If the Women’s March in January was a guttural response to misogyny and Trumpism, then the Women’s Strike in Richmond yesterday was a well-calculated promise. Protesters in Richmond braved the painful cold Thursday to march down Broad Street to City Hall as they sang and chanted their demands for administration number forty-five for the 109th International Women’s Day rally. While the Women’s March had a very tainted stain of white feminism, the Women’s Strike made sure that everyone knew that they were as intersectional as possible in order to make sure that the voices of all women were heard. Various groups were in representation as well including, but not limited to, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
The protest was originally organized by various coalition groups including Democratic Socialists of America. The 4 to 6 p.m. time frame was chosen intentionally to be as inclusive as possible so that women who may not have a viable option to not attend work. One DSA member who identified herself as Laura contrasted the Women’s Strike with the recent Women’s March, saying, “This one is just a continuance of a women’s strike that has been going on, and we are specifically anti-capitalist.”
Another protester who only introduced herself as Caitlin talked about how she hoped that witnesses to the protest saw that these are community values.
We will do what we have to make our voices heard, and this is just one component of our activism,” she said. “We all are very active in the community, and just because we are screaming in the streets doesn’t mean this is the end of our activism, but this is a really great way for us to come together and show our activism and solidarity,” she added.
The protest began under the gazebo at Abner Clay Park in Jackson Ward, where all participating united together to sing and listen to speakers before walking down Broad Street toward City Hall. Various signs and banners waved as protesters marched down the streets, including a striking one in particular that read, “I am not free while any other women are unfree”.
Upon arriving at Capitol Bell Tower and City Hall, more speakers including Del. Debra Rodman, Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (Virginia Intercollegiate Immigrant Alliance), and Tram Nguyen of New Virginia Majority continued to share their stories, with some deeply personal, about why this protest was important to them.
Near the end of the speaking segment, Guzman talked about a hardscrabble life in America as an immigrant from Peru before pivoting to state and federal policy matters, ending with a call to other women to step up and run for office. “Decisions take place at different levels. The local level, the state level. Please reach out if you are inspired today, because we need more women in elected office, so you can be our voice.”
Rodman followed Guzman by sharing her reflections on International Women’s Day, referencing her academic degrees in anthropology and women’s studies. “This is a day where we recognize the determination and struggles of women all over the world. As feminists, we have our priorities, and International Women’s Day centers us,” she said, talking about solidarity with women worldwide, and stressing the importance of fighting for the rights of women everywhere.
Before Guzman and Rodman, other speakers took turns at the mics, with Nguyen stepping up first to talk about her mom, who she called, “one of the most resilient, brave women I know.” She said her mother raised her sisters after her father became a political prisoner in North Vietnam, and then bravely fled with him as a refugee after his escape. Their brave acts, she said, were what let her live her own dream in America, and what makes her do her work.
“We fight every day for social justice, we fight every day to represent, to make sure that we all have a say in the decisions that impact our lives,” she said, detailing immigrant rights, living wage, healthcare, and workplace rights like medical leave.
Shardai McLean stood up to speak for low-wage workers like herself, calling on strikes and echoing the words of Laura when she said, “Trump and his people are just a symptom of the problem.”
She listed sexism in the workplace, racial and sexual discrimination, and employment policies around parental and medical leave, before ending with a challenge to the crowd, saying, “What are we going to do tomorrow to ensure safe working conditions for all of us women? We can not stop here.”
One of the women participating in Richmond’s stripper strike couldn’t appear in person, instead, Twila Jane Sikorsky, who was there on behalf of Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice, and Equality, spoke on behalf of sex workers. Sex workers are an overlooked part of the economy and rarely given a platform even at events supporting women; today, they were given a voice.
Flyers for the strike proclaimed to not only “strike from heteronormative, cisgender roles” but “feminism for the 99%”. While no protest will ever be perfect, today the Women’s Strike did its damnedest to ensure that all 99 voices were heard loud, clear, and bellowing.
Photos By: Ash Griffith