Black women take to D.C. to fight for their rights
Afros, twist outs, cornrows and many more afrocentric hairstyles styles crowded the streets of Washington, D.C., on Sept. 29, as black women and their allies marched from the National Mall to Freedom Plaza. The March for Black Women was planned by the Black Women's Blueprint, an organization focused on helping black communities build social, political and economic equality.
The march was geared toward black women and their allies who are, "on the brink of political fatigue, exasperated with distractions and the lack of adequate political will and response for securing the basic rights for which Black women have been fighting," according to the March for Black Women website. Many marchers felt that although black women have consistently been politically active, their needs have been ignored. The march hopes to push these needs to the forefront of political conversation.
Raised signs displayed the different grievances that black women held. The re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act was one of three demands listed by organizers. This act, which expired Sept. 30, was created to support victims of sexual violence. This was especially relevant given the current sexual assault allegations facing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Chants of "Kavanaugh has got to go" could be heard throughout the march
The march also called attention to more intersectional women’s issues: poverty, affordable housing, reproductive rights and immigration protections. There was an emphasis on women who have been the victims of police violence. These issues are prevalent in the black community but often ignored by both the traditional feminist and anti-racist movements.
Many University of Maryland students walked in support of the movement, including members of Do Better, a community service organization on campus. The march’s goal to increase civic engagement through voter registration drew in Tyesn Barley, vice president of Do Better, and a senior bioengineering major.
"Specifically we were focusing on black girls’ vote … there was voter registration today after the march, so that was what we were focusing in on but also just empowering black women," Barley said during an interview at the march.
During the march to Freedom Plaza, protesters stopped in the middle of the street to form what the organizers called a “healing circle.” In the circle, organizers called for people to bring sage or any other healing talismans. As protesters brought up various objects, there was also a drum circle and chanting as sage was burned.
Names like Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd and Aiyana Stanley-Jones were said by organizers, followed by the shouts of “Never Forget.” Organizers used this call and response to honor black women who have been the fatal victims of police brutality.
After the healing circle, marchers continued their walk to Freedom Plaza, where they stopped and listened to other black women speak about their experiences.
The march was an opportunity for black women to unite and empower each other. Antoinette Brimmer, a senior communications and criminology & criminal justice double major, enjoyed the atmosphere of the march.
"I really liked the vibes, just walking through it, everyone just being positive,” Brimmer said. “I like my hair, I like being black, just positive vibes. Everything, the music, the slogans, everything was just poppin’.”
Full of positivity, healing and strength, this march was a way for black women to say "We are here."