help elevate the recognition that women of color deserve,” Jung said.

Howard University student Justin Funnye echoed their comments.

 “Black women are often ignored,” Funnye said. “Having a march where black women are really being centered is absolutely necessary for us to move toward liberation.”