Corvallis’s third annual Women’s March and Rally took place on Saturday January 19, beginning and ending at the bandstand in Central City Park. Organized and hosted by the Heart of the Valley Democratic Socialists of America, the March was opened by Co-Chair Paige Kreisman, who declared that the marchers were “here to march against cis-heteronormative patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy.”
Kreisman was followed by Iranian activist and Oregon State University PhD student Nasim Basiri, who mentioned that when she spoke at last year’s Women’s March, she had been harassed by men at her department at Oregon State. She had found this quite hurtful, especially considering one of her harassers was a gentleman of color. All of which went to show, she said, that oppression could come from all sides, but her presence this year was proof that Iranian women are difficult to intimidate.
The third speaker was Corvallis High School student Ella Morton, founder of the CHS Young Democratic Socialists of America. She said she had been ignited into activism by Kreisman and by the dramatic rise of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Of AOC, Morton said, “She’s not just in power, she’s pushing from the inside.” Morton said she was driven by a vivid dream of “an alternate, better reality” in which she could have both a job and a home life, and in which she could expect to have her opinions taken seriously by men.
Morton was followed by the Raging Grannies, who came onto the bandstand in colorful home-made aprons and led the marchers in a rousing song to the familiar tune of “The Union Maid,” reminding one and all that women “hold up half the sky.”
Our very own Editor-in-Chief Stevie Beisswanger spoke next. Being that she was on the job at her other place of employment, as a Skills Trainer at the Children’s Farm Home, she expressed her awe and appreciation for today’s youth and survivors of extreme adversity, such as trans and nonbinary individuals who are “not afraid to wear their pronouns on their sleeves.” Beisswanger made it clear that these individuals will not stand for systematic oppression as they rise. Though she said she did not think it was appropriate to speak on behalf of the The Advocate, she did encourage continued feedback and support from the community to help sustain and improve the paper’s platform of positive growth and advocacy.
Speaker AVA expressed doubt about the value and wisdom of even holding a Women’s March, questioning slogans like, “This is not normal.” “Sad to say,” she explained, “this is normal. The evils of Donald Trump have existed under every President – he’s just too sloppy to hide it.” She criticized former President Obama, saying, “we cannot continue to support milquetoast ‘reformists’ who take money from the corporations that oppress us. Now is not the time to vote. Now is the time to act. The state is not going to save us!”
Speaker Dharma Mirza echoed AVA’s call to act without waiting for government entities to respond, saying, “we are enough to protect our community,” and urged people to look out for those who are acting on behalf of the community and are exhausting their energies doing so: “When someone who is [already] struggling puts the community first, step up and help.”
Nancy Russo of Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates spoke with great force on behalf of women’s access to health care, recalling how “Roe vs. Wade changed my life.” She reminded the crowd that “medical bankruptcies run over 400 a day in Oregon – and I can document that… If people can’t get medical care, what happens? They get sicker, they go to emergency rooms, they die!”
Russo also reminded her audience that Americans pay more for insufficient health care than any other developed country, with enormous amounts money going to insurance and drug companies instead of to doctors.
Native American speaker Luhui Whitebear took care to explain that she was not a Kalapuya, and gave thanks to the Kalapuya people who were forcibly removed from their land, where Corvallis now stands. She went on to denounce domestic violence, especially against Native and trans women, and lamented the fact that the Violence Against Women Act had not been reauthorized.
She mentioned that Native women had asked marchers to wear red in solidarity with Native women who had been murdered, abused, or had gone missing. She mentioned that someone had remarked “red is for Republicans,” with Whitebear replying that nobody was entitled to tell Native women how to engage in Native activism.
The final speaker was Brandy Fortson, the nonbinary parent and activist who organized the event, who thanked all marchers for coming, and thanked everyone who had helped them recover during a recent injury. Fortson recounted how, amid the hope of the election of President Obama in 2008, they had experienced the tragedy of giving birth to a brain-dead child, a trauma which was added to by a mountain of medical bills. Fortson called on the marchers to demand Medicare For All, so future parents would not have to go through a similar ordeal.
Paige Kreisman returned to the bandstand to specifically urge marchers to call Senator Ron Wyden and ask him to stop opposing Medicare For All.
After the rally, the march began, making a long pass through downtown streets before finally ending up back in Central Park where it disbanded in a hopeful atmosphere. The event was well-attended, with headcount estimates ranging from 500-800 attendees.
By John M. Burt