Women’s March momentum continues, participants say

Fired up and ready to go!

Millions of people participated in more than 670 Women’s Marches around the world on Saturday. New York participants say the day of elation, activism and connections has galvanized them to continue fighting against what many see is the new federal government’s backward, discriminatory and anti-humanist agenda.

Katherine Siemionko, the 33-year-old Brooklyn project manager who organized the NYC march that drew more than a half-million marchers, said she and others “are meeting with City Hall, with public officials and the United Nations to identify where we can go from here,” to work with the Republican government and President Donald Trump.

A self-identified conservative who voted for Hillary Clinton, Siemionko has tagged two issues on which she believes Trump and women’s rights advocates may have common ground: equal pay for women and paid maternity leave. “Both of these were items he promised and I’m going to give him a shot,” to see if he delivers, she said. “We’ll start small, seeing what we can achieve and how soon we can achieve it, and then the scope will grow,” to items that perhaps have less consensus, Siemionko said.

Many participants in the Washington, D.C., march are following the “10 Actions in 100 Days” prescriptions of the organizers there. “I’m writing postcards to my senators now,” to thank them for standing up for “people of all colors, creeds, classes and sexual orientations,” said Morgan Block, 25, a marketing researcher from StuyTown who has never before written to a politician. “The energy and the girl power of the march gave me hope and strength and reminded me there are so many like-minded people out there,” fighting to make the world a better place.

Block is also being interviewed this week to become a Big Sister: “It’s so important right now for young women to feel that someone has their back,” she said. And she is keeping open communication lines to relatives in Georgia who voted for Trump.

“It’s important to stay involved with them. Studies show that the more you isolate yourself, the less you understand where people are coming from. It’s important for us to keep listening to each other,” Block said.

Artist and writer Sharon Watts, 63, returned from the Women’s March on NYC to Beacon and logged on to swingleft.org to find out the closest “swing district” near her; she discovered it was the 19th. “This is a big leap for me because the last thing I want is more email crap,” she acknowledged. But she is willing to make a flesh investment to elect more progressive, equality-minded candidates, whether than means via a phone bank or doorbell ringing.

“I’ve never marched before: I’m an introvert. But I promised myself I would do something immediately because I didn’t want the parade to happen and then just fade away,” Watts said.

On Monday, the president banned federal funding for international organizations that include abortion in the family planning services they offer, even if the money is not used for abortion.

“In the upcoming months and years, we will be relying on our supporters and activists to partake in various actions and events to help us protect access to health care,” Planned Parenthood NYC said in a statement. “We have just launched I Defy, a long-term, five-year effort to identify and mobilize young people, especially young people of color, to become activists and leaders in their community,” and expanded its “activist council.” The organization also plans to take four buses full of volunteers and activists to Albany on Jan. 30 for a “day of activism” lobbying elected leaders, said digital and media director Carrie Mumah.

Upper West Side optometrist Viola Kanevsky, who rented a bus to transport herself, her daughter, son, ex-husband and his wife, and 49 other people to the D.C. march, is also participating in the 10 Actions/100 Days initiative. She and her passengers are also “planning to start monthly community meetings – small groups – to talk about important local issues so there is a constant grass roots effort.”

The march was criticized by some for being unfocused, but the event helped people make connections and forge alliances that will continue long into the future, said Kanevsky, and “I’ll make a difference if it kills me.”

If nothing else, the march showed just how loud so many can roar. “I’ve never in my life even planned a birthday party,” Siemionko said. “It blew my mind,” to see how strongly so many people felt about demonstrating on behalf of human rights.

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