There’s another social justice march this weekend, and black women are refusing to be left behind. The March for Black Women will take place Saturday in Washington, D.C.—smack in the middle of the March for Racial Justice.
While the March for Racial Justice is billed as a “black and indigenous led multi-community movement” that 30,000 people are expected to attend, March for Black Women organizer Farah Tanis says that there is no competition between the two marches and that black women’s issues simply need to be addressed.
“It’s difficult getting the issues specific to black women and girls centered within the racial-justice movement of this nation,” said Tanis, the co-founder and co-executive director of the Black Women’s Blueprint. “When we say ‘maternal mortality,’ I don’t think people get that it disproportionately affects black women.
“Also, 50 to 60 percent are black girls are sexually assaulted, but people have a hard time believing this even though they know historically, we have endured rape and have been enforced to endure generations of rape,” she continued. “Black kids are born to poor black mothers. How do you not see that as a racial-justice issue?”
The March for Black Women will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1997 Million Woman March, which united more than 500,000 black women on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. It’s sponsored by the Black Women’s Blueprint, Black Youth Project 100 and Trans Sisters of Color Project, making it an intersectional event. Scheduled speakers include Marissa Alexander, Gina Belafonte and Michaela angela Davis.
Concurrent marches will take place in cities across the United States, including Hartford, Conn., San Diego and Phoenix, Ariz. (The date for the March for Racial Justice was chosen because Sept. 30, 1919, was the culmination of the “Red Summer,” when black sharecroppers in Arkansas organized themselves as the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America to demand better pay from white plantation owners. In response, white mobs went on a state-sanctioned killing spree, killing more than 240 organizers that day.)
This won’t be Tanis’ first time marching in Washington, D.C., this year. She also organized a group of black women to attend the Women’s March there the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. That march, which attracted 500,000 women and featured thousands of women in pink pussy hats, was criticized by black women for not being inclusive enough in its marketing and the issues that it addressed. But Tanis says that she attended the march in honor of Ida B. Wells, who infamously refused to march at the end of the 1913 women’s march.
“We said ‘Not only am I walking, but I’m walking among you and fighting for our rights, and I’m going to talk about what is happening to the black women,’” Tanis said.
For entrepreneur and cultural commentator Davis, 2017 has become a seminal year for black women to speak up about injustice because national politics don’t reflect their needs. She points to the fact that 94 percent of black women did not vote for President Trump, instead opting for Hillary Clinton.
“A black women’s voice can get lost in any national movement,” Davis said. “The Democratic National Committee still hasn’t centered black women. Maxine Waters has become a focal point because black women made her that.”
Davis thinks that marching is the best way to unite black women and demand policy change.
“This is what black women and black people do,” said Davis, who sells the T-shirt “Patriarchy is a Bitch” to help support the Black Women’s Blueprint. “Marching is a black ritual. We come together in community and metaphorically move things forward. We need to gather and see each other. We march so we can amplify ideas and move policy.”
Earlier this month, the March for Black Women endured criticism for being scheduled on the same day as Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism. In response, Black Women’s Blueprint released a statement encouraging those who could not march to take other actions:
If you cannot march with us, then pray with and for us. If you cannot march with us, then shout from your front yards, your kitchen tables and from your street corners. Shout from the pews of your religious centers and LGBTQ centers, from your HBCUs and healing circles, from the halls and stairwells of the public housing complex where they put you, and from your conference tables and board rooms.