As she helped coordinate the 2019 Womxn’s March in Denver, Regan Byrd noticed a trend among previous attendees.
“Some folks were disenchanted from the first march to the second march, saying it didn’t feel like we built up on the momentum,” Byrd said.
She added that participation dropped from 2017 to 2018. Womxn’s March Denver estimates that more than 180,000 attended the first march, while attendees at the second marched numbered in the tens of thousands.
This year, however, the trend was reversed when a crowd of protesters gathered at Civic Center Park on Jan. 19. The protesters were dressed for the 30-degree weather and armed with the essentials: signs, Starbucks cups, and for a few, their dogs — some of whom had signs of their own.
Colorado women came to the march hoping to make their voices heard by politicians — whether they were fighting for reproductive rights, climate-change awareness or for the rights of the LGBTQ community and women of color.
This year’s Womxn’s March Denver drew an estimated 80,000 attendees, according to march leadership team member Angela Astle. The event also received sponsorships and major donations from nearly 20 organizations.
The name of the march — which previously had featured the word “women’s” — was new this year. Members of the leadership team decided to incorporate an x into the name to promote inclusivity.
The Denver event got its start at the end of 2016. Colorado women Jessica Rogers, Cheetah McClellan and Karen Hinkel were inspired by the national march and came together to organize a local one.
Though none of the three women had experience organizing rallies, “toward the end of it, we figured it out,” Rogers said.
“So many things got done by so many volunteers,” she said. “The hardest part was probably volunteer management — and that was managed by a volunteer.”
The widespread enthusiasm for the march manifested in other ways, as well; Rogers said the women received more than $100,000 in online contributions for the 2017 march. As this amount exceeded the cost of the march, surplus funds were donated to various nonprofits.
After two years of leading the charge in organizing the march, the three founders have taken a step back, with Rogers now serving as an adviser for the new leadership team.
“We really helped get it off the ground, and this leadership team has a lot more professional experience in community organizing and communication,” she said. “That’s really the direction we all wanted it to go in.”
This is not the only way the march has changed since it began in 2017. The march, which was previously an LLC, restructured as a 501(c)(3) in 2018.
“There’s the familiarity of `nonprofit’ and also the space to say we really are working for what’s coming next,” Astle said.
Hoping to raise attendance and re-energize the movement, the team sought to build their organization around more than just the day of the march.
“We can have multiple days of action and a multiyear plan for what we want to accomplish,” Byrd said. “We’re open to whatever we and the community want this to be.”
The leadership team incorporated a number of changes in response to community input, such as a detailed site map and increased accessibility for those with limited mobility.
The march in Denver was not the only one to see a name change. Seattle’s march, for example, also added an x to its name.
In 2018, Colorado was the first state to allow gender nonconforming individuals to select an `x’ as their gender identifier on driver’s licenses and identification cards. Therefore, those organizing the march felt the x would be an appropriate symbol for inclusivity and intersectionality.
“We knew that the march had not been as inclusive as it could have been at the beginning,” Byrd said.
To change this, the leadership not only changed the name of the march but made an effort to include more diverse speakers and performers in the pre-rally and post-rally.
“It’s not just about one `ism,’” Byrd said. “It’s about racism and sexism and classism. We need to understand how to dismantle all of those.”
“Being included and recognized in this just makes me feel I’m a part of something much bigger,” said Ty May Kranz, who gave a speech at the march. Kranz identifies as non-binary and Latinx — with the `x’ standing in place of the `o’ in Latino.
“I feel like there’s somewhere for me now,” Kranz said.
The focus on inclusivity reflects an aspiration among leadership to affect as much positive change in the community as possible and to identify what that goal entails.
“I think it’s really about trying to figure out what the Womxn’s Mach is best suited for. It’s still trying to find its personality,” Rogers said. She added that one of the ways the march has excelled has been in “achieving earnest community dialogue.”
“We’re moving towards how this march can represent everything it can,” agreed leadership team member Brenda Herrera Moreno.
Certainly, those who came out to the march had this same broad focus on social and political issues. While the individuals all attended the march in the name of progress, the issues that inspired them to march varied from person to person.
“We wanted to raise awareness for missing and murdered indigenous women,” said Denver resident Yolanda Begay.
Begay, who attended the march with family and friends, was also interested in bringing to light the way pollution hurts the climate and setting a positive example for her children.
Likewise, many marchers said they had come to march because of their daughters. Arvada resident Mindy Mohr, who has two daughters in their 20s, said one reason she marched was to make the country a better place for them.
“Our country has swung so far toward the irresponsible and hateful, we see it’s time to move things back the other way,” she said.
Others, like Littleton residents Chris and Kristen Sorrells, brought their children to the march.
“I’m here so they grow up realizing that if they want to affect change, they’re able to,” Sorrells said of his three daughters, Addie, Harper and Hannah.
“They have a voice and they should be heard,” he said. “It’s not just women who should be standing up for women’s rights. It should be all of us, and for everyone’s rights.”
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