Women's March Rockford Features Diversity And Inclusivity

Jan 19, 2020

Jennifer Stark.
Credit Connie Kuntz

Cold temperatures didn't stop a diverse crowd of marchers at Women's March Rockford. More than 200 gathered to express themselves, support each other, and peacefully march. 

Jennifer Stark held a sign that said "Voting Is My Super Power." She said, "I want to represent and remind everybody that if we don't like where the world is today, we can vote. We can make a difference."

Men showed up, too, including Barry Champion. He said, "I'm here to support everyone's right to equality." He continued, "I have been to probably all the women's marches since they started, as well as other women's rights marches."

Gerri Hood was there with her grandchildren, London and Paris. She said, "I'm here to make sure that everybody is accounted for, and to teach my granddaughters that we can help people." Hood, whose degree is in human services, said that the march is personal for her. "I've fallen through so many cracks myself. It's very important that we get more attention focused on women's rights. It's important for me and then for them growing up, too."

Gerri Hood and her granddaughters Paris and London.
Credit Connie Kuntz

Melody Pearson has been marching since the 1970s and said, "Women still don't earn equal dollars for equal jobs." She continued, "I respect men. There are men I love, and I don't want to take anything away from them, but I would like to share the world that they are in, and have them share the good parts of our world."

One of the event's organizers is Mary McNamara Bernsten. She told the crowd about the mission of Women's March Rockford. She said, "Our mission is simple. We are united in our belief that every person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect." 

Women, men, children, and those without labels attended the march, and the event's speakers reflected the diverse and inclusive mission.  McNamara Bernsten introduced Skye Gia Garcia who spoke about intersectionality.

Garcia said, "To understand intersectionality is to understand the effects of multiple forms of discrimination." 

Melody Pearson.
Credit Connie Kuntz

Garcia said racisim, classism, sexism, and homophobia not only intersect, but feed off of each other, too.

Garcia continued, "What that says to me, as a nonbinary person, is that the struggles of women are relatable and understood by nonbinary and transgender identities, rather than being isolated and distinct." 

Garcia asked the crowd to, "Come together today, tomorrow, and every day after to stand strong and support one another as we all attempt to end violence and injustice. Intersectionality leaves no one behind!"

The event featured a variety of speakers who spoke about racism, intersexuality, LGBTQ issues, Christianity, sexual assault, inclusion, forgiveness, equal rights, and more. Gina Meeks sang one song and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos spoke about the new diversity in Congress. Then she gave the crowd their "marching orders"  and a young girl named Lilianna started the march with a chant: 

Lilianna: What do we want?

Crowd: Equal rights!

Lilianna: When do we want it?

Crowd: Now!

The group marched across the State Street Bridge and back to Rockford City Market for more speakers and closing remarks.