Women who March

Women Who March Women Who March

We the Women

Women Who March

You've heard about the historic Women's March on Washington, a demonstration that filled the streets of the nation's capital on January 21, 2017 and brought more than one million people out to protest across the country.

The message of the march was unequivocal: women's rights are human rights and they need to be respected in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton.

Here's a look at the women who served as national co-chairs of the march, which they hope will now become a movement.

Tamika Mallory

Tamika

Mallory

A seat at (the head of) the table

“History is going to record this march, one way or another, and it will say, 'In 2017, there was another white women march and black women still didn't feel like they should be a part of it,'" Tamika Mallory warned members of the march's organizing committee earlier this month at their New York City headquarters. "If that’s going to happen, I may as well go home."

When the first women-led march on Washington happened in 1913, a few thousand suffragists paraded from the US Capitol to the Treasury Department the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. While the demonstration proved to be a successful strategic move in elevating the suffrage movement from a state-by-state fight to the national stage, the few black women in attendance were instructed to march in a segregated section of the procession. Seven years later, with the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, women gained the right to vote. But for many black women, state-sanctioned voter disenfranchisement based on race meant they were legally blocked from exercising that right until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, almost half a century later.

There cannot be a convening in this nation that seeks to address the issues of women where women of color are not sitting in the front seat leading the conversation.

— Tamika Mallory

A provocative, ongoing conversation emerged before the 2017 march over which women’s concerns would be elevated.

"The black community has to be at the center of this conversation and they need to know we are welcome in this space," Mallory, the former executive director of Reverend Al Sharpton's civil rights organization, the National Action Network, told the group of communications and strategic planners seated around a large wooden dining table.

Mallory, a 36-year-old black woman raised in the Manhattanville public housing projects in Harlem, New York, rocked back and forth, balancing on the leg of her chair -- embodying the "seat at the table" metaphor. But for Mallory, it wasn’t enough for women of color to simply have a seat at the table.

"There cannot be a convening in this nation that seeks to address the issues of women where women of color are not sitting in the front seat leading the conversation," Mallory told CNN. "Because we come from the most impacted and the most marginalized communities."

Beyond what is typically considered to fall under the umbrella of "women's issues," Mallory says that as the mother of a 17-year-old boy whose father was lost to gun violence, she has the right to live free from fear that her son may become the next victim, as black men disproportionately are, according to CDC data. And that, she insists, is a women's issue.

Bob Bland

Bob

Bland

A lifelong learning

Bob Bland was running late. The group's website crashed earlier that morning and she entered the headquarters in a flurry, throwing off her winter coat and setting her 6-week-old baby down on the velvet couch in the middle of "the war room," as fellow march co-chair Carmen Perez called it.

Bland, 34, was one of the original founders of the march that started as a Facebook event post that went viral, setting into action a domino effect of women organizing across the country.

"I think one of the most transformative things about this march and the movement that is rising from it is that people who are not used to getting out of their comfort zones are now finally saying, 'Okay, enough is enough. We cannot abide by this anymore.'"

Bland is CEO of Manufacture New York, a fashion design and production incubator for independent designers. She describes herself as an advocate of local manufacturing. When it comes to activism, she's designed a collection of "Nasty Woman" t-shirts and tote bags, appropriating the name Trump called Clinton during the third presidential debate.

But the march was a whole new thing.

"I personally have learned so much as someone who previously, I would say, was on the sidelines before this," said Bland, seated next to a shelf of large coffee table books about the history of activism and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "What I've never done before is get out of my comfort zone," she said.

For some women who were already in the trenches fighting the forces of sexism, racism, xenophobia and other -isms and phobias, welcoming these first timers can come with a heavy dose of, "it's about time."

Bland said she gets that.

If we can activate and mobilize hundreds of thousands of people who previously would have just been behind a screen, then that might make the difference.

— Bob Bland

"I'm a very mainstream, white, cisgender, hetero, American woman, and I'm the type of people who needs to be recognizing their privilege," Bland said. The baby had moved from the couch to breastfeeding in her arms. "From there, you can learn so much more from actually just not taking up space, letting people of other colors, of other religions, or other gender expressions speak, and listening to that."

