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Locals organize sister event to upcoming Women's March on Washington

A screenshot from the Women's March SLO website.

On Issues & Ideas this week, we welcome three local women to the KCBX studio to talk about an upcoming event, an organized march in San Luis Obispo on January 21.

Like hundreds of smaller marches around the country, the Women's March San Luis Obispo is a sister march to the Women's March on Washington, happening on the day after Donald Trump's inauguration as president. Hundreds of thousands of people - not just women - are planning on making the trip to the nation's capitol to rally for human rights, equality and justice. For those who can't make the trip to DC, local organizers have created an event here. It starts at 10 a.m. in Mitchell Park in downtown San Luis Obispo. 

The organizers are Arroyo Grande residents Terry Parry and Morro Bay residents and teachers Jen Ford and Dawn Addis.

MART: Welcome, ladies, and tell me, what is this march all about?

ADDIS: So the march is all about unifying voices for women's rights and human rights, and really coming with a strong, loud, clear picture of what we want the future to be like.

PARRY: We want this march to be about everybody. Everybody's human rights and dignity, and the way we're looking at it is that this march is just a start. Somehow or another the bear has been poked, and we don't want the bear to go back into hibernation again. So really to have this march be a springboard for the future, and how we can operate in the future with all of this energy.

FORD: My hope is that this is a catalyst for people of all genders and ages to use this event across the world to become motivated… to become activists… to make connections… to become even more passionate about what their ‘why’ is and why they're coming to the march.

MART: Why isn’t this a protest march?

FORD: Well, I think that it's important to start with this march is not about one person, and it's not about one policy, it's not about one issue. It's about women coming together, and their allies coming together in unity because with unity and love there are more possibilities for us to stand up for each other and for human rights in general. My personal feeling is that when you come out with hate and you come out with words that are more a protest than they are of unity that a lot of times people that you're trying to reach are not listening. And we want to reach everyone, and we want to make a statement to our new administration, not necessarily one person. So we advocate that we do not talk about one person, one party… that we steer away from that, and that we keep it a positive event. And [focus] on what it is that we want from this administration, not what not what we don't wan t.

ADDIS: And what I might add to that is here in San Luis Obispo, we're a small community and businesses downtown, our police, our city services - we're all connected in some way. I would say we really want to be kind and respectful of where we're marching and know that we're marching amongst friends, amongst family members, amongst community members that we're going to be seeing on a day-to-day basis. I also think it's important that we share what it is we want for the future instead of getting stuck in what we're against.

PARRY: We're also having some great entertainment and speakers that are going to be helping us launch this march. Inga Swearingen is coming, she said 'make me a part of this any way you can, I'm marching, can I sing for you?' Yes, Inga, I think we’ll have you sing for us. She's coming up with an inspirational song which she'll be singing with Melody Klemin. We're going to have Samba Loca doing some drumming for us. The Central Coast African drummers, also, giving us a call to action. We're going to have three ladies from the Vocal Arts Ensemble coming, to launch our marching with a very inspirational song called “One Voice” and when you hear it you’ll just melt…and we’ll have speakers as well. For instance, Dawn….

ADDIS: We have Diana Cantrell, the SLO police chief, is going to be one of our speakers. And then we have Erica Baltodano, who is a civil rights activist and local employment attorney who is going to be our keynote speaker. In addition to that, we have Rubia Siddiqi, who is president of the Muslim Student Union at Cal Poly. And a few others will be there, as well.

MART: You said earlier that this isn't an anti-Trump March. But it seems to be correlated with inauguration day. What makes this NOT an anti-Trump march?

ADDIS: Well, for me personally - this is Dawn - for me personally, when I founded this march, what was in my mind was hearing the voices families that I know, and children that I know, feeling afraid. And so, while it's happening on the day after inauguration, really what I feel like we need to be fighting [against] is the ideas that make people afraid. What we need to be fighting for…is for our families and our children living locally to feel safe in their community, to feel safe in their homes. So it's really less about protesting a person, as it is moving towards an ideal that we really hold dearly - is that all our families and all our children in this community are welcome. And we want to have a loud resounding voice that lets people know that we're here for you, that we support you, that we're working together as women and as people in this community - nationwide and worldwide.

PARRY: For me, it’s that we all need that support, our personal freedoms are at stake here… for everybody, in various ways.  To roll back those freedoms is horrible for me. I went through the ERA, I went through Roe v. Wade. I had friends that had to leave the country to have an abortion. Are we going back to that? It's frightening on so many levels.

FORD: They've pretty much covered it. The only thing that I might add is that I guess we could clarify, yes, was this event inspired by her new administration? Yes, that's clear. I think that that's pretty clear. It even states it in our mission statement ,that this is inspired by our new administration, but we are not approaching it as a protest. This is not our approach. Our approach is positive instead of negative. It's again - to reiterate what the ladies said, we are asking the administration for what it is that we want. We are not screaming and yelling hateful things at them and yelling what it is that we don't want. It's coming together and unity and love and asking for what it is that we want, what we need, what we want to keep, what we want to see happen in our country as a whole.

MART: From what I gather, this event isn't just about women. It's about people of color and other people who feel their rights have the potential to be violated with the possible actions of a Trump administration. Why call it just the Women's March? Why not make the name more inclusive?

ADDIS: I think because it was started by a grandma in Hawaii who said to her friends, ‘we need to march on Washington and we need to say what we want.’ And so it started as a women-specific march, but it was quickly realized that women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights. So rather than be exclusive or focused just on one portion of the population, it was decided really to expand that not just to men and children, but to people who identify as women, and you know to all races, all religions…we’re nonpartisan…to really think about women's rights - women’s rights aren’t solitary, women's rights intersect with all of humanity. So that's why it's important…

PARRY: What happens to one of us, happens to all of us. So basically the thing morphed out of just women… when people began to say well wait a minute, what about this aspect, and that aspect and then it was just kind of like - all invited and that's how we are advertising it.

FORD: And I think also it's important to note that these marches - there are a few sister marches that do have some males that are helping, but it is primarily…these marches are all being organized by females. And so I think that's kind of why the name stayed. I mean, even though it has morphed into this human rights versus just women's rights type of event. But I feel like it is being organized by women, across the world.

ADDIS: I've got to say that the San Luis Obispo march is one of the very first to have a male organizer from day one. So I think I can give a shout out to Rock Harbor Marketing because they've been supporting us from day one and getting our website out, our messaging out, helping us with social media and so I have to say we've been very proud to be one of the first in California to have men involved from day one on the ground floor.

MART: I just know over my adult life, I don't remember another woman's march. I remember a ‘Million Man March.’

ADDIS: There was the Women's March in Philadelphia that was a few years ago. So there has been a little bit of controversy about that name and where where the name comes from. So the national organization, and we in San Luis Obispo also want to recognize the history of where the Women's March on Washington name comes from, rooted in civil rights history and largely rooted in civil rights for African-American people and African-American women. And so we respect that.

MART: Thank you, thank you so much again for coming in.

ADDIS/FORD/PARRY: Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thank you.

MART: This week we've been speaking to Terry Parry, Jen Ford and Dawn Addis, organizers of the Women's March San Luis Obispo. The event is a sister march to the Women's March on Washington, and both happen on Jan. 21 - that’s a Saturday - starting at 10 a.m. If you'd like to attend the local march, which will include speakers, entertainers and an informational fair before and after the procession, head to Mitchell Park in downtown San Luis Obispo around 9:30 a.m. Complete details and info can be found at womensmarchslo.com. For Issues and Ideas, I'm Greta Mart, KCBX News.