LOS ANGELES-Women in red. Black women. White women. Latino women. Asian women. Professional and working-class women. Students and retirees. Women who showed up to attend a rally to celebrate International Women’s Day in front of Los Angeles City Hall smack in the middle of lunch hour during the middle of a work week in downtown Los Angeles, made their voices heard on abortion rights, civil rights, workplace equality and transgender rights.
The atmosphere was light and mostly festive during the course of the two hour rally as hundreds of women reveled in “girl power” and unification through holding up signs with liberating messages, sharing personal stories and dancing to funky tunes. But the message of equality for all women was clear throughout the event.
“I want the next generation to feel equal in all ways,” said Katelyn White. “Women have been fighting for a very long time for what we’ve gotten already and we have to keep fighting.”
As demonstrated by rally attendees, the call to arms for women equality is not limited to one group. Social activists, politicians, musicians, educators, students and house moms are all in this fight together.
Miami-based Karisha said one of the fights she is willing to stand behind is a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion or not. That, Karisha said, should not be a decision left to those working in city, state or the federal government.
“People are trying to take that right away, especially the Republicans in office,” said Karisha, who chose not to reveal her last name. “They’re anti-abortion when they don’t have a say…it’s not really their choice; it’s our choice whether or not we want to make that decision to have that abortion or not.”
Karisha said having more abortion clinics gives a woman or young girl options in making a life-altering choice of keeping an unborn child or having an abortion. This particular freedom that women have today is being seriously threatened, she said.
“I think they should make more abortion clinics available, because there’s not enough, especially in the black community,” said Karisha. “We hear that Planned Parenthood is supposed to take us down, but that’s in the past. That’s not happening now. We need them. There’s not enough abortion clinics that can support us. It’s very hard to get an abortion. Now’s going to get even harder, especially when it comes to laws that applies to underage [girls]. Getting an abortion…you have to have a parent’s consent. Other states are more lenient, especially in LA and California.”
When Black Lives Matter organizer Dr. Melina Abdullah took the stage she wasn’t in any mood to do a celebratory speech. Instead, the Cal State Los Angeles professor delivered a hardline message about women going out and getting work done through action, not running around with mindless marches or protests.
“We cannot afford to have parades,” Abdullah said. “This is not a state for parading. This is not a time for parading. It’s a time to get energy and get to work because we have a bastard in the White House. He has people who pretend to be our friends, who wear yoga pants and skinny jeans, and say things that sound good and greet us with a smile. But then are behind machines that kill our people, behind machines that lock mothers out of the country and leave the children here, that are behind machines that say sisters cannot wear Hijabs, that are behind these machines that keep us oppressed. So we have to say there is no time for just parading, no time for just wearing pink hats and red shirts. We have to get to work.”
Part of that work is addressing alleged police brutality head-on and unapologetically, particularly when it comes to African American and people of color, Abdullah said.
“We have to say the names, we have to uplift those women who are killed by police, and uplift those people who are killed by the police,” said Abdullah. “Right here in Los Angeles, liberal Los Angeles, since Sunday alone, three black people were killed by the police, including two last night.”
On top of her social activism through her work with Black Lives Matter, promoting women’s rights is important as well to Abdullah. That is a privilege not just limited to white women, an issue she addressed.
“International Women’s Day is not just about freeing white, middle-class women,” Abdullah said. “We have to first recognize that all the women are not white, that International Women’s Day is born out of the struggle and the vision of the global south, of indigenous women, of Latino women, of black women, of Asian women. It comes from us. The freedom of women is rooted in our struggle and we need to take the narrative back from the pink hat and say, ‘You’re welcomed to wear your pink hat, but we need you to do more than wear a pink hat or red shirt. We need you to come out and do the work that’s necessary.'”