Mackenzie Hawkins

As thousands took to the streets across the country for the fourth annual Women’s March, the Connecticut chapter of the national organization decided instead to host three press conferences concerning women’s issues.

The Women’s March is a progressive demonstration that first occurred following President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Organizers began in Bridgeport and ended in Hartford, stopping in New Haven on Saturday morning to discuss LGBTQI+ rights, racial justice and reproductive justice, according to the Facebook event description. They were joined by around 35 New Haveners who listened to speakers from local organizations working on those issues: New Haven Pride Center, CT Black Women, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut and Planned Parenthood, among others. The speakers emphasized that 2020 is a year for not just marching, but rather for action on behalf of women in Connecticut and more broadly.

“We’re committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect,” Sharlene Kerelejza, speaking on behalf of Connecticut Women’s March organizers, told the crowd. “We’ve spent the last three years marching, training, organizing and building power to create change in 2020 — and here we are.”

As with the other two locations, the Elm City event spotlighted the work of local organizations and their goals for the year. Looking forward to 2020, the New Haven Pride Center aims to bolster political representation for marginalized communities, combat the “criminalization of and brutality against queer black and brown bodies” and make room for “radical joy” and healing. Over the past year, the center has expanded its offerings to include officers dedicated to youth, women’s, Latinx and transgender/non-binary programs.

Pamela Sanders, founder of CT Black Women, describes the organization as a “group [of] black women of conscience working together in supporting and building ourselves and our community through activism, advocacy, education and creativity.” Representatives on Saturday encouraged attendees to uplift the voices of all women and acknowledge the unique challenges facing women of color.

The event also had a strong reproductive rights focus, with many attendees carrying Planned Parenthood signs. Amanda Skinner, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Connecticut, sounded the alarm about “three years [of] unprecedented attacks on our health and our rights from the Trump/Pence administration.” She characterized hers as an organization dedicated to “equity and justice for all people.”

In its stated 2020 goals, NARAL highlighted the challenges posed by crisis pregnancy centers — establishments that position themselves next to abortion providers and attempt to prevent women from seeking abortion, according to event speakers. NARAL also aims to increase access to doula care and protect existing confidential healthcare practices including HIV/AIDS testing and substance abuse treatment.

Women’s March CT has historically hosted marches like those held in Washington, D.C. and New York this year. In 2017, the Hartford march drew a crowd of 10,000; last year, it drew a crowd of around 3,000.

Mackenzie Hawkins | mackenzie.hawkins@yale.edu