Lexington’s third annual women’s march to take place this weekend

Protestors pose with signs during the NOW Women’s March Anniversary Rally in front of the Circuit Courthouse in downtown Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, January 20, 2018. The rally was an inclusive event held to recognize Lexington’s diverse community and raise awareness for “our rights, our safety, our health, and our families” said the event’s Facebook page. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Sarah Michels

This Sunday marks the second anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Just one day after the historic moment, on Jan. 21, 2017, the first annual Women’s March kicked off, serving as “the catalyst to The Resistance,” according to the National Organization for Women.

Over the past two years, the spirit of the Women’s March has spread to multitudes of cities across America, big and small, who all want the same thing—to speak out in solidarity with other women. In Lexington, on Saturday, at 2 p.m. on the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse plaza, the third annual Lexington Women’s Unity March will be held for that purpose. 

The event, the largest single-day protest in the nation’s history, was initially a response to the controversial statements Trump had made concerning women throughout his career.

No longer is the movement about one administration; it’s not even exclusively about women. Karen Conley, a leader of Kentucky NOW, said the speakers of the Women’s March in Lexington will not only address the rights of women, but also “racism, the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers, LGBTQIA+ rights and discrimination, reproductive rights, equal pay and healthcare.”

Currently, the National Women’s March is receiving heat for their controversial choice of leaders, including some who are allegedly anti-Semitic. Conley said she has received many messages concerning this issue.

While the National Women’s March and the march in Lexington share a title, Conley said “we are completely autonomous from the Women’s March, Inc.” She added that their event planning is grassroots and at the local level and is not dictated by the national NOW.

This year, the leaders of Kentucky NOW are excited about the lineup of speakers and performers.

Justin Terawood, a local teacher, will lead the crowd in a sing-a-long to prepare to march. He will be joined by Carla Gover, a Kentucky performer, and George Ella Lyon, the 2015-2016 Kentucky Poet Laureate. She will perform “O Beautiful,” an original song sung to the melody of “America the Beautiful” with lyrics that embody the spirit of the movement.

Other key speakers include political leaders and activists such as state Rep. Attica Scott, state Sen. Reggie Thomas, Denise Gray, Alexis Meza, Shameka L. Parrish-Wright, Anita Rowe-Franklin, McKayla Weaver and Mizari Suárez.

Conley describes the atmosphere of the Lexington Women’s Unity March as “cheerful” and “uplifting.” Many local and statewide groups have attended in the past, including the Bluegrass Activists, and afterwards, some people have even “started up (activist) groups because they felt so motivated.”

This Saturday, the rally will consist largely of a celebration of the strides towards equality taken in 2018, Conley said, including the effects of the #MeToo movement and the historic number of women elected into office in the midterms.

However, speakers will also look to the future, touching on a variety of different social issues and their thoughts on some upcoming local legislation and the broader United States, specifically the 2020 presidential election.

Conley said that she hopes that above all, the march “inspires women to remain engaged” in political and social activism for many years to come.  

If you go

When: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2-4 p.m. (March starts at 2:45 p.m.)

Where: Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza (120 N Limestone)

The organizers ask that participants bring gloves, hats and scarfs to be donated.