On Jan. 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of President Trump, the Women’s March on Washington descended on the nation’s capital to protest a new administration many Americans feared threatened their rights and contradicted their basic values.
As the anniversary of the march approaches, USA TODAY spoke with Tamika Mallory, co-chair of last year’s historic protest and co-president of the Women’s March board, about activism, feminism and where the movement goes from here.
On Jan. 21, 2018, organizers are again mobilizing — this time, to kick off a national voter registration tour. The Power to the Polls event will take place in Las Vegas, an intentional location choice given that Nevada has become a battleground state in the 2018 election cycle. Mallory and her fellow organizers say they are launching the effort to help elect more women and progressive candidates in congressional, gubernatorial and local elections nationwide.
Q: How did you decide this was the effort you wanted to rally people around, and what are your tangible goals for it?
A: We thought to just have another march in Washington, D.C., would be purely symbolic, and it would not necessarily reach the goals of turning a historic moment into a movement that would impact the communities that we seek to engage and help to transform. We thought that Power to the Polls was an important next step that would give us the opportunity to work on a grassroots level with partners and individuals who are committed for the long haul.
Q: The march last year was birthed, in some ways, out of anguish, fear and despair. Do you feel the mood is different this time around?
A: I think that people are still very outraged. I think some people may even be more outraged today than they were last year. Think about it. Last year Donald Trump had not even been the president yet. He had not been in office at that point for any amount of time that would give people the ability to really see policies coming into place. … Over the last year we’ve been able to see how some of the rhetoric is turning into actual policies and procedures that impact communities that have already been struggling.
Q: What did organizers learn from last year that they applied to this year?
A: Last year we learned, and throughout the year we learned, that there needs to be a greater focus on our relationship with the trans community, and this year we are being very intentional about engaging the trans community and figuring out better ways to be a stronger partner.
I think also something that we learned last year is that the women’s march is sort of a microcosm of what is happening in the world. While we may have very ambitious goals of what we want to do as an organization, we have to remember that we’re working with people within the organization and outside the organization that still need very deep education around some of these issues, and that there has to be these daring conversations, these daring discussions when people are talking about the things they don’t know or the biases they possess. And that has to happen inside the organization in order for us to be effective with our work.
Q: Do you see unity, or at least presenting a united front, as important for feminists in order to achieve progress on equality?
A: Unity is not the same thing as uniformity. We’re not looking for people to say we’re all going to do the same exact thing at the same time. We’re not looking for folks to fall in line with the women’s march agenda. We understand that every organization and every individual will approach their strategy for how they engage in the movement in their own way. So when we speak of unity what we’re saying is that we all have decided that we’re going to work on these issues, we’re going to work together, and in that we understand that there will be different tactics and different ways that people operate, and we have to figure out how those things complement one another.
Q: Do you believe the women’s march helped catalyze #MeToo?
A: The women’s march set women on fire. It really created the energy for women to step forward in a number of ways and to be more vocal on issues that matter to us as women. … The women’s march has provided an opportunity for women to understand our collective power and to understand that the more public we are, the more we have an opportunity to bring our issues to the forefront.
Folks can’t hide from the issues that women care about, because we are so present and forthcoming with these conversations.