Bitter cold doesn’t stop the Women’s March-Air Capital

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Bitter cold doesn’t stop the Women’s March-Air Capital

4) Women matched in Wichita for the third annual Women's March - Air Capital. Luisa Taylor (right) spoke at the rally after the march.

4) Women matched in Wichita for the third annual Women's March - Air Capital. Luisa Taylor (right) spoke at the rally after the march.

Audrey Korte

4) Women matched in Wichita for the third annual Women's March - Air Capital. Luisa Taylor (right) spoke at the rally after the march.

Audrey Korte

Audrey Korte

4) Women matched in Wichita for the third annual Women's March - Air Capital. Luisa Taylor (right) spoke at the rally after the march.

Wichita’s third annual women’s march took place Saturday despite the winter storm which hit the night before. The WMAC organizers had to find an indoor location for the yearly rally after forecasts for dangerous cold and ice became impossible to ignore.

Less than 24 hours before the march began organizers announced the meeting place had moved downtown, the protest route had changed as had the rally venue. Wave became the temporary home of the Women’s March-Air Capital, offering to help out on Friday and the City of Wichita, WPD and volunteers worked fast to pull it off.

The Women’s March-Air Capital (WMAC) weathered the storm successfully, while dozens of cities had to cancel or postpone this year’s “sister marches.”

WMAC began at 1 pm on Saturday, Jan. 19. in front of City Hall on Main street. Marchers walked to Wave on E. 2nd street, roughly 6/10 of a mile away, where a 90-minute rally offered up a dozen different speakers, musical performances, a WSU sorority step performance and even a Zumba class.

Women marched. And so did men. There just weren’t a lot of either. At the start of the march on Main St. there were just eight or nine dozen protestors lined up. The temperature was 22 degrees, and wind chills dipped down to the single digits.

Wichita rallied however, showing up in the end- between City Hall and Wave roughly three hundred and fifty people joined the ranks of marchers.

The line backed up at the venue door. But marchers remained in good spirits, feeling positive in each others presence.

Carrying the cold in on their clothes and skin, marchers were warmed by artificial heat and a welcome committee – organizers and supporters that lined the walls clapping and cheering.

By the time the speaking engagements began at 1:30 pm, the numbers had swelled. The venue staff reported that they reached capacity – about 570 people.

“I had so many people reach out and say, ‘hey, it’s going to be really cold. Are we still marching on Saturday?” said WMAC founder, Brandi Calvert.

She urged everyone to plan ahead and show up Saturday, regardless of the forecast.

After fielding questions about canceling the march all week Calvert told The Sunflower in an interview that the march wouldn’t be postponed due to a little bad weather.

“We can’t be fair-weathered about this,” said Calvert Thursday night.

She continued to encourage people to come prepared, ensuring Wichita that the march would happen as planned.

Then on Friday, she and other organizers decided that in order to have the march as planned on Saturday, Jan.19, the plan needed adjustments. With less than 24 hours until launch, organizers had to make a call

“Marching in the cold is one thing but then expecting people to stand outside for an hour and a half listening to speakers, there was no way anyone was going to get their message across,” Calvert told The Sunflower.  

They announced the plan on Facebook and Instagram – instead of marching from The Keeper of the Plains to City Hall, it’d begin at City Hall and march to Wave, about half a mile away. There the rally would happen, giving marchers shelter from the cold.

“I knew we wouldn’t cancel,” said Women’s March-Air Capital (WMAC) founder, Brandi Calvert. “I didn’t know if people would march,” she said.

This year’s theme was “Claim Your Voice.” About a dozen speakers said their piece and others read poetry, performed music, and led the crowd in Zumba.

Many speakers talked of the unique burdens, and strengths of minority women’s groups in this country. The line-up highlighted voices of Asian-American, African-American, and Hispanic/Latino-American women.

The Sigma Psi Zeta were first on stage performing a step routine before Calvert welcomed everyone. She then turned it over to emcee, Megan Parsley.

The first speaker, Theresa Doan, a recent WSU graduate talked about her work on the Horizontes mural project.

“Community really does matter,” she said. “I started the mural because I wanted to show my sorority sisters that community is more than volunteering. It’s about being present,” she said.

She shared her message for Asian-American women with the crowd, urging the Asian community in particular to speak up and stand in solidarity with other women’s minority groups.

WSU alumnus Shannon Goodwin was there with her mom, Shirley Dean Sattler who’s been attending marches and protests around the country since the 1960s.

Goodwin said she thought these marches were especially important during Trump’s presidency.

“I think he’s trying to take us back to the 1950’s,” she said. “We need to get out there and get civically involved,” Goodwin said. “We’ve been letting old white men run this country for too long. I’m tired of their racist bullshit.”

Sattler responded by saying the majority of women today put up with discrimination, and much worse every single day. America isn’t an exception.

“I worked at Boeing and Spirit for thirty years. It was in a man’s world. Trust me, I know,” she said. “Harassment is just the beginning.”

WSU Psychology student Amena Elamin spoke passionately to the crowd saying that black women lead the charge on women’s issues, they’ve been fighting for justice and equality for centuries. They’re the group to follow in the movement for gender equality because they’re more marginalized than other demographics.

“In the process of claiming your voice, if you want to know if you’re doing right, if you want to know what you can do to best support us you have to follow black women because we know what justice is because we’ve been fighting for it our whole lives,” she said.  

One march participant, Jennifer Smith, was moved by what she heard.

“I’m really taken with the Asian and the black plight. I know that it’s not fair for us, but it’s even more horrible ( for women of color). What they have had to go through being women of color, it just blows my mind,” Smith said.

Sattler said every group was important to her, she would March for equality through snowstorms, sandstorms and political storms. She’d marched through six decades already. She plans to march through another alongside her daughter and young women who will become the next round of leaders.

“I march for The Equal Rights Amendment, inequality, the low pay, the way women get mistreated at their workplaces,” Sattler said.

“I march for all of it. I have to,” Sattler said.