On January 20, 2018, around 10,000 people gathered in Downtown Cincinnati for the city’s Women’s March, a sister march of the national one is Las Vegas. United We Stand (UWS), a sister organization of the National Women’s March on Washington (NWMW), organized this year’s march, as they did in 2017. The march began at noon behind the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Before beginning the 1.5 mile long walk down Race and Vine St., speeches were given by Sandy Theis, Executive Director of ProgressOhio, and Portia Boulger, a grassroots advocate. In addition to these two keynote speakers, representatives from Women Helping Women and the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati, as well as two former Cincinnati Council Candidates, Lesley Jones and Michelle Dilingham, spoke. The theme of this year’s march--“Hear our Vote”--paralleled the National Women’s March slogan “Power to the Polls.” The hope of this year’s movement was to empower women to vote and/or run for office. The NWMW will be going on a national voter registration tour before the midterm elections this November.
The “Hear our Vote” theme created tension between Black Lives Matter Cincinnati (BLMC) and UWS due to the use of the word “vote.” Voter disenfranchisement, argued BLMC, excludes many people from the Women’s March. The organization suggested that the phrase be changed to “Hear our Voice” because voice is inclusive of all, especially those that may face voter suppression due to race or gender identity. UWS did not change “vote” to “voice,” therefore, BLMC did not participate in the march because they believed voting was too exclusive and ignored the struggles of women of color. Instead, they held an educational forum at the Peaslee Neighborhood Center about racial awareness on January 20.
Despite the controversy between the organizers, many of the participants were marching for issues outside of voter registration. Of the thousands of signs there, some read “Native Lives Matter,” “No Humans are Illegal,” “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-damental Rights,” and “Time Is Up.”
Just as the signs filled the air, chants and songs filled the streets of Downtown. Some sang along to Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT” and others chanted “This is what democracy looks like!” Many performers, such as Rhythm Dancers and the Cincinnati Women’s Choir, joined those marching. Even bystanders joined in the movement as the marchers passed; some residents clapped through their windows in support.
As to why people marched, for many, in the words of Karley Cappel ‘19, this event was a platform “to voice her concern.” In the case of the many young people there, voting is not an option yet, but marching is. Lizzie Neeb ‘19 said, “I went to the march to make a difference for women of our past, present, future and those who feel as if their voices aren’t heard.” Karissa Bohme ‘19 also marched to “stand up for all the strong women in this world.” Cappel adds that she feels “the government has not taken into account concerns” regarding human rights.
Bohme also spoke about empowerment that comes with being part of a worldwide movement. For her, what made the experience powerful was the amount of people there. “Not only were there girls my age, but there were tons and tons of older adults. This surprised me considering how conservative Cincinnati usually is,” said Bohme. “I felt so united with all of the friends I went with and all of the fellow women marching.”