denouncing the language of hate
We share the concerns of many Portlanders about the National Women’s March and the controversy surrounding their association with anti-Semitic hate speech. Many of our Jewish siblings in Portland have shared with us their feeling of disenfranchisement and disconnection from the March as a result. We also recognize that this issue is nuanced and has not been covered as such in national or social media; that there are also elements of racism, anti-blackness, and anti-Muslim sentiment that must also be acknowledged. This has been put eloquently by both Rosalind P. Petchesky and Linda Sarsour.
We want to be clear that this city and this march will not tolerate the language or practice of hatred. Womxn suffer daily from the scarcity of safe and accepting spaces, and those of us with intersectional identities even more so. Our Womxn’s March & Rally for Action is a space dedicated to the safety, inclusion, and elevation of all womxn, especially those of historically marginalized communities. That includes those who are Jewish, Black, and Muslim.The day we choose to come together does not matter if we are not standing together in both diversity and unity. We extend our arms to those who have been alienated. You are more than welcome at this march. You are this march. And we are not a Womxn’s March without you.
building on our history
There is a proud history of womxn, especially womxn of color, marching the streets of Portland on International Women’s Day, March 8. We seek to reconnect ourselves and the city to our roots in this movement. The 2017 marches were a powerful and necessary reaction to the election of a racist misogynist to the Oval Office. It is right to continue to build on that energy. But this movement began long before our current national nightmare, and it will continue to exist long after his tenure ends.
We chose the weekend of International Women’s Day because it stands for womxn. It is proactive. And it is part of our city’s tradition. There is power in our roots, granted to us by the womxn who went before us, and waiting for us to claim.
Solidarity begins at home
This year’s organizing effort started small and from scratch. When the city denied the permit for January 19th, the 20th was selected by default as the only available choice in alignment with the national effort.
As the committee grew, diversified, and began community outreach, we realized the permit conflicted with a long-standing march organized by black community activists and centered on ending police brutality. Attempts to change the permit’s time, to push the city again for January 19th, and to make the marches work in conjunction were not sufficient to address this conflict.
The remaining choice was whether to prioritize marching on the same day as other womxn across the country or to do the work necessary to support other BiPOC organizers right here in our city.
One of the manifestations of white privilege is ignorance of the lives and work of those without it. The selection of January 20th, regardless of intention, reflected that privilege. No movement can claim the labels of justice and equality that fails to begin with inclusion of disenfranchised voices. Without that, it is not a movement at all, but a distraction from the fight that was there before it and continues today.
We recognize our accountability in this. We know there is both room and need for both marches, and many more, in Portland. We will not take space away from organizers who work every day to bring justice to this city. We chose instead to move in solidarity and adjust our plans to occupy a space that supports this work now and in the future.
the legacy of discrimination
White supremacy is embedded deeply in Oregon. It is an ugly history, starting with the land stolen from its Indigenous peoples, to exclusion laws embedded in the State Constitution, all the way to today. Portland is the whitest large city in America. It is a gathering point for white supremacists emboldened by our national administration. It is the flagship city in the state with more documented hate crimes than any other state.
If we are ever to face these truths and change them, we need to give up the image of ourselves as a progressive haven. Because we cannot be, and are not, both.
The Women’s March in 2017 woke many Portlanders to injustice. That they were asleep at all is an aspect of privilege. That energy has not carried sufficiently into engagement with the existing work done by oppressed peoples every day, without thanks or notice, to end police brutality, to find missing indigenous womxn, to stop violence against trans womxn, and to hold our city accountable to the values we claim.
We need to do more than march. We need to take action, real action, and give our support in more than just words. The Womxn’s March was not and is not the beginning of a movement; the movement has always been here. What we seek to create is a space for those who would be allies to take the first step toward a Portland that amplifies its unheard voices and join in solidarity with the good fight.
The need for this space is urgent. We suffer no illusions that a single rally can fix the discrimination, both casual and aggressive, embedded in the minds of citizens and the city itself. This is work that must be done over the course of lifetimes. It is a commitment every individual must make, with humility, to self-examine, learn, and grow.
The weeks leading up to the Womxn’s March & Rally for Action will be filled with opportunities for action, education, growth, and connection with communities across Portland. For those who are ready to begin this critical and difficult work, and don’t know where to start, we want to help you. For those who have started, and want to go further, we are here to walk beside you.
There are incredible womxn doing incredible work to heal this city right here, right now. Meet them. Support them. Work with them. Learn from them. We are creating this space for them, for you, for ourselves, and for all of us.
It is time to transform together.
PDX Womxn’s March & Rally for Action 2019 Organizing Committee