Last year, we did not have a Women’s March in Kern County. Instead, people loaded into buses and vans to attend the Women’s March in Los Angeles. I took part in the Bay Area Women’s March with friends after picking up my daughter in Fresno.
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Some of this was largely because we didn’t think our community, a historically conservative county in a big blue state, would support a Women’s March.
But this year was different.
This year, a group of strong-willed, ethnically diverse women (and one amazing young man) worked together to organize Women’s March Kern County. Our ages ranged from 20s to, well, a few grandmas.
How I became part of the group, is still a little unclear. Maybe I was volun-told… I might have also raised my hand after a glass or two of vino. But that’s neither here nor there.
We worked hard, many of us after ending long days as teachers, lawyers and students.
We had a short time frame after getting started in late November (barely a two-month window). There were planning meetings that easily ran past 9 p.m. There were some differences of opinions and passionate disagreements on how things should go down, but we always worked it out in the end.
And so many details: City road closures because we weren’t content to have a march restricted to sidewalks. Securing sound equipment, music and a stage. Attracting vendors to sell their merchandise and promote their causes. Arranging buses to bring in residents from outlying communities.
And finding an awesome array of female speakers to share their personal stories of adversity and triumph in a world where women face so many more challenges, just because of their gender.
We wanted this event to be inclusive: Straight, gay, trans. Democrat, Republican (yes, there were some in attendance) or Independent. Men were highly encouraged to join us and support the women in their lives.
Promoting with limited funds meant relying on free social media in addition to a mighty army of volunteers dropping off promotional materials in businesses, including nail salons and even churches, in cities throughout the county. We even managed some sponsors along the way.
This little Women’s March party we were planning was going to be a great gathering of like-minded people – a day of unity and solidarity in support of women. And like all party throwers, we just wanted the people to show up to our little shindig.
We hoped for 1,000 attendees and it looked like (according to Facebook interest) we would get this. But it turned out to be so much more. I think we should have known we were on to something when our first and second pre-orders for T-shirts and hoodies sold out.
Crowd estimates originally put attendance around 3,000 people. Today, estimates are about 5,000, and quite possibly even more took part. Drone footage showed a march that seemed to go on for blocks and blocks and blocks. We were awestruck… some of us, very emotional.
In so many ways it was historic for our city, community and county. My Bay Area peeps might not fully understand, but this was huge for those of us living in Kern County.
A day later, after digesting news reports, seeing footage and photos, many of us on the organizing committee thought: “Did we really just do this?”
We threw a party and they came. And it was peaceful. It was unifying. It was the Women’s March we all had hoped for and so much more.
Thank you to all who took part in making this a success. Now, please, remember to vote.
Together, we can move mountains.
Tracy Correa Lopez is a former Fresno Bee reporter who now works in corporate communications.