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Women’s March in Oakland Persists Despite Controversies

The third annual Women’s March took place on January 19, where attendees in Oakland marched from the beginning rally at Lake Merritt Amphitheater to Frank Ogawa Plaza, where there were local performers and opportunities to shop at female-based business and organizations. Those who attended the march could tell it was noticeably smaller than last year, in Oakland and across the nation. In contrast to 2017 and 2018, women did not flood the streets nationwide to create a pink wave of p*ssy hat after p*ssy hat. In fact, some cities, like Chicago, Austin, and New Orleans, cancelled the event altogether due to the demands of organization, expenses, concerns about white preeminence making people blind to intersectionality, and anxiety related to the movement’s leadership. Tamika Mallory, the leader of these marches, recently attended and supported a speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, in which he spoke of Judaism with hatred, describing the religion as “satanic.” By association, this has put Mallory in a controversial position, not helped by her reluctance to denounce Farrakhan’s beliefs. She responded by tweeting, “It is impossible for me to agree with every statement or share every viewpoint of the many people I have worked with or will work with in the future.” This conflict has caused previous sponsors to disengage and made many dedicated feminists reevaluate what the movement symbolizes.

Although Mallory’s actions complicated some people’s decisions to march, many people in Oakland still marched in support of female empowerment and in solidarity with each other. “It is so empowering being here at the women’s march … So often as a woman you feel alone in the struggle, and to see all these women and supporters of women here is super empowering,” said Kamilah Richardson, a vendor at the march. “[It’s] comforting to know that there’s a support system behind you.”

Ava Nemeth, a Berkeley High School (BHS) freshman, explained that child marriage, forced prostitution, sexual assault, objectification, harassment, and microaggressions are actions that continue to be legitimized and made a part of the female experience and are important issues to march against. Richardson added that, “For me what’s very important is wealth and equality. That’s what makes it very hard to be a woman, and particularly for me as a woman of color the divide is even wider.”

The march also celebrated the power women have  compared to just a few generations ago. “We’re here for you,” said two former BHS parents, Penny Marienthal and Patty Campbell. “Putting vision together with skills that are actually practical and useful in the world are going to make a difference that was planted as a seed but didn’t yet come to fruition,” said Campbell. Throughout history, women have fought their way up to a place where they are able to orchestrate something like a march that spans the world globally.

Many of those who attended the women’s march this year said they have hope for what the future has in store for them. “I think that we still have quite a ways to go, we’re not there yet, but I think our future is bright,” Richardson said.