Homerites knew just how to cut through the cold on Saturday as they marched from the Homer Education and Recreation Complex to WKFL Park: with messages of hope, strength and warmth.
In a movement which began last year in reaction to President Donald Trump’s election, inspired by the social media posts of a woman in Hawaii, hundreds of thousands of women, men and children took to the streets around the country to march for progress and women’s rights. It made its way to Alaska as well, with more than 900 people marching in Homer last year.
The focus of this year’s march in Homer was once again on women’s rights and the fact that they are human rights, said coordinator Sandy Garity.
“We are celebrating the success of the anniversary of the first (march),” she said. “And we still have women’s issues. We have human issues, let me say that.”
The theme of this year’s march was “Together We Rise.”
Another focus of the Women’s March on Homer 2018 was the importance of voting and voter registration, she said. Registrars were ready and waiting at the end of the march in WKFL Park to get members of the community registered to vote.
“We feel that everybody who can vote should be out to vote,” Garity said. “Their vote will make a difference, and we’re encouraging it, however you vote, just to go out and vote.”
Garity estimated about 700 people marched, logged by a volunteer with a clicker near the end of the march. Men and boys joined women and girls in the two-by-two parade up Pioneer Avenue.
One boy, Elliott Greet, 11, held a sign that read “Boys will be boys,” with the second “boys” crossed out and replaced with “good humans.” Greet said he marched for “equality between genders … to respect everyone, whatever their beliefs.” He had some advice for how boys should treat girls.
“Be nice to them. Treat them how you want to be treated,” he said.
West Homer Elementary students Gillian Bremicker and Caitlin Smith, both 12, were surprised to be given the march’s lead banner bearing the theme.
“I’m very excited,” Smith said prior to taking off down Pioneer Avenue. “I’ve never led a parade before.”
The girls were just as excited to be participating in the march with their fellow women and peers.
“I just wanted to support everyone, because it’s really important to everyone,” Bremicker said. “So I thought I would just come and support.”
“And it’s — well it’s our future, so we want to make it better,” Smith added.
Many parents marched with children from toddlers to young adults. Lisa Asselin Martin and Jane Dunn were there with their respective 5 year olds, Webster Martin and Skyra Martin (no relation), who are friends.
“This is the world we’re raising our kids in, and I want to make sure that they know when something’s not right that you can stand up for yourself,” Dunn said. “I want to see changes in the world that they’re going to be taking over.”
“Really, for my son, I really wanted him to experience that a community can make a difference, and that if we work together we can actually change things,” Asselin Martin added. “And to support his mom and his friends and his women friends.”
At the end of the march, presenters from the American Civil Liberties Union-Alaska, Cook Inletkeeper and Bunnell Street Arts Center spoke at the WKFL gazebo, as did a local minister.
“We have seen some amazing things come out of this dark time,” said Tara Rich of the ACLU. “… What do we do in these dark times? Take a seat in the halls of power.”
Pastor Lisa Talbott of Homer United Methodist Church started her talk by holding up a sign that read “#MeToo,” the slogan of people calling attention to incidents of sexual harassment and assault. Talbott related her experiences with harassment and assault from childhood to adulthood, with each anecdote saying, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Advocating for women’s rights doesn’t take away from men, she said.
“Empowering women does not mean disempowering men,” Talbott said. “A rising tide raises all boats.”
As a Christian and Methodist, Talbott put her experiences in the context of her faith.
“Jesus said, ‘I came so you may have life and have it abundantly. … We can choose to live in the fear of scarcity or we choose to live in the hope of abundance,” she said. “I choose hope.”