Women’s March

Jay Shah

Women, children and men of all ages gathered Jan. 18 for the second women’s march in Akron. Due to winter weather, the event was moved inside, converting the march into a stationary rally. 

The march was originally supposed to begin at Grace Park with a variety of speakers and performers. It would have continued onto the Sojourner Truth Building in downtown Akron for the recitation of the historic “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech and culminate at Musica in downtown Akron for the After-Party. 

This year’s theme for the march was homelessness. Other core topics included refugees, environmental injustice, healthcare access and African-Americans being left out in economic justice.

 “I’m very happy with the outcome in spite of our weather conditions because the community turnout shows that we do have an interest in finding out what is happening, and what we can do to make that change (and) because obviously a change must come,” said Traci Person, the regional field manager for Planned Parenthood and member of the organizing committee. 

Veronica Sims, founder of the spiritual group “Let There Be Peace,” spoke on issues the African-American community face with economic inequality and inclusion, infant mortality, gun violence and police brutality. 

Sims was appointed Summit County Councilwoman (District 5) at the beginning of 2020, after having served as an elected member of the Akron School Board as well as an At-Large Akron City Councilwoman. 

A majority of the original lineup of speakers and performers were unable to attend due to the inclement weather. Beth Vild and Darrita Davis were fill-in speakers aside from being core members of the organizing committee.

 “So unless you completely live with your head in the sand, you can tell that the world is on fire,” was the beginning of Vild’s speech and a reference to the Amazon, Australia, California and Africa. 

Vild is the Founder and COO of The Big Love Network, a local organization that is central in creating awareness in the local community regarding environmental issues, sustainability and urban permaculture. 

“We have a long, long history of doing the wrong thing, but I’m here to say…that it’s because of people like y’all, that we’re starting to do the right thing,” Vild said as the room erupted in cheers and applause. 

Apart from her organization’s planned Environmental Health Assessment for 2020, Vild also mentioned the Greater Akron Innovation Network for Sustainability (GAINS) forming a sustainability alliance to push policy-makers in pursuing more sustainable decisions across sectors as well as a newly formed sustainability office. 

The health assessment, would be a complete assessment of the city of Akron and overlay health disparity maps, crime rates, income and EPA information together after which members would undertake a door-knock approach to listen to the people in the areas affected by environmental degradation. 

Brittney Moore, a nurse practitioner with Planned Parenthood in Ohio was introduced and went into a brief explanation of the current state of Planned Parenthood. 

The Planned Parenthood Moore practices out of receives 64 percent of the state’s Title X patients that visit them each year.

“We’ve lost as an organization, $4 million due to this,” Moore explained in reference to the cost incurred on the organization for annual healthcare visits provided to Title X grantees. 

“I am committed to providing that high quality, compassionate healthcare everyday when I show up to work at Planned Parenthood and our patients are still coming in and we’re doing what we can to always have our doors open, so we can always see them, regardless of their needs, where they’re at,” Moore said.

Person returned to the stage and talked about the 22 bans against reproductive rights in Ohio which led to a few jaw-drops and boo’s, continuing along with her monologue, “and there’s not one against men.” 

“A lot of people think about Planned Parenthood and they think about abortion services. Well, guess what, abortion is necessary.” 

A voice yelled out of the crowd over the approbation that ensued, “Abortion is healthcare.” Person responded with resolute affirmation that it was her right to do as she pleased with her body and to choose, “how my family’s going to be designed.” 

The final speaker did not give her government name, instead, she identified with one of many street names, “Lady Katie.” Lady Katie was a pastor’s wife, living the American dream, teaching Sunday school and raising her child. In the span of the past year and a half, Lady Katie had become “transient,” a term she preferred in lieu of “homeless.”

Lady Katie spoke about the challenges she faced. She briefly spoke about the traumas she encountered since being transient, ranging from physical and emotional abuse. She said she had not realized until this day that Akron consisted of such a supportive community that was willing to help a person in Lady Katie’s situation.

“Our goal from day one of doing Women’s March in Akron was to bring this national drive home because it’s not going to matter what happens nationally if we’re not doing something day in day out here and we need the support,” Vild said.