In a show of alliance with women worldwide, 200 St. Croix women, men, teens and kids marched down King Street Saturday morning. The rally marked the first anniversary of the Global Women’s March and of the 2017 Women’s March on St. Croix.
The 2018 theme: Power to the Polls.
From Sunday Market Square to the bandstand at Ft. Christiansvaern, they carried homemade placards and chanted as they marched: “Hear us, see us, we are here! Hear us, see us, we are here!”
Chants of “Women hold up 1/2 the sky,” and “Women’s work is important work” resounded in the street, as did “Awe ah we in solidarity!”
St. Croix Political Action Network (SPAN) coordinated the march and the program that followed.
“SPAN is a spinoff of the 2017 march. We felt our collective voice needed to be organized into one fundamental entity,” said Carol Burke, former V.I. senator and a founding member of SPAN.
The congenial but earnest group represented various ethnicities, religious persuasions, and political views. Several had participated in the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. on President Donald Trump’s first full day in office.
“Take note of how many men are here,” said Wayne Etheridge, on the scene at Sunday Market Square. “We are supporting human rights as well as women’s rights.”
John Abramson, Jr., former supervisor of elections, marched for moral support, the cause, and the candidate, he said. He gestured toward Alicia Barnes.
While Saturday’s gathering was not overtly political, Burke pointed out that “politics brings an awareness of the importance of being a part of the process and the changes that come with that.”
“We are pushing local issues to bring about the outcomes that will bring a better quality of life to the residents of the Virgin Islands,” Burke said.
Along with other SPAN founders, including Kay Christiansen and Janis Morariu, Burke wants to demonstrate the serious power in voting. She grumbled about the lack of online voter registration in the Virgin Islands and called it a form of voter suppression.
“We want to shepherd people to the polls,” she said. “Ultimately, the power is in the vote. This rally is important because it’s an election year.”
Master of ceremonies at the bandstand, Burke introduced speakers in turn – Ophelia Nemmy Jackson, local Muslim woman Ghadeer Taha who helped carry the banner in the march, Alicia Barnes, and Sue Apple. Jackson and Barnes are first time candidates for Senate.
“Ladies, know your worth!” Jackson cried out. “The time for talk is over; we need action. This can be manifested, if we know our worth!” she said, making it her refrain.
A cancer survivor and health educator at St. Croix Educational Complex, Jackson encouraged women to be optimistic and original, to recognize their skills, to get active, and to use their abilities to “raise the bar.”
She advised women to mind their health and to trust in God.
“The magnitude of your worth can never be felt if you are not healthy,” she said.
“Get involved, stop the talk, know your worth and let it be felt,” Jackson said.
Ghadeer Taha then challenged the crowd, “Why are you here? Don’t answer, just think.”
She came because she cared about people, the country, and our home, she told the crowd.
“We will not let sexism win; we will not let racism win,” Taha said.
Her counsel: Take action. Go forth and seek knowledge.
Third in the program lineup, Alicia Barnes implored women to answer the call to action.
“The future is at stake, and the time to act is now,” she said. “We must answer the call to action by registering to vote, by voting, and by running for office.”
She spoke of grass roots engagement, “We have an obligation to be the voice of the voiceless.”
Sue Apple, the rally’s final speaker, jumped to the point: Vote 2018.
DJ Trev cranked up the music, and the rally concluded with folks dancing the “electric Slide” across the lawn in high spirits, in the morning sunshine, at the Christiansted National Historic Site.
Kay Christiansen had a large hand in planning the event and felt it was very successful.
“We are up and marching; we are up and dancing,” she said.
“Put it on your calendar for next year. We will be here!” Christiansen said.