By Record Staff Writer Lori Gilbert
Posted Jan 12, 2019 at 3:03 PM
After I wrote about participating in the women’s march in San Jose the day after the most offensive president toward women I’ve ever seen was inaugurated in 2017, a reader sent an email saying she wished she could have gone to a march.
Her circumstances didn’t allow for it, but she wanted to do something in Stockton with other like-minded women.
Now, she can.
The first Stockton’s Women’s March is Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. at Eden Park and ending at Martin Luther King Plaza. El Dorado Street will be closed so women, men and children can make the walk from the park at Acacia and El Dorado streets to the plaza at El Dorado and Oak streets. Among the speakers who will be a part of the part of the celebration that will run until 2 p.m. are Anna Tubbs, Tama Brisbane, Missy Magdalera and DJ Britney Marquez.
Although the first women’s march in 2017, which drew 5 million people across the globe, was largely spurred by politics, the Stockton Women’s March has another objective.
“When we were soliciting speakers, we intentionally solicited women of color, of the LGBTQ community, individuals we felt they didn’t have in other marches. It was intentional that they be represented in our march,” said Tashante McCoy-Ham, founder of The Owl (One Woman’s Love) Movement, which worked with the Young Women’s Task Force to organize Stockton’s march.
It’s a first for the city. The San Joaquin County Commission on the Status of Women, founded in 1974, held rallies — in front of the courthouse to protest the pay of secretaries, and on behalf of a woman’s right to choose — according to founder Beverly Fitch McCarthy, but this march is a true first.
“I’m excited about this,” Fitch McCarthy said, noting not everyone can attend a women’s march in another city. “First of all, time is valuable and there’s the cost of fuel to get there. I think this is smaller and more intimate. You won’t get lost in the masses. It will be a big family affair when you think about it. Stockton, after all, is the 13th-largest city in California. Why shouldn’t we have our own? There are a lot of feminists in Stockton.”
Members of the Owl Movement and Young Women’s Task Force, an affiliate of the American Association of University Women, had worked together to get their members to last year’s women’s march in Sacramento. They chartered a bus and made signs together.
“It was pretty cool and inspiring,” said McCoy-Ham, who started the Owl Movement six years ago to inspire and empower women.
Having lost a brother to gun violence and given birth to a stillborn, McCoy-Ham turned her grief into something positive. Her organization has a mentorship program for young girls, which will have a table at Martin Luther King Plaza and supports mothers who have lost children to gun violence and in non-violent ways.
Members of the Young Women’s Task Force reached out to McCoy-Ham last year about the Sacramento Women’s March and a bond formed.
“Empowerment drew us together,” McCoy-Ham said. “It was very inspirational to connect with women we wouldn’t necessarily have been connected with, to hear a lot of our issues were similar.”
The experience in Sacramento was unlike any other.
“Adrenaline comes from being around 30,000 people or however many were there,” McCoy-Ham said. “Empowerment comes from that. It produced an energy and memories that will last in our minds forever, along with relationships we’ve been able to establish within the organizations and the women we’ve been able to connect with.”
As great as the Sacramento event was, members of the two local groups came away with a desire to bring a march to Stockton.
“We wanted to have our own identity,” McCoy-Ham said. “Everyone is welcome here. There’s a space for all individuals. It’s about solidarity and community. At the end of the day, the only way we can progress is to stop people from slipping through the cracks and the way to do that is to see the value of collaboration and working together.”
Another goal of the march is to spotlight Stockton, and women, McCoy-Ham said, are the key.
“If you look in the history books, some of the most amazing times and things that were brought forth came from women leaders,” McCoy-Ham said. “They always carried the burden of making things betters. We wanted to go into 2019 with this march, with women taking charge for the city, putting a positive light on our city as women.”
I, for one, hope this march is a great success. McCoy-Ham is correct when she says that being with like-minded people and walking together is empowering. You realize you are not alone in your concerns and beliefs, hopes and fears, and a peaceful march is an amazing way to share them.
A leader like McCoy-Ham is an inspiration.
“I’m always going to go for the gold,” McCoy-Ham said. “I’ve been shot, buried my brother, buried a child. I’ve been able to do amazing things through the vision God gave me through those experiences. It’s important to me as I walk through Stockton, where I was born and raised, everywhere I place my feet, to leave a message of empowerment. I can choose to be bitter or better. I always choose better. We had a rough time. The (family) unit was important.
“Everyone has that innate desire to feel they belong to something and feel loved. We need that in the city. Stockton can become that place we desire, and people are working hard to create it.”