Charlotte women’s march opens with diverse speakers hoping to chart a new path

Equality, racial unity and inclusiveness stood among the reasons women at Charlotte’s annual Women United March on Saturday said it was so important to once again gather as one.

“We are one race, the mixed race, and we are going to prevail,” Teresa Pena, a Hispanic activist from Iredell County, told The Charlotte Observer before the march began.

She and several other annual marchers said Saturday’s crowd was far smaller than Charlotte’s 2017 and 2018 marches, but Pena was impressed how organizers worked hard to invite people from the Latino community. She brought a sign emphasizing racial unity.

While organizers are trying to make the event nonpartisan, Pena said, it won’t be apolitical. “For me politics is everything,” she said.

Liz Cotto, 18, said she and other young dancers from RL Dance, a Charlotte dance troupe that promotes Latino culture, were excited to be at their first women’s march, to stand up for equal rights.

Saturday was the first time for about 20 UNC Charlotte students as well. Katelyn Bruno, 18, said they wanted to stand up for holding men accountable for abuses. She said she was aware of national controversy over the annual march, but “we stand together.”

Barbara McCullers of Charlotte showed up Saturday morning wearing the pink she got at the first national women’s march.

She and two friends from ActionNC, all of them African American, said they’re proud to be part of an inclusive movement.

“We’re here to fight for all women,” McCullers said.

“They’re trying to push women back to the Stone Age,” said Willie Dawson.

In Washington, D.C., and many other cities around the world, the 2019 women’s march took place Jan. 19, drawing much smaller crowds than in 2017 and 2018.

Eight friends from Marvin Ridge High in Union County came bearing signs such as, “I eat gender norms for breakfast,” and the Harry Potter-themed “When Voldemort is present we need a nation of Hermiones.”

“We are the next generation to come out and vote,” 17-year-old Cortney Gross said.

Charlotte and Raleigh held their events a week later so participants and organizers could attend events honoring Martin Luther King Jr. last weekend.

IMG_3386.JPG

Diedra Laird [email protected]

Charlotte’s Women United March has a new sponsor, with the Queen City chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women joining Charlotte Women’s March. Organizers asked speakers to avoid partisan rhetoric and focus on issues that unite women. The two emcees and 12 speakers were chosen to highlight racial and religious diversity as well as issues such as reproductive rights, immigration, gun violence, access to health care and LGBTQ issues.

Local organizers hope to avoid the rifts that have roiled the national movement, where one organizer’s ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan led to accusations of anti-Semitism. Like marches across the country, the Charlotte event has been criticized for doing too little to appeal to non-white feminists.

Charlotte’s first women’s march, hastily organized for the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew 10,000 or more people to First Ward Park, according to Observer reporting at the time.

Women's march 2017

The 2017 women’s march in Charlotte drew an estimated 10,000 people. The 2018 march will follow the same route, but with differences.

Diedra Laird dlair[email protected]

Last year’s, while slightly smaller, still pulled an estimated 5,000 or more.

womens march

Crowds at the 2018 Charlotte Women’s March in January moving up Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The march started at 10, and thousands of participants hit the streets at noon.

Diedra Laird [email protected]