Thousands of people gathered at Mitchell Park Saturday, Jan. 18 for the fourth annual San Luis Obispo Women’s March, themed “The Time is Now.”
This year’s Women’s March advocated for five actions: show up, speak up, vote, run and lead. It encompassed multiple issues and advocacy efforts, expressed in English, Spanish and tʔɨnɨsmuʔ tiłhinkʔtitʸu, the language of the Chumash Tribe.
The hour-long rally that preceded the march included speakers representing varied groups, a poet and multiple musicians.
The rally began with speaker Wendy Lucas, representing the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash Tribe. She began by reciting a prayer in both English and tʔɨnɨsmuʔ tiłhinkʔtitʸ.
“I know that coming together today is going to do our hearts good,” Lucas said.
Cal Poly psychology lecturer Kendra Williams also spoke at the event, telling the story of her sexual harassment experience to the crowd.
Williams was sexually harassed by her former colleague and ex-psychology professor Jason Williams in May 2018 when he used his phone to take pictures up Williams’ skirt. He was sentenced to five years of probation and was terminated from his job position as a tenured psychology professor. Although the two have the same last name, they share no relation.
“I believe if men were assaulted and harassed at the rate in which women report, better laws would be in place, setting a safety and standard for all people,” Williams said at the conclusion of her speech.
Williams called upon the attendees to use their voice in order to “become ‘sheroes’” when advocating for sexual assault survivors.
The event also included multiple booths representing different groups within the community.
Chair of Tranz Central Coast Jamie Woolf said the goal of her group was to raise awareness for transgender women.
“They need more education, they need to understand who we are and what we’re doing and there’s lots of people here who have children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews who are trans and looking for some support,” Woolf said.
Climate activism was also expressed largely at the Women’s March.
Sunrise Movement, an organization advocating for climate action, hosted a booth to inform attendees of their plans and actions.
Rally speaker and Cuesta College student Carmen Bouquin, who trains with the Sunrise Movement, emphasized the necessity of climate action in her speech. She ended her speech with the whole crowd chanting “Black lives matter,” “water is life” and “stand up, fight back.”
The three phrases Bouquin chanted were represented throughout the crowd with signs advocating for climate action, women’s rights and the rights of people of color.
For the fourth year in a row, Dian Sousa recited an original poem. This year, it was titled “America, We Need a Mother,” which concluded with a pledge that other speakers and performers recited alongside her. All her poems for the Women’s March were compiled into a book that was sold at the event. All proceeds were donated to the Women’s March.
Among the crowd were people of all ages, including mother-daughter duo Amy and Malia Hennings. This was the second Women’s March they attended together with Amy’s goal of teaching her 10-year-old daughter “what democracy is all about.”
“We see a lot of negativity in the news and in the world around us and I just want my daughter to know that when she sees something that’s wrong she should speak up and that she could make a difference,” Amy said.
No single issue was being advocated for at the march, yet everyone came together as expressed by musician Talitha Gabrielle and the song she performed titled “Together.”