S. E. Williams
“Now you have touched the women. You have struck a rock. You have dislodged a boulder…”
-South African resistance song, “When you strike a woman, you strike a rock”
It is estimated as many as 5,000 mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and those who love them, gathered for the Women’s March in Riverside on Saturday—a strong showing of solidarity and support with the Women’s March on Washington.
Women and their supporters also marched in the inland cities of Ontario and San Bernardino in addition to communities across California, around the nation and in selected countries all over the world. In fact, millions of women, men and children attended Women’s marches on Saturday in all fifty states and in more than seventy countries.
Last week, in an exclusive interview with The Voice/Black Voice News, Connie Ransom, one of the organizers of the Riverside Women’s March, spoke about the genesis of the local event.
“Two things happened in Riverside simultaneously,” Ransom began. “First, Linda [Sherman-Nurick] of Cellar Door Books is always hosting activities related to people’s lives.” Next, according to Ransom, she recognized people were worked-up and unhappy after the election and wanted to do something.
Those concerned, made a decision to gather so people could talk; see who else had concerns; and then decide what they could do that was positive and constructive.
As information began to surface about the planned March in Washington D.C. (and, it was almost a given there would be a solidarity march in Los Angeles), “Sometime during the holiday season, someone in the Riverside group suggested, ‘Why not [march in] Riverside?’”
There was a meeting scheduled for December 29. The group made the decision to move forward—if not enough people showed up to march in Riverside, “We will have a stand,” Ransom said with determination. As it turned out, 30 people who came out to the meeting that night. Although Ransom and some of the others had no previous experience at organizing marches, there were people at the gathering, who did.
That evening, those in attendance decided on the march’s location and length; as well as a brief program. In addition to Ransom and Sherman-Nurick, other key organizers included Liz Harmer, Kim Earhart, Tomma Velez, Chani Beeman, Michelle Campbell, Rosemary Daneslki and Rafael Elizalde Jr.
“During the meeting, Linda and I were charged with developing the program,” Ransom explained and continued. “Liz and Tomma agreed to work on a Facebook page with the support of Kim Earhart.”
According to Ransom, at about the same time, Sherman-Nurick and Beeman focused on the need to build a sustained, active gathering of citizens, ‘Who don’t just say, but do.’” From that belief was born ‘Rise Up California,’ a cyber-community which values diversity, respects each other, takes civic engagement seriously and is willing to work for good education, employment, health care for all, security and a clean and safe environment. For more information visit www.riseupcalifornia.com.
The marchers gathered at the Eliza Tibbits statue on 6th and Main in downtown Riverside and marched to City Hall where they were addressed by several speakers including Fauzia Rizvi – Muslim speaker from Corona; Maria Barragan – Immigrant Student Coalition CSUSB; Italia Garcia – Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice; Marcela Ramirez – Past UC Student Regent; Rickerby Hinds – Professor/Playwriter UCR Presenting: Carrie Mikuls, choreographer and dancer. Fauzia Rizvi – Muslim speaker from Corona; Maria Barragan – Immigrant Student Coalition CSUSB; Italia Garcia – Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice; Marcela Ramirez – Past UC Student Regent; Rickerby Hinds – Professor/Playwriter UCR Presenting: Carrie Mikuls, choreographer and dancer.
The speakers touched on several important issues that included but were not limited to such topics as education, the environment, immigration and as importantly—the power of political activism.
Political participation was certainly the order of the day. Several local politicians participated in convincing numbers. Included among them were Riverside City Councilman Andy Melendrez; Riverside Community College District trustees Mary Figueroa and Bill Hedrick; State Assemblymembers Jose Medina and Eloise Reyes; and representing California's 41st congressional district—U.S. House Representative Mark Takano.
In a follow-up discussion with The Voice/Black Voice News on Monday, Ransom was asked to share her feelings about the event’s outcome. “We feel we exceeded any other march in the history of Riverside,” she shared and added, “It was such a happy event.”
Although the marchers experienced some shouts of “Trump!” “Trump!” “Trump!” along the route, they failed to disrupt the march or the good feelings of its participants.
Ransom also acknowledged the support organizers received from the police. “The Riverside Police Department was amazingly cooperative and flexible,” she said. “We were to stay on sidewalks and we had monitors to be sure people did not cross the street against lights.” However, as the crowd continued to grow, the police soon cordoned off Mission Inn Avenue. “And, we walked right down the center of the street.”
Ransom also shared how, march participants seemed intent on moving in the positive. They included lots of kids and families; people in wheel chairs and moving with the aid of walkers and canes and some marched with babies in carriers on their backs.
The thousands that gathered in Riverside were connected in common cause with the millions of women who gathered in solidarity around the world on Saturday.
The outstanding turnout in Riverside on Saturday was a “beautiful surprise” to organizers who had hoped for at least, a few hundred. That day in Riverside and in cities around the world—love trumped hate.
Now that Trump is President and the Women’s March is over, the question is–what next? According to Ransom, “Within two hours of the march at least 700 people had signed up on the Rise Up California website. The first big public meeting for Rise Up California is scheduled for Thursday evening, January 26th at All Saints Episcopal Church in Riverside.
For now, the group plans to meet when there is a task. “Thursday’s meeting is for people to get a run-down of Rise Up California and its mission.” Currently, committees are being formed to focus on four key areas. They include outreach, education, research and logistics.
The Outreach Committee will focus on identifying partner groups, voter registration, turnout activity; promotion and events like Saturday’s march. The Education Committee will facilitate teach-ins; education and candidate forums. The Research group will look at issues like legislative background, vetting new sources, fighting fake news and building a better understand what people are fighting for. The logistics team will be responsible for monitoring the Rise Up California website and the development of a rapid response process.
Learn more about Rise Up California and sign up for email blasts at www.riseupcalifornia.com.