Organizers regroup for Santa Cruz Women's March in January

2017-12-13 | Santa Cruz Sentinel

Dec. 13--SANTA CRUZ -- In the nearly year since thousands of Santa Cruzans converged on the downtown for the local Women's March, equality issues have regularly dominated news cycles with high-profile sexual assault claims, clashing protests and political unrest.

And so, come the Women's March approximate anniversary, on Jan. 20, local organizers will again lace up their marching boots, several said Tuesday while planning a kickoff fundraiser next week at the Food Lounge. The 2018 march, like the 2017 effort, reflects the community protests that drew an estimated 4 million protesters across the country, with Washington, as the epicenter on the day after President Donald Trump was inaugurated.

The Santa Cruz Women's March aims to advocate for women's rights and equality in everything from health care to education with the help of a peaceful and family-friendly protest, organizers said. After the first march, organizers said they took part in, helped sponsor or led several other protest rallies locally.

"As long as it's needed and it's effective," said co-organizer Maryanne Campbell, copresident of Gault Elementary's parent group who works at an international non-profit, of the march's continuation. "That's why we are revising what we do this time. We're learning from what we did, we're trying to focus the energy toward resistance that's effective."

Some of the upcoming march's changes will include new collaborations with artists, musicians and dancers. The event's local theme is "Be the Change" and will feature a new logo and black, rather than pink, "pussyhats." The march's original leadership group has expanded to a 20-woman steering committee as a way to include fellow activist groups from the Indivisible groups, People's Democratic Committee, artist collectives and beyond, organizers said.

Co-organizer Maria Boutell, a parent, women's rights activist and daughter-in-law of Sentinel columnist Peter Boutell, said next year's march comes after "a big year for women."

"The Santa Cruz Women's March, this last January, gave a voice to people that didn't have a voice. I'm talking to people that are coming up to me and saying, 'I had never marched, I never did anything. And now I feel like I'm being heard.' That matters," Boutell said of her continued involvement. "I think when one voice speaks, then another voice speaks. We're seeing that in the '#metoo' movement."

This year, art installations will be placed along the march route, which will begin at Pacific Avenue and Water Street and end at Louden Nelson Community Center. No pre-march speech is planned for City Hall this year. Artists also will have interactive pop-up resistance-themed art around Locust and Cooper streets during the event.

For Campbell, Boutell and fellow original organizer and former Santa Cruz City Schools boardmember Cynthia Hawthorne, among others, effective leadership means helping to connect activists coming together under one banner, working collaboratively and finding their own passion areas to focus on going forward.

To that end, an activist fair featuring community nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union, Diversity Center Santa Cruz County and 30 other community groups, plus more art, music, speakers and food will be staged at Louden Nelson.

Hawthorne and Campbell said they had erroneously thought January's march was a "one and done" affair.

"Immediately after the march, we had tons of people coming to us and say, 'That's great, what's next.' And then, as the months wore on, it was like, 'We are marching again, right?" Campbell said. "There came a point where we were like, we're going to have to do this. We need to do this."

Longtime local activist Nancy Abbey, a member of the People's Democratic Committee, said she hopes to help younger-generation activists navigate the system.

"I think we want to move from resistance to pro-activism," Abbey said. "There was a time to just vent our feelings, but there's now a time we have to come up with solutions and work on those."


What: Kickoff march fundraiser, brainstorming.

When: 6-9 p.m., Tuesday.

Where: Santa Cruz Food Lounge and Night Market, 1001 Center St.

Cost: Free entrance, donations welcome.

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