Women’s March founder shares her story of empowerment

Women%E2%80%99s+March+-+Air+Capital+was+founded+in+2017+by+Brandi+Calvert.+That+year+hundreds+of+marches+took+place+across+the+nation.++It+was+prompted+by+the+fact+that+several+of+Trump%27s+statements+were+considered+to+be+offensive+to+women.

Audrey

Women’s March – Air Capital was founded in 2017 by Brandi Calvert. That year hundreds of marches took place across the nation. It was prompted by the fact that several of Trump’s statements were considered to be offensive to women.

Brandi Calvert is known throughout Wichita as a woman of action. The realtor and single mom is a local activist whose focus is on women’s representation, community engagement, outreach and advocacy.   

Once a year Calvert gears up to lead the Women’s March- Air Capital — a day of gathering, sharing, and inspiring others in the community to advance equality and justice. 

Calvert is center stage at the Women’s March every January. If you’re not sure how to spot her — just look for the blonde with Starbucks in one hand and a megaphone in the other.  

For the last four years, Calvert has held a candle to the causes and policies that impact Wichita and Sedgwick County women — hoping to illuminate the way for others who care about gender equity and representation.

Calvert said a few years ago she started looking around at various organizations to see what was being done to help this community. She spoke to those who are engaged with the county and city. 

“What we needed here was a lot of policy change,” she said.

She saw a gap and wanted to do her part in filling it. 

Wichita Women 

Inspired by one of the first Women’s Marches, Lacey Cruse ran for Sedgwick County Commissioner against incumbent Richard Ranzau. Before Cruse, a woman had not served as a commissioner in eight years.

Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women — an abortion and reproductive rights foundation in Kansas and Oklahoma — said that the rally served as a healing process for women after President Donald Trump’s first year in office.

“Millions of us marched in protest of Trump’s maniacal policies and statements,” Burkhart said. “[We] stood shoulder-to-shoulder resisting hate, homophobia, bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia.”

The election of Donald Trump forced many women to evaluate this country and its priorities with renewed vigor.

“Oh my gosh. That election — I literally mourned. I mean I cried for a week; my mother and I cried for a week,” Calvert said. “I just couldn’t understand how such an injustice was able to happen.”

Calvert said despite wanting to go to Washington D.C. for the national Women’s March the year Trump was inaugurated, she couldn’t make it happen.

“(I’m a) single mom — couldn’t afford to go to Washington, it just wasn’t in the cards,” she said. “And change is from the ground up.”

In 2019 bitter cold and storms across the country forced many cities to postpone or cancel marches. 

Not Wichita. Calvert and other organizers pulled it off. 

“I had so many people reach out and say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be really cold, are we still marching on Saturday?’ Calvert told The Sunflower in an interview.

“We can’t be fair-weathered about this,” she responded.

But how did Calvert start the march?

It began with a Facebook post

There were millions of women across the entire world that felt a need and Women’s Marches popped up across the nation.

Calvert said she asked herself, ‘what can we do? How can we maybe do that here in our community?’

“I said ‘hey maybe this will be a great idea.’ I put it on my Facebook page which I had under 100 friends on my Facebook page (at the time.)”

Despite the few Facebook friends, the word went out and before long women were mobilizing, organizing and making moves.

“I don’t feel like it was really me that did anything at all. The community, the people all around Kansas and even Oklahoma, that was all of their voices,” she said. “They’re the ones that made everything happen.”

Women that she had never met from the League of Women Voters and Women for Kansas reached out and said ‘hey I see this event that you have on Facebook. What organization are you with?’ Calvert said.

 “I thought, ‘Oh my god am I supposed to be with an organization?’” 

It was just Calvert. But the two organizations said they’d like to help.

Calvert said she worried that people would not turn up for the event. 

“I said, ‘What if only 10 people show up?’ and one of the organizers said ‘then just all 10 of us or 20 of us will just March proudly, that’s what we’re gonna do.’

When the time finally came to begin Calvert looked out at a crowd over 4,000 strong and knew she had done something important. 

There was a need and she and many volunteers, women’s organizations and nonprofits had given something back to the community. 

In the years following, Women’s March – Air Capital worked to become more diverse and inclusive of minority women, prioritizing hearing from a wide range of perspectives and including women of every race, religion and ethnicity in the leadership and planning process. 

“Our mission is to lift the voices of women who are too often left out. We believe in a world where women from all backgrounds are equally represented,” Calvert said. 

Women’s March Air-Capitol wants to enhance the leadership roles of women and support the ongoing work and collaborations with other organizations in focusing on women’s issues such as equal pay, domestic violence, immigration, foster care, sexual assault, racial profiling, police brutality, reproductive and mental health, and LGBTQ equality, Calvert said.

“It can’t be a one-time event. It can’t just be a once-a-year event. It has to be a movement that continues to evolve and grow.”