By Kimberly Jin
Amid fierce wind and heavy snowfall, hundreds gathered on Federal Plaza in Chicago on Saturday to support women’s rights and young local activists committed to human rights, social justice and health care.
Jazmine-Marie Cruz, a freshman at Roosevelt University, organized the rally after learning that Women’s March Chicago won’t be sponsoring a march this year. She said she was touched and encouraged by the large turnout for the Young Women’s March Rally.
“I’m so proud of everybody who showed up,” the 19-year-old said. “Oppression doesn’t stop because it’s snowing. We obviously showed that no matter what the weather Chicago is ready to fight for the world that we want.”
Featuring speeches and performances by several young local activists, the youth-organized and youth-led rally kicked off with a social justice speech delivered by Cora Haworth, 15, of Beverly, who attended the 2017 Women’s March on Washington as one of its 32 young ambassadors.
“The women’s march exists to fight bigotry and discrimination,” Haworth said. “It’s time for the next generation to raise their voices and commit to dismantling systems of oppression through non-violence resistance and building inclusive spaces for all.”
After the speech, the rally continued to a “spoken word” show titled “Black Birds” by Selma Demir, an 18-year-old artist from Chicago’s South Side. The show uses “oral art” with “lots of strategic lyricism, play on words,” like “hip-hop without music,” Demir said.
“What I’m trying to represent is domestic terrorism, police brutality and then some of the struggles we face as black folks and being biracial in African American communities,” said Demir, adding that her main focus was for people to understand that “we are all human beings and we all have basic needs and basic wants.”
The five-minute performance won cheering and applause.
Tina-Marie Adams, 50, a communications consultant from Rogers Park, was not deterred by the bad weather and joined in the march with her two daughters and their friends. It was her third time participating in a women’s march after joining one in Washington DC in 2017 and one in Chicago last year.
“[No matter] rain, snow or sleet, it’s important to continue to come out because the issues are much bigger than any of us being uncomfortable in cold weather,” Adams said. “These are moments of unity. It’s a moment to continue to spur yourself to move forward and take actions outside of moments like this.”
Cruz started to prepare for the rally in early January when Women’s March Chicago was cancelled citing the high costs of the event. Growing up without seeing many plus size, LGBTQI activist Cruz said she wants to change that for the next generation and is planning to do more activism in the future.
“I have plans,” she said. “I want to bring young women’s march into schools. I want to hold workshops to help young women gain confidence, learn how they can become activists in their own form, and learn they can become allies.”