After the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, Emelia De Souza sat down with a group of women in Port Townsend to plan a women’s march.
“I woke up and realized what had happened with the election,” De Souza said. “And then the hate started. There were over 1,000 hate crimes against transgender people, LGBTQ people, people of color.”
The march was part of a larger global movement that attracted millions nationally the day after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
Much like the organizers of the march in Washington, D.C., De Souza had no idea that the demonstration she was planning in Port Townsend would attract so many people.
“I thought, ‘Well I don’t know what will happen, but maybe four or five of us will march,’” said Penny Jensen, who had gone to a planning meeting after she saw an ad De Souza placed in The Leader. “I had no idea. There had been very little advertising at that point, the organizational committee was few. But it took off. Last year the organization was much greater. That’s when we believe we had at least close to 4,000.”
Two years later, in the midst of a government shutdown, De Souza, Jensen and a group of 12 organizers are planning another march — and for larger crowds.
The Womxn’s Wave, which will take place Jan. 20, will be about human rights and finding equality, justice and unity, De Souza said.
“We are following the national march and the Seattle march, both, to call it a ‘wave’ and to include the ‘x’ in ‘womxn’ to be more inclusive of all genders and to welcome all people,” said Zhaleh Almaee, who will emcee the event along with high school student and activist Hannah Bahls.
“We’re marching for equality, for human rights and equality for being able to make decisions on our own bodies, equal pay, equal standing within companies and within legislature,” De Souza said. “We want to see more justice for women and minorities and people of color and different religions. And unity, where we can all work together.
That’s what our main theme is. We’re building bridges rather than building walls.”
Pre-assembly for the Womxn’s Wave will begin at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of the Quimper Mercantile at 1121 Water St. Then participants will “wave” up Water Street starting at 11 a.m. on the eastbound lane and gather at Pope Marine Park.
“I’m participating in the women’s march because it gives me hope and energy to rise up together in pursuit of a better world,” Bahls said. “I’ve felt recently that there’s a lot to fight for. … I dream that this march will unite us in compassion and hope so we can take action.”
It’s the prospect of unity that Almaee said helps her stay motivated to be an active voice.
“We are not operating out of fear,” Almaee said. “We are operating out of the unity, the love, the respect that brings people together and creates a positive action.”
The Womxn’s Wave will focus on bringing peace and justice through music, activism and art.
“It’s a tricky tightrope walk because of all the stuff that continues to come down on us,” Jensen said, noting the Violence Against Women Act had expired. “It’s not easy not to be angry.”
After the march down Water Street, attendees will be invited to listen to musicians and local activists who will deliver calls to action.
“Art is what saves me,” Almaee said. “We’re adding that very intentionally to the program this year to help ground us in the unification in our voices and our hearts to really remember we’re not just here to celebrate the bounty of who we are, but to galvanize the positive energy that we are stirring.”
Jensen added the march will also focus on celebrating all the women elected to government positions across the country this past November.
“We want to be galvanizing around them, to let them know we are here for them,” Jensen said.
The Seattle women’s march will take place Jan. 19. De Souza, Jensen and Almaee hope the event will draw women and allies from across the Olympic Peninsula to gather and inspire each other.
“Who are we as the women of the Olympic Peninsula, united for human rights to take positive action and create the change we want to see in the world?” she asked.
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