20 Perspectives from Women’s Weekend

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Reporting by Lindsay Combs, Kiersten Feuchter, Ellen Huggins, Kelsey Johnson, and Lauren Lewis. Photography by Yashira AfanadorChelsie Walter, Stacy Wegley, and Heather Willins.

A little over a year ago, Women of Cincy got its start at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington Park. We showed up to tell stories, and though we’ve since redefined our mission, we’re still telling stories today.

This year, as we looked forward to returning to the event where it all began, we became aware of a conversation between United We Stand – the local march organizers – and the local Black Lives Matter chapter. The root of the discussion was the march’s theme, “Hear Our Vote.”

We brought our team together and discussed how we should approach our coverage of both events. We were reminded of our mission statement:

Women of Cincy is built to celebrate Cincinnati’s incredible women, creating empathy and opportunities through storytelling, collaboration, community, and mentorship. We work within the community to employ, empower, and elevate local women of all backgrounds, colors, shapes, and abilities.

We read the words celebrate, empathy, collaboration, community, and elevate, and found our answer. January 21st came, and we lugged our cameras and notebooks to the Freedom Center and marched – along with 10,000 people who believe women are worth speaking up for.

  Photo by Chelsie Walter.

Photo by Chelsie Walter.

We hit 9th Street and headed to the Peaslee Neighborhood Center for Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati’s forum, “Effective Ways to Fight for Women’s Liberation,” where dozens, if not hundreds, of people packed the long hallway, spilled into an overflow room, and stood side by side for hours to hear the concerns of their fellow Cincinnatians. (Watch a video of the panelists’ presentations on our Facebook page.)

  Photo by Stacy Wegley.

Photo by Stacy Wegley.

Below, you’ll find 20 of the perspectives we captured throughout the day. Some touch on why the “Hear Our Vote” discussion meant so much to the organizers and participants of both events. Some offer hope. Others are a battle cry.

Women of Cincy is an apolitical organization dedicated to giving a voice to women of all beliefs. We encourage our readers to have open minds, make informed decisions, and be engaged in their community.

  Photo by Stacy Wegley.

Photo by Stacy Wegley.

“My name is Aziza Love and I'm here to speak truth in song, to use music as a means of challenging you to look at yourself and ask, ‘What can I do to show unconditional and all inclusive love?’ to yourself, to your sisters, to your community.”

–Aziza Love on stage at the Women’s March

“One of the strongest tools that we have against an oppressive system is when they see that you’ve built coalitions regardless of your differences. That is when they find you more dangerous than you working individually.

“Follow history. What they will do to you is they will find that one thing that you disagree on and they will exploit the hell out of it and take you down a path you didn’t even intend to go down, and that’s what I don’t want to see happen here, not in the city of Cincinnati.”

–Victoria Straughn, Concerned Citizens for Justice, during her presentation at Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati’s “Effective Ways to Fight for Women’s Liberation”

  Photo by Stacy Wegley.

Photo by Stacy Wegley.

“It’s just good to know that there are people out there with me, and are trying to change the world and make it better, because we’ve been through a lot. And you need this world to be better, and you have to make it better. And it’s good to know that there are people that support that. Not only black people, but white people. And anybody in any race; we just need to make this better for the world. …

“Every human is valid. There is no wrong way to live, no right way to live. It’s just, you’re alive. You’re here. You’re doing it right.”

–Amira Smith in an interview with Lewis at Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati’s “Effective Ways to Fight for Women’s Liberation”

“I think this is an important moment for all people, no matter their gender, what they look like, or where they’re from, to stand up, particularly to the leadership that we have in Washington D.C., and state clearly and unequivocally that women matter. That women’s issues are not just specific to women, but that they are our community’s issues, our state’s issues, and our country’s issues.”

–Aftab Pureval, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, in an interview with Combs at the Women’s March

  Photo by Heather Willins.

Photo by Heather Willins.

“There’s never been a female senator from the state of Ohio. Say ‘boo.’ There’s never been a female governor elected. Boo. … Three of Ohio’s 16 representative seats in the House are filled by women. Boo. In the state of Ohio’s history, we’ve elected 11 women, but that’s not enough. Only 10 of the 52 cities in Ohio with 30,000 residents or more have female mayors. Boo. … Women have never held the majority of the nine seats of Cincinnati City Council. This must change, and change starts with us, women. …

“Women vote in higher rates than men, but men run for office more, so what does that say to you, sisters? It says that we vote for men because there are not enough women in the race. We must close the gender gap, which is plagued by ambition and confidence gaps – gaps when women say, ‘It’s too soon’ or ‘I’m not qualified.’ Lie, lie, lie. It’s not too soon. You are qualified. Women are simply voting for men because you’re not there.”

–Lesley Jones on stage at the Women’s March

“The housing crisis is a feminist issue that we must address.”

–Leslie Moorhead on stage at the Women’s March

  Photo by Lauren Lewis.

Photo by Lauren Lewis.

“We kind of have a departure, of course, with BLM [Black Lives Matter], just concerning voting and not voting, and as a black female, it’s my responsibility to use every resource to my advantage in terms of being able to get us to a place of justice and equality, and that also means the work of BLM. And that’s one of the reasons UWS [United We Stand] is so supportive and has been for the whole year of 2017, because we know that the pure and formal electoral process is not going to be the only way by which we gain our justice and our equality. So organizations like this – BLM, UWS, and all other women’s organizations – are just very important because the power needs to be with the people. What’s happening right now is an enactment on the people, but our job is to be able to come together so that we can really affect change. ... As we are a combined and united voice it is much harder to fall. Divided, things happen, and people break away and the message gets completely diluted and then we don’t get the change that we’re looking for. It’s our job and our responsibility to stay very focused on the issues and that’s one thing that I love about UWS is that we’re very much issue oriented. This is not necessarily an attack on the presidency … it’s more about the issues that affect every woman, and therefore every human.”

