While hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in Washington, D.C., this is what made the news in Alabama. Supporters of women’s rights carried signs past iconic symbols of the civil rights movement in Birmingham. But, while the chanting and marching went on, organizers were already thinking about phase two.
“What’s next is taking all of this energy and turning it into political action,” says Ebony Washington.
She’s a state coordinator for Alabama’s women’s march. She says now more than ever is the time for women to speak up in their communities.
“We’re going to do that with legislative e training, we’re going to do that with funding organizations that are dedicated to women’s rights and we’re going to do that by keeping everyone engaged.”
“This right here didn’t but open the door,” says Birmingham City councilwoman Sheila Tyson, “open the door for us to stand up in our households, in our churches, on these damn crumb-ass jobs that we got in the streets, and let them know we ain’t fixing to take this (expletive deleted) no more.”
The marchers filed past Kelly Ingram Park, past the Civil Rights Institute, and the 16th Street Baptist Church. Those landmarks were new to some of the marchers, but to Anwar Marquette they were familiar.
“We must take the stand, that those who freed us 50 years ago today, that we can march on to overcome, that victory be reclaimed.” The Vietnam navy veteran from Birmingham marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years ago on these same streets.
Now, newer slogans echoed through the Magic City, ones from the race for the White House between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Some people marched to support their feminist friends. For others, it was a family affair. Melissa Rosse from Huntsville was packing her bags to come to Birmingham to march for her daughters who are in preschool. Then, a thought hit her.
“Well I asked them if they wanted to come or not, they had the choice, and they said yes. They’re three and five years old and they said ‘Yes, go girls and go mommy!’”
So, they all came. Birmingham resident Esther Miner simply thought now was as good a time as any to speak up for what she believed in.
“Oh I just thought it was my chance to speak out. I’m 97 and I don’t have the opportunity to have a meeting like this every day.”
Born in 1919, the same year that the 19th amendment was passed that allowed women to vote, Miner saw the rally as a chance to find solidarity with women from around the state.
“My daughter and grandson and son-in-law said ‘OK if you want to go, we’ll take you,’ so that’s how come I got here.”
When the Anwar Marquette has seen how long progress can take and knows what it takes to finally obtain a victory.
“I never stopped. It’s an ongoing, you see, the battle is not over until you have won a complete and total victory and silenced the forces of evil for good, not temporarily, but for good.”
He says the true first step is to simply believe in the cause.
“So I think and believe deep in my heart as this sign says, ‘God is on our side. We will overcome,’ because the hymn “We Shall Overcome” litigates it, because we did 50 years ago and we’re still here in a better world and a better country. All we have to do is put it together and believe deep in our hearts that we will overcome.”