WOMEN’S MARCH SANTA BARBARA: ‘WE ARE THE POWER’
Santa Barbara County residents gathered Saturday afternoon in De la Guerra Plaza for the third annual Women’s March Santa Barbara, spreading the message of “truth to power” and promoting women’s equality.
“We are mobilizing and giving voice to the other people who want to speak up,” event organizer Michal Lynch told the News-Press. “And what we’re speaking about is women’s rights.
“The message is truth to power,” she added, estimating that a couple thousand people were part of the rally. “This is how we make things happen.”
Tables from various local groups were set up throughout the plaza, including Planned Parenthood, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, Standing Together to End Sexual Assault, Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County, and several others.
“We definitely had a desire to bring together kind of a coalition of inclusive groups to work together, and really have a lot of information available to the community on ways they can get involved,” said Luz Reyes-Martin, who also helped organize the event and serves as the president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.
Kicking off the entertainment portion was Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, who was the city’s poet laureate from 2015 to 2017. She shared a poem titled “A change to keep in mind.”
“When I speak to you I am speaking truth to power,” she told the crowd. “You are the power, we are the power and we have proved it over and over again.”
She added, “I think in this time of government shutdown it’s a good day to remind our government of the charge they have to keep.”
World Dance for Humanity was next, performing a dance routine titled “Break the chain.”
“We’re all about supporting each other and all about supporting women in Santa Barbara and beyond — both in our country and around the world,” said Janet Reineck, executive director of the group.
“We do it with a full heart and spirit and we want to bring joy to women and spirit for what they do for the community and the world.”
Some were attending the march for the first time, while others have been marching for women’s rights for many years.
“There are just so many issues,” said Lynn Dow of Santa Barbara, adding she has been to dozens of women’s marches. “We can all come together here and that’s really important.”
Santa Barbara resident Claire Haigh was there Saturday to represent her daughter and daughters-in-law.
“We just have to keep showing up year after year,” she told the News-Press. “We’re very close to losing our rights. We’re very close to overturning Roe v. Wade, so it’s of utmost importance,”
Olivia Belknap, Angie Sanchez and Temilola Suuloa are freshman at UCSB who decided to take part in the march for the first time.
“Who doesn’t want to support women?” Ms. Belknap asked. “I feel like when women get lifted up, everyone gets lifted up.
“Women have so much to bring to the table that adds so much value to society and it’s time to finally recognize that,” she added.
The National Women’s March organization has been criticized in recent weeks for its association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has made anti-Semtic, homophobic and misogynistic statements.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara, in an open letter last month, said the group is pleased to promote the local march, which is operating under the umbrella of Women’s March California.
The statewide platform includes a statement saying it does not “tolerate hate speech, bigotry, white supremacy, racism, misogyny, Anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, or any other form of hatred,” which the federation fully endorses.
The local Women’s March chapter is joining dozens of other local organizations that have distanced themselves from the nationwide group “whose leadership has, rightfully, been criticized for failing to denounce — Indeed for praising” Mr. Farrakhan, Adam S. Weiss, chairman of the federation’s community relations committee, wrote in the letter.
“National is their own entity,” Ms. Lynch said. “They do not interact, run, or have any influence on Women’s March California.”
Chris and Shira Minere brought their 3-month-old daughter, Leia, to her first march.
“I think it’s important for men to show solidarity on a lot of these really key issues that we’re having,” Mr. Mineres told the News-Press. “I don’t think we can actually really move the needle forward without men’s assistance. These issues are important to women but should also be very important to men.”
Nicole Weprin, of Ventura, explained that the march provides hope to those who feel helpless.
“The reason why I come out every year is because at the end of one of these events you feel hopeful again,” she said. “Especially with this march in particular, the focus is all on positivity.”
Joining Ms. Weprin was Tessa Reeder of Santa Barbara.
“I’m definitely not somebody who would normally be out here,” she said. “I almost put on my sign that this is so bad that even introverts are doing it. It’s kind of at that next level of ridiculousness that brings people out that maybe ordinarily wouldn’t be here.”
Peggy Walls, of Santa Barbara, described the march as “Obama’s legacy.”
“Now grass roots are out and about,” she said. “The way things are going to change is if we go out there and do something — not just march but actually participate.”
Speakers from various groups took to the front of the plaza, including Assemblywoman Monique Lim-n, D-Santa Barbara, and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.
“We are not going to let those out there who are filled with hate and fear and bigotry and division keep us from speaking truth to power. They call California an outlier state and I agree, we’ve outed this liar and we’re going to change this country,” Ms. Jackson said, in reference to President Donald Trump.
“I was reading Gloria Steinem’s reminder that we’re not going to pass the torch — we’re gonna light your torch because we need as many lights as we can in this country to change it, to make it better, to renew our goals and commitment to a country with liberty and justice for all.”
Score of people took to State Street, led by police escort, as the crowd shouted chants promoting democracy and equality.
The marchers were joined by a Brazilian percussion band called “Ose.” At the conclusion of the march, dozens danced in front of City Hall as the band played along.