The following is a report of activity of SDUSA members in Kansas this weekend; filed by Tim Tarkelly in Topeka. Click on any photo for a larger version.
While the Women’s March in Topeka, KS might have been smaller than others, we still had over four thousand on the Capitol lawn. The speakers represented women from various walks of life and representing different experiences: a state legislator, a Kansas poet laureate, artists, activists, scholars, and educators.
One of the most moving speeches was from Alise Martiny who spoke about the struggles she faced as a woman in the construction industry. She had to be the first to show up every day. She had to work harder than those around her and never express her complaints, just to be seen as an equal. When she considered giving up, she found encouragement in the thought that her work would make way for the women that followed. Now, she is the president of the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Local Union #518 and is the first woman to ever hold that position.
Fatima Mohammadi spoke of the unique challenges that come with being an American Muslim Woman and how to face hate when it is popular. Dot Nary, a disability rights advocate reminded the marchers that people with disabilities “need accommodations for our voices to be heard.” Stephanie Mott, a licensed therapist and a local activist for LGBTQIA rights pointed out that the Trumpists of the world are trying to protect us from her, whether we are scared of her, or not. State Representative Barbara Ballard called people to action, citing that “service is the rent we pay for occupying a space on earth.”
My personal favorite speakers were Anaya Vasu and Sho Gasshauser. They are 8th graders at Topeka Collegiate School who already have reputations as activists, organizing for LGBTQIA issues. They spoke to the young people in the crowd, telling them how they can get more involved and to not let their age act as a barrier to activism.
It was extraordinary, especially for Kansas, to see so many like-minded people gathered together. However, while there were general calls for action and some strategies were discussed, I did not feel like we had created any kind of coalition. Though it has become a common criticism, the kind of positive spirit that was so present would have been much more helpful before election day. We left without sharing information, signing petitions, joining mailing lists, etc.
Still, I am optimistic. I do believe that people left inspired and I hope that this energy is carried into the midterm elections.