On the evening of the historic Women’s March on January 21, 2017, which saw more than three million Americans in cities and towns across the nation turn out, more than 650 women gathered in Washington, DC for a town hall to discuss how to continue building on the momentum generated by the march.
Billed as the “Where We Go From Here” town hall, it was organized by Caring Across Generations, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Make It Work, and sponsored by a host of other organizations ranging from Planned Parenthood to MomsRising to the Restaurant Opportunities Center. The goal of the town hall, as Alicia Jay of Make It Work put it, was to connect participants of the march to organizations that “push for change, day in and day out.” (To that end, the town hall was livestreamed on Facebook in order to reach an online audience.)
Our co-director Sarita Gupta kicked off the evening to rousing cheers from those in the audience, saying: “Today’s march was an incredible gathering. It was an incredible gathering of women from all across the country, coming together to make our power known, not only to ourselves and one another but to this new administration. Because we’re ready to stand up and fight for the rights of all women. And we know we need to fight for this democracy and the values we hold dear.”
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem and Alicia Garza, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter network and the Special Projects Director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, then took the stage for an incredible conversation on, in Garza’s words, “the significance of women’s organizing in reshaping our democracy, in building the kind of power that we need” and the most important question in the moment, which is, “What we can do now?”
Garza raised the issue of race and asked Steinem, “How do we connect across differences? How do we address the elephant in this country, which has always been racism and white supremacy? How do we do that so we can build a powerful movement for all of us?”
“Nothing on earth replaces trust,” Steinem responded, noting that movements must be built on relationship-building, before adding, “There’s no such thing as being a feminist without being anti-racist. … The truth of the matter is that a racist system will leave no woman free.”
Following them, our co-director Ai-jen Poo moderated a conversation among Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, Kimberle Crenshaw of the African American Policy Forum (who coined the term “intersectionality”), Claudia Galindo of Matahari Women’s Workers Center and a domestic worker leader, and Linda Sarsour, the co-chair of the Women’s March.
They discussed how women can continue to take action. Cecile Richards spoke of the importance of efforts to protect the Affordable Care Act. “We face an immediate threat of millions of people losing health care access,” she noted. “The attack on the Affordable Care Act is an attack on women’s health, first and foremost. Women have the most to lose.”
Claudio Galindo shared the story of her 13-year-old daughter who asked her how someone who spewed such hate could win the election. She continued: “I also know we belong to organizations that are powerful and can make changes.” For Galindo, the importance of supporting domestic workers and immigrant women was foremost on her mind. “We need to use all of this energy and organization to reach women who are scared to come out of their homes.”
For Linda Sarsour, the movement must become intersectional. “How do we move forward? Climate justice, racial justice, immigrant rights, civil liberties, women’s reproductive rights, LGBT rights,” she said. “The days of silo organizing are over.”
“It is the moment for cross-movement organizing,” Kimberle Crenshaw said. “That’s what we need right now. We have to remember that we are the majority.”
And Galindo raised the importance of supporting domestic workers and passing legislation supporting domestic workers. “Our work is the work that makes all other work possible. We need to be paid better and to be getting overtime,” Galindo said.
Caring Across co-director Ai-jen Poo summed up the work that lays ahead of us: “We’re going to organize, we’re going to talk to our neighbors, build relationships, support each other, we’re going to build political power. I want to see a wave of women voters win state and local and federal elections in 2018, setting the stage for a major victory in 2020. And in the meantime, organize, organize, organize.”
To read coverage of the town hall, go here:
The New York Times: “After Success of Women’s March, a Question Remains: What’s Next?”
CNN: “What’s next for Women’s March participants”
BuzzFeed: “Here’s What The Women’s March Organizers Want To Happen Next”
The full list of town hall sponsors:
Caring Across Generations, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Restaurant Opportunities Center, Native Voice Network, Family Values @ Work, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, MomsRising, the African American Policy Forum, Women’s Building of NYC, the American Constitution Society, Equality Labs, Planned Parenthood and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Black Women’s Roundtable, Demos, Ms. Foundation for Women, Groundswell Fund, V-Day/One Billion Rising, 9to5 Association of Working Women, Native Organizers Alliance, National Organization of Women, SisterSong, the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition, We Belong Together, Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, Make It Work, and NARAL.