Chants of “yes we can” and “love not hate make America great” boomed throughout downtown Johnson City on Jan. 19, as hundreds of demonstrators marched for the 2019 Tri-Cities Women’s March. The local march was one of several hundred held across the country.
Supporters from around the region gathered late Saturday morning under the Johnson City tristar sign in Kings Commons, before marching through the city – stopping at the Farmers Market Pavilion for the rally portion of the event. At the rally, musical performances from the Tri-Cities Drum Circle, the Ladybirds and Allison Mullins took place in between speeches given by allies and activists to large crowds huddled under the pavilion to avoid the rain.
While the initial women’s march in January of 2017 was to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, this year’s theme, however, was the #WomensWave – though anti-Trump sentiment still remained.
During the rally, however, many of the speakers focused on empowerment, inclusivity and personal stories. One speaker in particular, ETSU senior and former Student Government Association president Keyana Miller, gave a rousing speech to supporters as she focused on leadership and inclusivity.
“Regardless of who you are and what you think your limitations are today, I’m here to tell you that you deserve a seat at the table,” Miller said during her speech. “I really love getting to talk to groups of people, because it’s something that needs to be said, and it reinforces the idea when the crowd is able to clap and yell along with us, saying, ‘We believe this as well.’”
Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock described speaches by Miller and Science Hill student Rowan Mills as “wonderful.”
“It made me feel proud,” Brock said. “When I was that age, we would’ve never thought about doing that.”
Spectating wasn’t all that Mayor Brock did though, she also recognized local activist Louise Crowe as one of the “great ‘greatest-generation’ matriarchs.” Crowe, 96, said in her speech that she’s been an activist since she was 6 years old and doesn’t intend to stop. The mayor also mentioned how important it is to have more diversity in government.
“My message to young women who ask how I did it: It’s harder,” Brock said. “As they say, ‘It’s harder to climb the ladder to success with high heels on,’ but I just took the high heels off.”
Still, controversy swirled around the 2019 Women’s March, as allegations of anti-semitism were levied against several of the national march’s organizers, and hundreds of affiliates – including the Democratic National Committee – disassociated from the march.
“We’re all here for different reasons, but we’re all here for the empowerment of women,” Miller said. “The women’s march should empower women, and I think we really showed that today in Johnson City.”