Local march coincided with national women’s rallies

Photo taken by David Saveanu | On January 21, 2017, Champaign's sister march took place beginning at West Side Park.

Photo taken by David Saveanu |
On January 21, 2017, Champaign’s sister march took place beginning at West Side Park.

David Saveanu

Staff Writer

As the result of events leading to President Trump’s inauguration, numerous promises made by him, and speculations for the next four years, a group of women decided to organize a march on Washington in the hopes of bringing to attention issues they feared President Trump would ignore or disagree with.

Along with the main march, multiple cities had marches of their own. These “sister marches” extended all across the U.S. and all seven continents.

Champaign’s sister march took place on the morning of Jan. 21, with people of all genders showing their support. Champaign’s march had a turnout of approximately five thousand people participating. It began at the gazebo in West Side Park, but the sounds of the chanting roared throughout the streets of downtown Champaign.

Female leaders in the community were present as speakers, including State Representative Carol Ammons, the local Black Lives Matter chapter’s cofounder and instructor of sociology at Parkland College Evelyn Reynolds, former State Representative Naomi Jakobsson.

At 11 a.m., the speakers shared stories and empowering speeches to further educate the public on different political topics and their stances on them. The march then began at noon, following a route along the main streets of Champaign. It lasted about an hour and thirty minutes.

The march was concluded at Cowboy Monkey, a local Champaign restaurant, bar and supporter of the women’s march.

Naomi Jakobsson, an active member in the fight for women’s equality, shared the story of the baton she brings with her to every event she speaks at.

“When I was a young girl I had a baton…and I twirled it around,” she began, “and it didn’t go anywhere. It didn’t always have much of a direction.”

She continues her story explaining how with time and persistence, she was able to make her baton move with direction, and through this she was able to lead younger girls to twirl their batons and become leaders like her. This activity that she had put time into was now something she was able to use to empower women.

“I use this example to show how we grow from being in our own little circles to reaching out and getting involved in our communities,” Jakobsson said. “These are the people that make America great, and America already is great.”

Sanaa Khan, a University of Illinois student, also shared her experiences as a Muslim-American woman.

“In 2008, I had the opportunity to see President Obama speak in Springfield, and suddenly, to me, politics became this mechanism for hope, change, and endless possibility,” Khan said. “If someone with the name Barrack Hussein Obama could be elected our president, then surely our country was moving forward; on election night though, as we saw yesterday, my dream, and our dream of a madam president came to a close.”

Khan shared her fears, and explained how our current president has painted “a caricature” around Muslim Americans. She then went on to advise the crowd of people to “expand your social circles” and to “educate[ing] yourself on issues and ask questions.”

The many speakers worked to educate the public on different types of prejudice, not only the oppression against women, but also the current fears of many Americans, including inequality, racism, xenophobia, and others. The speakers tried to empowered the audience, with one of the main topics of discussion at the march being getting more minorities in positions of power so all people can be equally represented.

The march taught participants how to remain active in the cause in the future as well. From small things like supporting stores that will donate to the cause, to bigger things like supporting minorities running for positions of power.

The Women’s March was not only a worldwide event, but an organization with a plan called “10 Actions for the First 100 Days campaign,” with the march being only the first action.

One way the public can remain active in the cause is through joining the organization and getting involved in the 10 actions to bring to attention the many injustices happening currently. To learn more about the organization and its future events, visit womensmarch.com.

To hear all the speeches given at the march, visit Five Foot Productions, the group that covered the march, on YouTube.