Women’s March on Washington inspires local event celebrating diversity

A local march planned in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington is planned for 1 p.m. on Jan. 21 at Washington Square at Pershing Road and Grand Avenue.
A local march planned in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington is planned for 1 p.m. on Jan. 21 at Washington Square at Pershing Road and Grand Avenue. The Kansas City Star

At the same time thousands of people gather Saturday in Washington to send the message “women’s rights are human rights” to President Donald Trump’s new administration, a local group plans to hold a Kansas City event as a sign of solidarity.

The purpose of the local march mirrors that of the national Women’s March on Washington, which was formed in the wake of the presidential election by those concerned that the rights of women, as well as minority groups, might diminish or stall during Trump’s presidency.

The Kansas City event, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at Washington Square at Pershing Road and Grand Boulevard, is one of many marches throughout the country planned the day after Trump is inaugurated. More than 200,000 people are expected to attend the Women’s March on Washington, and at least 500 local women from Missouri and Kansas plan on participating. Local organizers say that at least 2,000 people are registered for the Kansas City event.

“The purpose of the march is to honor the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us,” a local event invitation states. “We want to send a strong message to the new Trump administration that women’s rights are human rights. This march welcomes people of color, LGBTQA, people of Muslim faith, people with disabilities — anyone who feels strongly about the future of our country.”

While a particularly ugly and divisive political campaign and Trump’s victory energized participating groups, the local event is meant to bring people together around issues of diversity and equity, said Zoya Khan, a 19-year-old University of Kansas student who will speak about religious freedom at the Kansas City event

“Outside of politics and what’s going on in Washington, we’re going to be living with each other in our diverse communities,” said Khan, president of the Muslim Student Association at KU. “It’s really trying to foster that environment and understanding of what America really represents...to show that there is so much diversity in this nation and it’s our responsibility to recognize that diversity.”

Khan said she hoped the event would allow people to heal divisions and unite over common goals. The event is also being billed as a networking opportunity for individuals and groups who care about specific issues, such as affordable health care, sexual assault/domestic violence prevention and low-income worker rights.

The local march will feature entertainment including the women’s marching band, The Pythons, and several speakers including Judy Sherry of Grandparents Against Gun Violence and Rabbi Doug Alpert of Congregation Kol Ami. Organizers are also hosting a meet-up at Union Station when the event concludes at 3 p.m.

Organizers behind the Women’s March on Washington events have resisted the idea that their events are anti-Trump, and instead say they are focusing on rallying behind issues that are important to women and minorities, such as immigration, health care and LGBTQ rights.

Amy and Harper Williams will participate in Women's March on Washington.

But as protests and groups hoping to shed light on specific issues continue to form in the wake of the election, some Trump supporters have interpreted these efforts as the defiant actions of “sore losers” who didn’t see their candidate win.

Albert, who has been involved in fair wage rallies and the Jobs for Justice group, said that many of the groups involved in the march have been working to address equity issues in Kansas City long before the election. Still, the divisive rhetoric used during the campaign as well as the priorities emerging from the new administration have made activists feel like their work is more important than ever.

“This is not a normal election and the president elected is not a normal president,” Alpert said. “He has not spoken in terms of any sense of unity at all. People in groups or communities who are already marginalized are feeling that much more so.”

Like Khan, Alpert is focused on local solutions to issues raised during the election season. He’d like the local march to inspire people to stay active in pursuing civil rights goals, even if those priorities aren’t championed by national leaders.

“When people are attacked personally, when their way of life is threatened, when health care access is in question, when immigrants face the specter or the constant fear of deportation...that’s something you can’t really get over,” Alpert said. “It doesn’t preclude having conversations with people who voted for Trump or people to try to figure out why. But to say ‘Get over it’ it’s just another election? It’s not.”

To register for the event, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/womens-march-on-washington-in-kc-tickets-30801981556. The Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus is helping raise funds for the cost of the local march through a GoFundMe account.