The 2019 Portland Womxn’s March and Rally for Action continued the ongoing global fight for solidarity and justice for every womxn. The new modification in spelling of the word ‘womxn’ is a more inclusive, progressive term that’s seen as intersectional, for it incorporates transgender womxn, womxn of color, womxn from Third World countries, and each different self distinguishing womxn out there. The Portland march took place on March 3 in downtown Portland and featured inspiring speakers and lively music. Some of the speakers included Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Native American spiritual elder Grandma Aggie and Portland’s UnShul Rabbi Debra Kolodny. According to Willamette Week, an estimated 15,000 people attended the event.
The Portland organizing committee of the march decided to separate themselves from the national Women’s March this year. They believed that through this separation they could build a space dedicated to the safety, inclusion and elevation of all women, especially those from historically marginalized communities. The organizers especially sought to elevate black and indigenous people of color—or BIPOC—who they say have long been shoved to the margins of past events.
This move was part of a nation-wide controversy surrounding the founders of the Women’s March, linking them with anti-Semitic hate speech. It all started when Women’s March co-founder and organizer Tamika Mallory attended a speech by and praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a long history of making anti-Jewish and homophobic statements. Therefore in the past year, many celebrities, activists and community leaders have said that they will not attend the march and have called on the national organizers to step down over claims that they have not done enough to disavow anti-Semitism. The Portland committee wanted to make sure that their march was separated from this kind of hate speech.
The committee elaborated on why they changed the date of the march on their website.
“We chose the weekend of International Women’s Day because it stands for womxn,” they said. “(This march) includes those who are Jewish, Black and Muslim. The day we choose to come together does not matter if we are not standing together in both diversity and unity. We extend our arms to those who have been alienated. You are more than welcome at this march. You are this march. And we are not a Womxn’s March without you.”
After marching in the first Washington D.C. Women’s March in January 2017, Riley Hanna ’21 wanted to attend another, as she felt that she was being a part of history in an incredible experience. Therefore, Hanna decided to attend the Portland march with one of her friends.
“Even though it was smaller, it had a similar atmosphere of activists,” Hanna said. “People are supporting one another and fighting against the oppression of different genders and races and ethnicities. It was really beautiful.”
Hanna also spoke on the differences between the Washington D.C. march and the Portland march.
“One funky aspect to the (Portland) march was that there was a llama present,” Hanna said. “The presence of the llama was really uplifting and fun. I felt like it kind of distracted from the hardships that we face as American people with this presidency. It put everyone into a really positive headspace.”
Another memorable aspect of the march for Hanna was a Native American girl who spoke after the march. She spoke on how she had personally been impacted by the increased rate at which Native American women disappear compared to the national average, as her sister had recently disappeared. Hanna thought that it was a very heart wrenching story that really put things into perspective.
Nicole Dean ’21 attended the first Women’s March in Portland of 2017 after Trump was inaugurated. As someone who has worked on local political campaigns, including I-1433 and ballot chasing for East County Rising, she had heard from the Portland community that they wanted to start a new womxn’s march in order to better include everyone and get everyone involved.
“The Portland Womxn’s March was a more inclusive event of people supporting each other and standing up for what we all believe in,” Dean said. “It was a smaller crowd, but it still felt powerful and inspiring.”
Dean also commented on how the harsh weather impacted her experience at the march.
“It was so windy that the wind ripped my poster,” Dean said. “I spotted a woman in the crowd who had a poster that said, ‘I have glue and tape,’ and then she and some other women (helped me tape) it together as one. This was a symbolic act for me that wholeness isn’t perfection, but together we can embrace the damage and put the pieces back in the right place. Marching is a form of activism that isn’t perfect but brings us together as a whole and shows us that we can accomplish what our goals are together. We can figure out the momentum and strategies to do that. Even though marching may seem small, it’s really powerful and moving and inspiring.”
Overall, the Portland Womxn’s March was a denouncement of the language of hate. Since womxn suffer daily from the scarcity of safe and accepting spaces, especially those who face multiple types of systematic oppression, the Portland Womxn’s March sought to reconnect the people and the city to their roots during the movement.