A month earlier, members of the national committee were gathered for a meeting, many of them seeing each other face-to-face for the first time after weeks of corresponding online. Vanessa Wruble, head of campaign operations for the march, noted the symbolism of the birth of Bland’s daughter Chloe just a couple of weeks earlier, during the first few days of organizing. There were jokes about giving birth to a movement. For Bland, the moment marks a new beginning, one of lifelong learning that she says she looks forward to being able to share with her two daughters.

"It might be uncomfortable, it might be hard work, it's definitely going to inconvenience many people," she said. "But if we can activate and mobilize hundreds of thousands of people who previously would have just been behind a screen, then that might make the difference."

Linda Sarour

Linda

Sarsour

A larger trajectory of moving

It was six days until the Women's March on Washington, but Linda Sarsour was already marching -- in the streets of Brooklyn, where she was born and raised.

"No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here," Sarsour chanted through the Bay Ridge neighborhood amid a sea of poster boards with hand-inked messages of resistance, love, and rejections of discrimination.

She stopped along the route to shake hands and give hugs. She let the crowd file past her as she captured the procession on her cellphone camera -- children propped up on dads’ shoulders, headscarf-clad women, Spanish speakers and seniors.

"I've been accused of being un-American," said Sarsour, co-founder of the online organizing platform MPower Change, and an outspoken critic of the targeted surveillance of Muslims in America that has taken place from the local to the federal level since the 9/11 attacks. "I tell people all the time that, 'In fact, I believe that I am of the most patriotic of this nation because I love my country enough to hold it accountable and to push it to be a better nation'."

It was Martin Luther King Jr., Day and the crowd funneled into the preschool of Our Saviour Lutheran Church. Sarsour stepped up to the podium, and with a nod to the day named for a man that is now celebrated with a national holiday, she advised the crowd to remember King as a "black radical revolutionary," who was the victim of police brutality and who wrote letters from jail. "He was a man who was called by the highest level of U.S. intelligence, 'the most dangerous Negro in America'," she told the crowd.

She reminded the crowd of how the FBI marked Dr. King as such after delivering his now famous "I Have a Dream" speech to a crowd of more than 200,000 at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

I've been accused of being un-American.

— Linda Sarsour

"Standing up for justice, standing up for the most marginalized amongst us has never been easy," Sarsour told the crowd, noting that Dr. King was just three years older than she is now when he was assassinated at the age of 39. But the power to do so, she told the audience, is in the hands of ordinary people.

Sarsour hopes that many of the march attendees who had never previously been to a protest or don't consider themselves activists will leave the Women's March on Washington not only inspired to engage, but aware of the dozens of partner organizations in attendance working on issues ranging from reproductive health, to LGBTQIA rights, climate change and the representation of women in elected office.

"The idea is, once you get back to your home town in Oregon or in New Jersey or in Michigan, that you get to plug back into the work that has already been going on in this country," she said.

For Sarsour, who has juggled her work as executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, an immigrant social services agency, with volunteering to lead the fundraising efforts for the march, "January 21st is just another climactic point of a larger trajectory of moving and organizing."

Washington marchers by state of origin

Geographic
Alphabetical
Percentage
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
10
19
44
45
55
56
57
58
65
66
69
71
72
73
74
75
77

