The day after President Trump’s Inauguration, Chattanooga women took to Coolidge Park, many equipped with unused pink umbrellas and raincoats in the unexpected sunshine. Chattanooga’s event was one of many organized “Sister Marches” to the Women’s March on Washington, which sparked marches in cities around the country and world.
Chants of “equality” and “now” came from the packed stage in the back corner of the park. A variety of speakers meant to represent feminist intersectionality spoke on different issues of inequality.
The Hispanic voice of America Gruner, head of Dalton’s Coalition of Latino Leaders, spoke on immigration, saying, “They criminalize us and they profit from us.” Ash-Lee Henderson, of Concerned Citizens for Justice, said, “I represent black women. The women who clean houses on Lookout Mountain and raise other people’s children.” Henderson also issued a call for intersectionality of race, class, and values within the traditionally white feminist movement that furthers the agendas of oppressed women of color
Women, men, and children—all carrying posters—poured out of the park and walked, wheeled, or were carried across Walnut Street Bridge and back. In the forest of elaborately decorated or sharpie-on-cardboard posters, some said, “make America kind again,” and “treat men and women equally,” and “feminist in training” (strapped to a stroller). Around three thousand people were present, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
A group of around twelve Covenant students and attended the March, one of whom was Victoria Yang, a Senior Biblical and Theological Studies major.
“It was beautiful to see women and men of different religions, races, and orientations come together to march. Although people may have had different reasons to march, I hope it will spark more dialogue and activism towards current issues,” said Yang.
Some lagged behind as the march began, but not Ned Mynapt and Art Phemister who were near the front of the line. Mynapt, a 78-year-old and long-time Chattanooga native, said both their wives had taken a night bus to reach the march in D.C., and concluded by saying “I’m so proud of them.” Phemister, a retired assistant principal to Fairyland Elementary School, said he and Mynapt were marching because they believe in the rights of women.
Liz Simakoff, a Covenant alumna who graduated in 2014, traveled to D.C. from her home in Brooklyn, New York, to join the crowd in Washington, which the New York Times reported as consisting of at least 470,000.
“I was deeply troubled by the election cycle and the particular ways our current president conducted himself. Specifically the way [Trump] talked about women’s bodies, his refusal to apologize for his comments revealed on the Access Hollywood tape about sexually assaulting women,” said Simakoff. “I will never accept that kind of talk from the men in my life.”
In an Uber on her way to debrief the march with thirty other women from her church in NYC, she explained why she chose “compassion” as the single word for her poster.
“If someone I didn’t know took a picture of me, what would I want it to say? I didn’t want to carry something that was anti-Trump. I wanted to carry something that I could stand behind. I realized that by saying less I could say more.”
In saying only a single word, Simakoff hoped that it would allow for people to fit it into their own narrative. She chose “compassion” because it is a call, not a feeling.