By Ann Doss Helms, The Charlotte Observer
In January 2017, thousands of people marched through uptown Charlotte into history, becoming part of the Women’s March movement that swept the globe in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Now the question is: Can they do it again?
A group of Charlotte women who came together on a bus to the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., are organizing an anniversary march for Jan. 20. Like last year, it will start with speeches and music at First Ward Park in uptown Charlotte, followed by a march to Romare Bearden Park.
And like last year, it will be echoed across the country. Events with hashtags such as #PowerToThePolls and #WeekendofWomen are scheduled for cities including Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, Boston, Raleigh and Winston-Salem, as well as the nation’s capital.
Charlotte organizers say events ranging from the #MeToo disclosures about sexual assault and harassment to federal, state and local challenges to reproductive rights could mobilize an even bigger turnout in 2018.
“It’s a time when people want to do something about our situation. They don’t want to just sit back and let things happen,” said Jan Anderson, president of Charlotte Women’s March. “That’s the wave that we’re riding.”
Carolyn Logan, president of the Black Women’s Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, agrees.
“I think it will probably be more than last year’s (turnout),” Logan said. “It’s time that we start coming together to see where we can connect.”
Some of the local women who traveled to Washington last year say they’re taking part in the Charlotte march as they gear up for a 2018 election that could bring change to Raleigh as well as Congress.
“I think more women are outraged now than perhaps they were then because of some of the things that have come to fruition,” said Melba Smith Evans, vice president of the Charlotte chapter of the National Organization for Women. The chapter took a bus to Washington last January and is focused on the Charlotte event this year.
The 2017 events flooded world news and social media with images of hand-knit pink hats with kitten ears (playing on the vulgar phrase made famous by Trump’s Hollywood Access tape) and signs bearing images of Trump, Rosie the Riveter and, well, more pussycats.
Anderson, a 68-year-old retired engineer, says she was never involved in protests and political action until she heard the Rev. William Barber talk about the upcoming 2017 Women’s March in Washington. She and her friends hired a bus to take 45 professional women – doctors, lawyers, bankers and others – to join hundreds of thousands who mobbed the National Mall the day after the inauguration.
Anderson said most of them were moved to action by the election of a candidate who had bragged about sexual assault, belittled opponent Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman” and otherwise seemed hostile to women.
“We said, ‘Unh-unh. We are not giving up our hard-earned rights without a fight,’ ” she recalls.
When they returned home, the group kept the momentum going by organizing the Charlotte Women’s March. Their first meeting drew 250 people, which has since grown to more than 500 registered members. They network with established groups working on education, immigration, women’s health, racial justice and other issues. Charlotte Women’s March members took part in this summer’s Charlotte Pride Parade for LGBTQ rights and partnered with the Black Women’s Caucus to host a December reception honoring women elected to public office.
Newly-elected Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles will be among the speakers at the Jan. 20 event, dubbed “Remarchable Women.” The women who organized last year’s Charlotte march are also sponsoring the 2018 version.
The schedule calls for speakers to talk about a range of issues from 10 a.m. to noon, when the march to Bearden Park begins. Participants can register at https://charlottewomensmarch.org, and get more information at the website or the @charlottewomensmarch Facebook page.