***This viewpoint originally appeared in SLO Tribune on January 10, 2019***
In light of important questions about the Women’s March movement, Women’s March San Luis Obispo (WMSLO) organizers want to directly address the situation and share the focus of our local organization.
WMSLO’s mission is to stand in solidarity to protect women’s rights, human rights, our safety, our health and our planet, as we move toward a positive and just future. We are actively nonviolent in words and action. We work to unify our nation’s diverse communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots. We recognize that there is no true peace, freedom or inclusion without equity for all.
We understand the name “Women’s March” used by groups across our nation and globally may indicate that all groups with this name belong to the same organization. This is not accurate. WMSLO is our own fiscally sponsored nonprofit. We are not part of the organization in DC known as National. That group does not have any control over WMSLO, or vice-versa. WMSLO does not receive or share funding with that organization, or any other organization bearing the name ”Women’s March.”
On the Central Coast, WMSLO has worked for the past two years to build bridges between diverse groups in our community and create a safe space for all people to make their voices and their votes heard. From the beginning, we have built coalitions and endeavored to be positive and effective community partners. Our work creates a space where people can speak up about immigration, the Muslim travel ban, white supremacy, gun violence, representation of women and allies, sexual assault and much more. All of this has been done under the WMSLO name, mission, and unity principles (found at https://womensmarchslo.com/mission-statement/).
WMSLO began speaking out against anti-Semitism as linked to Women’s March in March 2018 on our Facebook page saying,
“Women’s March SLO and Women’s March Inc [WM]. are two similar, but separate, organizations. Both arose from the grassroots movement that started on 1/21/17. WMSLO participates in actions initiated by WM, such as the #Enough National Student Walkout, when we believe such actions will resonate in our local community. In regard to recent issues concerning anti-semitism, we can say plainly and clearly that WMSLO abhors comments from any person or group that are meant to negatively target, disparage, denigrate, threaten, or harm another person or group. Since our inception, WMSLO has always stood for uplifting, engaging, and working together to build a more positive and just future. We believe there is strength in diversity. We condemn anti-Semitism and any form of race or religion based hate, in any and all arenas, and will continue to fight for a more positive and just future.”
WMSLO holds a seat on the board of Women’s March California (WMCA), a non-profit coalition of over a dozen march organizations across California. WMSLO helped create WMCA. As leaders in WMCA, WMSLO had a large role in crafting a statement condemning anti-Semitism, and promoting inclusion and diversity. That statement can be found at https://womensmarchslo.com/womens-march-california-statement-on-womens-march-movement/
WMSLO has signed on to a trademark dispute against the trademarking of the name “Women’s March.” WMSLO believes the name “Women’s March” belongs to the 5 million marchers and thousands of local organizers who made Jan. 21, 2017, the largest single-day demonstration the United States has ever seen. Names have meaning, and we believe the name belongs to us and to any women and allies who want to use it as part of working for a more positive and just future.
The #TruthToPower March on Jan. 19 is a California-specific themed march. In the past year, we have witnessed the power behind stepping forward and sharing one’s truth, whether it concerns a relationship, workplace, nationality, gender or other issues. There is power behind what can happen when someone has the courage to speak up. We have used our voice, we have used our vote and now we continue by bringing truth to power. We hope you will continue to make your voice, your vote and your truth heard. We look forward to seeing you on Jan. 19, 2019. Find out more at www.womensmarchslo.com.
Submitted by Women’s March San Luis Obispo organizers Andrea Chmelik, Dawn Addis, Jen Ford, Terry Parry, Pat Harris, Rita Casaverde and Gail Bunting.