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Friday, May 14, 2021

A march for unity

As the nation anticipates the presidential inauguration, women in Whatcom County are putting together a march coinciding with Washington D.C.’s Women’s March, taking place Saturday, Jan. 21.

The Women’s March on Washington was created for people to stand together in solidarity for the protection of women’s rights, recognizing that vibrant and diverse communities strengthen the U.S., according to the event’s website.

Erica Littlewood Work is one of the organizers for the Women’s March on Bellingham. Their mission will closely resemble the nationwide movement’s message that women’s rights are human rights, she said.

“The mission is to march in solidarity to lift up the voices of the most marginalized among us, recognizing that they will be the most affected by the new administration,” Littlewood Work said.

Event organizers were concerned with the march’s representation in the media, often hearing the march referred to as a protest.

“Even in the media, some of the big stories say it will be the largest ‘protest’ the United States has ever seen. It is not a protest. It is a march of unity,” Littlewood Work said.

“The mission is to march in solidarity to lift up the voices of the most marginalized among us, recognizing that they will be the most affected by the new administration.”

Erica Littlewood Work

Littlewood Work is in charge of logistics, which entails her working closely with the city for the Women’s March on Bellingham. She became involved after her friend Liz Isaly heard there was to be a march on Washington D.C.

Isaly decided to step forward and do something for Bellingham since no one else had, Littlewood Work said. Isaly invited seven women to be on the organizing committee with her.

An initial committee conversation decided to stick with the name “Women’s March” because it’s for everybody, Littlewood Work said.

The group has to stick with the name because they are receiving liability insurance from the state organization and in order to receive that, they had to have the same name as the national march, she said.  

Seattle is doing a silent march, but Bellingham is not. She said they are excited about people raising their voices together to show support for each other and for marginalized groups.

During open committee meetings, they received comments and questions from people about safety issues, Littlewood Work said. She has been working with the City of Bellingham and the police department to address problems people may have.

There have been conversations about traffic concerns and whether there will be any disruptors that will attend the march. People have been satisfied with what they have done, Littlewood Work said.

Illustration by Darby Womack
Illustration by Darby Womack

One thing that makes the Women’s March on Bellingham different from other national march’s is after the march, there will be a Community Connections Fair, she said.

Currently, the Women’s March on Bellingham’s website shows 23 different organizations  will participate by setting up booths after the march. These organizations include Planned Parenthood, Cascadia Film Festival, Human Rights Task Force and Occupy Bellingham.

The Whatcom chapter of PFLAG, formerly known as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, will also be participating. Francie Gass is one of the co-chairs of the chapter. Their mission is support, advocacy and education, Gass said.

PFLAG wanted to be a part of anything that is about equality for all and progressive values. PFLAG will be joining others who believe in human rights, Gass said.

“I think it is important for all communities to come together and remember what is important to them. Right now we are soon to be in a political environment that is countering the values these community connections are espousing,” Gass said. “It’s a reminder that, ‘Let’s not forget what we really care about’ and gather en masse to show people those values are really important.”

At the fair, PFLAG will be handing out wristbands to remind people PFLAG loves them, Gass said.

The LGBTQ community is still fearful, and they don’t know when it’s safe to speak up or allow people to know who they really are, Gass said. PFLAG is there to say they are safe people and others can talk to them and that PFLAG supports them.

“There is a huge amount of support, not just in Whatcom County but from people who are coming from Skagit and Island County, even some in Snohomish County who are driving up to the Bellingham march,” Littlewood Work said.

Littlewood Work said the march has received great support from some of the commercial entities in town. Graham Construction donated items for traffic control and closing roads. Sanitary Service Company also gave them a discount on sanitation items.

Rodd Pemble is the recycling manager for Sanitary Service Company. He said the company wants to encourage people to be active and vital members of the community.

Sanitary Service Company wants to give recognition and support to those people who are being involved in their community, Pemble said.

The Facebook page for the event shows there are over 5,000 people who have responded either as interested in the event or are attending the march downtown on Saturday. They assume the majority of people won’t be notifying them over Facebook and they are anticipating 4,000 to 5,000 people showing up, Littlewood Work said.

“I’m still at the worry stage because I’m [working] logistics and pulling everything together, but it will be so exciting to have all those voices,” Littlewood Work said.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. with one minute of silence in unison with all the women’s march’s across the nation. According to the website, the march will meet in front of Bellingham City Hall, where people will gather until 11 a.m. to make posters and listen to speakers, poets and musicians.

The march begins at 11 a.m. and will follow a 1.1 mile route, which will not be released due to safety concerns, according to the event website.


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