Since last January’s Women’s March on Washington—and thousands of satellite marches across the United States and world—movements related to women’s issues, rights and equality continue to rise at the forefront of news and conversation. Women and feminists continue to stand in solidarity, a la #MeToo and #TimesUp, and communities seem more engaged than ever. In fact, StarNews reported last August that local protest and demonstration notices filed midway through 2017 nearly doubled from all of 2016.
“It was no surprise the bulk of the permits filed in New Hanover County came from women [and] Women Organizing for Wilmington,” notes Lynn Shoemaker, founding member of WoW!
Since the inaugural Women’s March on Wilmington, WoW! has demonstrated every Monday from noon to 1 p.m., rain or shine, at the steps of City Hall for 45 consecutive weeks. “We have no intention of lulling or ending our demonstrations,” Shoemaker asserts. “We are committed to community outreach for justice, and we’re proving our commitment every week. . . . Several of our small-corps members have filed for public office and/or have applied to government boards. We are not going away.”
The sentiment, “We are still here!” echoes with the 2018 march, scheduled for Sat., Jan. 20, at City Hall’s Innes Park. Hosted by WoW!, now at 1,900 members (tripling since last year), the weekend’s March on Wilmington indicates momentum is not slowing down. In many ways, according to WoW! organizer Stacey McPherson, the gathering is different and even more important.
“Last year the motivation was anger and a feeling of betrayal,” McPherson says. “This year is much more hopeful. Look at the backlash to the new administration. I’ve made and bonded with more female friends in the last year than in the last 10 years! We are speaking out, sharing stories and our pain, demanding fair treatment and we are not backing down!”
“[Women] are still paying attention,” Shoemaker adds, “and the incredibly vast number of women filing to run for office is evidence we are still engaged—and maybe even more so than before. This year it isn’t about anger; it’s about change. Women have bitten down on this movement, and we are not letting go.”
Between myriad presenters from WoW! and Suit Up! Wilmington, to Stand Up Brunswick and League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear, to NHC Association of Educators and Cape Fear Equality, to Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Raise the Wage NC, to Centro Hispano and Jews for Justice Cape Fear Chapter, and on and on, there is no shortage of speakers. As well, Progressive Coalition will introduce their collective progressive radio program “Common Ground.”
“Just looking at all the engaged entities, it is easy to hone what the issues are for us and to see how we have a diverse and intersectional community who share the same and similar concerns,” Shoemaker observes. “We are digging into a new era of collaboration, sharing resources and missions. We have definitely identified that there is power in unity!”
Poet Delthea Simmons will read from her original works, while WoW! will recognize their Woman of the Year recipient Sarah Johnson. Folks can read about all of the weekend’s guest speakers on WoW!’s Facebook page and the Women’s March on Wilmington event page. The event has evolved into welcoming a larger amount of participants, complete with children’s activities with “Big Bird,” live music from all-female performers, and food trucks running throughout the afternoon as like-minded women, men and families mingle.
“I just received confirmation local female musicians Johanna Winkel, Cheyenne Champion and Blake Barnette will be with us,” McPherson details. “And, of course, our rock-steady rock star, Laura McLean. Vittles Food Truck will be joining us and we just added Chef Pat Green of Soulful Twist to the food roster.There are hardly any food trucks run by women in Wilmington and I’m over the moon she’s going to be with us!”
WoW! hopes to have a coffee vendor on site for the rain-or-shine event—so attendees should bring raincoats with their pink hats and chairs/blankets for sitting. Commemorative Women’s March 2018 and WoW! T-shirts will be sold on site, and as a member of the Pussyhat Project, members are busy sewing, knitting, and crocheting hats to give away, too.
Nevertheless, Shoemaker admits they had not planned on hosting a satellite anniversary march but rather support any others happening in nearby cities. Until requests came pouring in—daily. “We had to accept the women in our community were demanding we have one at home,” she explains.
“Our mission for the past year has been to focus on making change happen at home. So, here we are, and it was completely the right decision for us.”
The one-year anniversary event was born of a collective objective of improving lives and protecting women and their families in and around the Cape Fear. Unlike typical rallies, all speakers identify as female. All guest artists are women. Most vendors are women, and all proceeds will go toward next year’s march. WoW! is currently compiling a directory of women-owned businesses of ILM to release soon, too. “Again, it’s a movement not a moment,” Shoemaker says. “We aren’t going anywhere. We’ve dug in our heels.”
As for ways people can get involved or take action pre- or post- march, there will be a pre-party at Ted’s on the River on Thursday to make posters for the event, and there will be a post-party at Bottega (723 N. 4th St.) with meals available by The Foxes Boxes.
WoW! protests will continue every Monday, noon-1 p.m., at 102 N. Third St. at the steps of City Hall. Men and women of all ages, backgrounds and creeds are welcome.
“We have a lot of respect for our male advocates,” Shoemaker says. “We have as many men attend our demonstrations each week as we do women. . . . Our concerns vary from week to week as we support our progressive sisters in their endeavors with current issues, so I encourage those interested in supporting us to please ‘Like’ our Facebook page.”
WoW! is starting its second year of Women, Words, and Wine Book Club at Old Books on Front Street, which will meet every third Wednesday from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. It starts this month with “The Autobiography of Margaret Sanger.”
WoW! meets at noon every second and fourth Wednesday at Princess and Second streets (across from Bespoke) each month to ride WAVE buses to engage with regular bus riders about policy, voting and letting their voices be heard. The eat in women-owned restaurants for lunch, visit organizations like Planned Parenthood, and organize pop-up protests.
“Our biggest concerns right now is contaminated drinking water in Wilmington, the threat of offshore drilling, the lack of balanced representation on our public school board,” Shoemaker lists, “and, of course, helping to keep alive on the front burner the #MeToo conversation—and equality for all. Other concerns include funding DEQ, ending classroom size chaos, protecting fair courts and fair elections, and all the prevalent-isms. If it affects women and our families, then WoW! is interested in it.”
Folks can contact WoW! via firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook or Twitter. Coming soon: WOWilmington.com.
Women’s March Pre-Party
Thu., Jan. 18, 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Ted’s on the River • 2 Castle St.
Women’s March on Wilmington
Sat., Jan. 20, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
City Hall, Innes Park • 102 N. 3rd St.
Women’s March Post-Party
Sat., Jan. 20, 4 p.m. – until
Bottega • 723 N. 4th St.