–Chelsea Nuss, Women’s March emcee, in an interview with Lewis at Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati’s “Effective Ways to Fight for Women’s Liberation”

  Photo by Chelsie Walter.

Photo by Chelsie Walter.

“Yeah, voting is necessary, but have you ever been to a Black Lives Matter rally and held a grieving mother as she wept?”

–Blvck Seeds poet Siri Imani on stage at the Women’s March

“We did both. We’re supportive of both movements, so it's really interesting. We're here to kind of figure out what exactly is the moral response is to having two separate events. We feel very strongly about everything that was going on at the Women's March is great, so many people supporting all sorts of causes – causes we’re definitely in favor of – and we're here because of this cause, as well. Obviously Black Lives Matters is a huge influence in Cincinnati, and I think it's important that we understand why there are two separate things going on here.”

–Kojo Owusu in an interview with Huggins at Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati’s “Effective Ways to Fight for Women’s Liberation”

  Photo by Yashira Afanador.

Photo by Yashira Afanador.

“I was getting emotional with the young children who were speaking ’cause I have a niece who is growing up in an environment where she already believes that men hold more power and value than she does and she’s only 7. And it’s disturbing to me that she already has those thoughts in the head of such a young child. So I do this for her.”

–Megan Gill in an interview with Lewis at the Women’s March

“Most of our change has come from the power of a movement. From the American Revolution … the women’s suffrage movement, civil rights, the labor movement – I can go on and on. The changes of wages. The changes of how we look at folks for race and religion and gender. It came about from movements. And what made these movements so successful? If you look at any liberation, it came from people.”

–Mona Jenkins, Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati Steering Committee, in her presentation at Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati’s “Effective Ways to Fight for Women’s Liberation”

  Photo by Heather Willins.

Photo by Heather Willins.

“We’re here to talk about the recent ‘Me Too’ movement and to draw attention to the latest in this fight against sexual harassment in the workplace into the broader conversation of the women’s labor struggle. I don’t think we can have women's liberation socially unless we have it economically.”

–Julz in an interview with Combs at the Women’s March

“I'm out here to make sure people are getting out to vote and bringing their friends out to vote. That’s the most important thing to me, and no matter what is happening that may or may not be messing with the elections in this country, I think we can outvote it.”

–Nate Powell in an interview with Huggins at the Women’s March

  Photo by Stacy Wegley.

Photo by Stacy Wegley.

“We’re here to fight for equal rights for women and people of color and everybody. And to fight for equal justice and for everybody to hear our voice. I wish I could vote!”

–Mea and Lily in an interview with Johnson at the Women’s March

  Photo by Stacy Wegley.

Photo by Stacy Wegley.

“I was included at the table. That’s why I’m here.”

–Megan Anderson, Democratic Socialists of America, Metro Cincinnati chapter, in an interview with Johnson at Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati’s “Effective Ways to Fight for Women’s Liberation”

  Photo by Chelsie Walter.

Photo by Chelsie Walter.

“I think it's important to fight, not only for ourselves, but to fight to honor the women who fought for us and to set examples for the younger generations, because if we stop fighting, then it stops.”

–Gretchen Mihaly in an interview with Huggins at the Women’s March

  Photo by Yashira Afanador.

Photo by Yashira Afanador.

Women Helping Women's mission is to prevent gender-based violence and to empower all survivors. And when we say all, we mean all. We believe that every person deserves to live a life free of violence. If you are a survivor who is a person of color, you are welcome at our agency. If you are an immigrant, you are welcome. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or gender nonconforming, you are welcome. If you are a survivor with a disability or are deaf or hard of hearing, you are welcome. If you are a man, you are welcome. If you're Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, atheist, guess what? You are welcome. If you experience homelessness or you live in Indian Hill, you are welcome. Any, all, every survivor, welcome.”

–Kristin Shrimplin, Women Helping Women, on stage at the Women’s March

“Just within 2018, within the first two weeks of our new year, we have known about two murders of trans women, the latest being Viccky Gutierrez, who was murdered in California. We can already see that this is a toxic world that we're living in where the lives of trans women of color are seen as disposable.”

–Ed Vaughn, Cincinnati Revolutionary Students, during her presentation at Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati’s “Effective Ways to Fight for Women’s Liberation”

  Photo by Stacy Wegley.

Photo by Stacy Wegley.

“The flaw in my feminism was that I used ‘I.’ In social movements, there is no ‘I.’ There is ‘we.’ ... We all need to establish that women are just as worthy of respect as men. ... I hope to create a future where equality is the norm and not a radical idea.”

–Rasleen Krupp, Young Feminists Coalition, on stage at the Women’s March

“I felt it was important to be here to hear about other issues surrounding women and people of color. I think voting is important. I think it’s important to look at every aspect of what it takes to make a society click. My heart is so full to see so many different people down here for this event. This is just as important as the march.”

–Shirley Blair in an interview with Combs at Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati’s “Effective Ways to Fight for Women’s Liberation”