My friend Marquetta Adkins, founder of WeKan and Camp Destination Innovation, has a saying I love, “When powerful, positive women come together, the world shifts.” The world certainly shifted on Saturday, January 25th, at the Women’s March Air Capital!
For the fourth year, hundreds of women and our allies gathered to march for equality and human rights. The local event was a week later than the national one, to support the events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy.
It started in Old Town Square, with words from our Lieutenant governor Lynn Rogers, and Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Kansas Senator representing the 29th District. Revved up and ready to go, the chanting crowd made their way to WAVE music venue to listen to speakers and rally around the issues impacting women today.
I volunteered with the March again this year, helping get the speakers for the rally with friends I’ve made while working on this project, Mary Dean and Jennifer Heminway. This year’s theme was “The time is now,” and we were tasked with finding unheard voices, rather than the people we often hear making speeches. We had a talented team of volunteers for American Sign Language interpreters, so the speeches could be accessible to everyone. It was challenging and fun to find an inclusive panel of women who are passionately working in the background and willing to tell their stories. We filled up the program with 13 speakers, who covered a wide variety of topics in 3 to 5 minutes each!
Here’s the list of speakers:
Danielle Johnson, Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Wichita State University; Farideh Daneshi, Census Recruiting Assistance; Amanda Meyers, Wichita Family Crisis Center; Evelyn Mierau, Immigration Support Services Network; Juanita Ridge, Millennium Moms Empowerment Network Inc.; Fourteen-year-old student Avery Parsely; Taunya Rutenbeck, Social Justice Work Innovation; Meagn Webb, International Rescue Committee; Martha Pint, League of Women Voters Centennial Celebration; Melody McCray-Miller, Center for Health and Wellness; youth leader Nykai Watkins, Progeny; Minister Annie Montgomery, Jesus Christ for Women’s Full & Equal Humanity; Janet Federico, activist for the long-term support of victims of interpersonal violence.
All the speakers were fantastic. Most of them weren’t used to speaking in front of big crowds, which can be super intimidating even for polished speakers. I know when I spoke at the March a couple of years ago, it was a total out-of-body experience. The first thing everyone said from the stage was, “Wow. This is a lot of people.” They were brave, prepared, and no one passed out, which I have seen happen.
The two speakers that really knocked my socks off were the youngest. Fourteen-year-old Avery probably got the most and loudest cheers of the day, telling us what it’s like growing up as an empowered young woman that sees the hypocrisies of what is culturally expected. Nykai told her story of growing up in the foster and juvenile justice systems. She stood tall and spoke confidently about her 17-year life, teeming with tough breaks she’s now transcending. She wasn’t crying, but I was.
It wasn’t all about speeches. The rally started with music from the Cheney Family Singers, whose beautiful harmonies and empowering lyrics raised the vibration in the room and focused the Marcher’s excited energy.
Jenny Wood rocked it out. She brought a protégé on stage to sing with her, which was beautifully touching. The work she does with her anti-bullying campaign and Laughing Feet is genuinely changing the world. Her love of life is contagious. From the minute the rally started, the energy in the room was electric. Cheering on the speakers and coming together as a community was powerful. I was moved to tears often enough through most of the speakers and singers that Mary Dean has been teasing me about it. I don’t care. The momentum continued throughout the entire rally, to finish up with Denise Colburn’s Zumba team. As people left, you could tell they felt positive and inspired. With all the turmoil in the world right now, if feeling empowered isn’t a world-shift, I don’t know what is.
Stay positive my powerful friends, Headmistress Jill
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