2017 Women's March in Tucson
Yesterday Tucson Weekly published an article
about the upcoming Tucson Women’s March on Jan. 20. The story did not include information about the communities that have felt mistreated during the creation of this event.
Summer Aguilera, a member of the Chukson Tucson Water Protectors, went to the first public organizers meeting for the Tucson Women’s March almost a year ago. From the beginning, she began to notice problematic behaviors from within the organization’s leadership.
She said the leaders, many of whom are white, gave titles but no real decision-making power to some of the groups they claim to represent. They wouldn’t allow Spanish-speaking women to give speeches at the march, claiming their accents were too thick. She said they tokenized women of color and LGBTQ+ groups by believing they had done their part just by scheduling people of those identities to speak at the event.
In response to these actions, a community statement was released in opposition of the march. The community members who drafted the statement made it clear they are not speaking for everyone, since there are women of color and LGBTQ+ folks who will participate in the event and have had different experiences with the leadership.
In December, Aguilera brought her concerns to the leaders of the Tucson Women’s March, but was told she was being “uncivil.” She was accompanied by white allies who repeated her exact concerns, to which the leaders welcomingly acknowledged. Aguilera said she and organizers like her were told they are the cause of the divide in the women’s march, and that they were creating the problem.
The national women’s march movement has struggled with inclusivity since the beginning. The public fallout of the Women’s March, Inc. organization over accusations of keeping organizers of color powerless and anti-Semitism beliefs echo similar rifts happening in women’s march organizations across the country. In some of the most liberal cities, women of color and LGBTQ+ folks have experienced pushback
from the very organizations that claim to champion their daily struggles.
Here in Tucson, Aguilera believes the women’s march is not really for marginalized people, it’s for those with privilege to feel good about themselves. She said organizing an event makes them feel like they’re being allies, but by maintaining control of it they are only taking resources away from those who actually need it. She said they don’t talk about their own complicity and actions that perpetuate oppression or attend community events organized by the marginalized groups themselves, they only focus on putting together this symbolic march.
Local groups in support of this position include Black Lives Matter Tucson, Coalición de Derechos Humanos, Chukson Water Protectors, Border Patrol Victims Network, Sustainable Nations, TYLO (Tierra Y Libertad Organization), Free the Children Coalition, Flowers and Bullets, Sex Workers Outreach Project, Bruv Luv, Pan Left, Split Seeds Production, O’odham Anti Border Collective, Alliance for Global Justice, Take Back the Night, Borderlinks, Tucson Lobaz, GLOO Factory, Green Party of Pima County Chair Sara Mae Williams (Tohono O’odham) and Tucson Brown Berets - Citlamina Xochitlquetzalli along with numerous local activists. Aguilera said the list has grown longer since they released it.
Cynthia Bistrain, the chair of the Tucson Women’s March, said she was very saddened to see their statement. She said this is a difficult space to be in and everyone is plagued by making their own assumptions, but she and the other leaders, many of whom are older women, are still willing to have those difficult conversations.
Marla Pacheco, a representative of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos, said they have received support from across the country since they released the statement. Groups in other cities have had the same problems with women’s marches in their cities that claim inclusivity but don’t support it.
Their opposition to the women’s march has actually united communities that have equally been sidelined from the mainstream liberal movement, according to Aguilera.
She and others are planning their own demonstration for International Women’s Day in early March. She said they will give a genuine platform for marginalized groups to speak and will be a safe space for all. More details will be available in the near future.