AL

0.40%
Alabama 0.40 62

AK

0.10%
Alaska 0.10 67

AZ

0.41%
Arizona 0.41 46

AR

0.10%
Arkansas 0.10 49

CA

5.20%
California 5.20 34

CO

1.01%
Colorado 1.01 36

CT

2.09%
Connecticut 2.09 32

DE

0.63%
Delaware 0.63 42

DC

6.71%
District of Columbia 6.71 54

FL

2.54%
Florida 2.54 76

GA

1.67%
Georgia 1.67 63

HI

0.06%
Hawaii 0.06 68

ID

0.10%
Idaho 0.10 13 13

IL

3.05%
Illinois 3.05 39

IN

1.00%
Indiana 1.00 28

IA

0.25%
Iowa 0.25 27

KS

0.21%
Kansas 0.21 48

KY

0.75%
Kentucky 0.75 40

LA

0.34%
Louisiana 0.34 60

ME

0.90%
Maine 0.90 11

MD

10.69%
Maryland 10.69 41

MA

4.61%
Massachusetts 4.61 22

MI

2.77%
Michigan 2.77 18

MN

1.13%
Minnesota 1.13 16

MS

0.07%
Mississippi 0.07 61

MO

0.66%
Missouri 0.66 38

MT

0.11%
Montana 0.11 14

NE

0.15%
Nebraska 0.15 37

NV

0.09%
Nevada 0.09 24

NH

0.56%
New Hampshire 0.56 21

NJ

3.65%
New Jersey 3.65 43

NM

0.33%
New Mexico 0.33 47

NY

14.02%
New York 14.02 31

NC

3.61%
North Carolina 3.61 53

ND

0.02%
North Dakota 0.02 15

OH

3.58%
Ohio 3.58 29

OK

0.15%
Oklahoma 0.15 59

OR

0.93%
Oregon 0.93 23

PA

6.07%
Pennsylvania 6.07 30

RI

0.58%
Rhode Island 0.58 33

SC

0.97%
South Carolina 0.97 64

SD

0.03%
South Dakota 0.03 26

TN

0.97%
Tennessee 0.97 50

TX

1.29%
Texas 1.29 70

UT

0.22%
Utah 0.22 35

VT

0.89%
Vermont 0.89 20

VA

11.13%
Virginia 11.13 52

WA

1.12%
Washington 1.12 12

WV

0.53%
West Virginia 0.53 51

WI

0.68%
Wisconsin 0.68 17

WY

0.03%
Wyoming 0.03 25
Source: Women's March on Washington
Carmen Perez

Carmen

Perez

The biggest birthday party ever

“What really excites me about this march is that I'm gonna be celebrating my 40th birthday on January 21st,” Carmen Perez told a group of her fellow march organizers as they introduced themselves in the New York headquarters in early December.

The group, seated in a circle, some overflowing from the couch and chairs onto the floor, cheered and assured Perez they'd throw her the biggest birthday party ever. January 21 would be the day of the Women’s March on Washington.

Birthdays have been tough for Perez since she was a teen. On her 17th birthday, she buried her older sister, Patricia, who was killed in a car crash at the age of 19. She says the death of her sister gave her a sense of drive and purpose, launching her into a lifelong commitment to working on behalf of young people from marginalized communities, and in the juvenile and criminal justice system, where blacks and Latinos are overrepresented among the incarcerated.

"This is not about Democrats versus Republicans. This is about humanity", Perez, the executive director of the Gathering for Justice, told CNN of the purpose of the march.

As a Mexican-American woman, she considers Trump's rhetoric, calling Mexicans rapists and campaigning on building a wall on the US-Mexico border, as a personal attack on her and her community. "It's not about creating a more powerful political party that is not going to represent our communities, it's about our communities being represented in our politics," Perez said.

One way she hopes the march will help achieve that is by creating an opportunity for coalition building across intersecting issue areas -- bringing together those who work on criminal justice reform with those who work on immigration, for instance, all in one place.

"Together, we're building collective power," Perez said.

Two hours before the start of the event, Perez's mother called from California to sing to her daughter over the phone for her birthday.

"This is the biggest gift I’ve ever had," Perez said, reflecting on the strong turnout of the march, "to see a sea of women and their families come together is the best gift anyone could receive on their birthday."

But the march was not an end in itself -- January 22 was when the real work begins, she said.

"We're going to go back to our communities and we're going to organize even more," Perez said. "We're going to continue to build our political power, we’re going to continue to elevate our communities and those that are most impacted by these issues."

But for that night, after the march was the after party.

Produced by CNN Digital Labs. Stephany Cardet, Greg Chen, Cullen Daly, Contessa Gayles, Channon Hodge, Bronte Lord, Amy Marino, Bridget Nolan, Meshach Rojas, Steven Sloan, Craig Waxman, Alice X. Yu