CASTLETON — In its fourth year, Women’s March Vermont is heading south.
The event, which is co-hosted by Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund, will be held inside Castleton University’s Casella Theater from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18.
The decision to bring the event to Rutland County was a deliberate one, said Women’s March Vermont organizer Kristen Vrancken.
“We’re really excited to be in southern Vermont,” she said, acknowledging that the state can be “geographically exclusive” with large events like this tending to be held in Montpelier or Burlington.
“There’s some great activism taking place here,” she said.
Vrancken said Saturday’s march promises to be more interactive and intersectional.
“We’re doing things quite a bit differently than the past three years,” she said.
This year’s march is titled “Womxm Rising 2020.” The alternative spelling is intentionally inclusive, said Vrancken. “It’s a movement for all women and nonbinary people ... not just (cisgender) white women.”
Vrancken stressed the importance of spotlighting a diversity of issues, including reproductive, LGBTQ+ and workers’ rights.
“These are issues that should be important to everyone,” she said, adding that the slate of speakers demonstrate where these disparate movements overlap.
“Reproductive justice intersects with racial justice, gender equity, a livable wage and human rights in ways that are undeniable,” said Eileen Sullivan, communications director for Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund.
The event’s keynote speaker will be Rep. Summer Lee. Lee is the first black woman from western Pennsylvania to be elected in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Vrancken characterized her as a leading progressive voice whose community organizing and activist roots will inspire the crowd.
Ashley Messier, executive director of the Women’s Freedom & Justice Initiative, a chapter of the National Council, will speak about criminal justice reform.
Sarah Williams, AFL-CIO vice president local 3977 and medical care coordinator at Lamoille County Mental Health Services will speak and screen a video from Migrant Justice.
Other participants include Bennington resident, activist and member of the Vermont Coalition Ethnic Studies and Social Equity Working Group Mia Schultz who will speak, and LGBTQ+ youth advocate and University of Vermont senior Sade Bolger.
Vrancken said she hopes the issues discussed will resonate with attendees and the speakers will “get people inspired to take action.”
The speakers are just one aspect of the day’s programming. Vrancken stressed the importance of making the event “more action-oriented,”explaining that “Saturday’s movement is about those attending.”
Vrancken said people should “be prepared to take action at their level.”
The event will feature “tiered actions” based on people’s personal level of comfort in order to create a “meaningful” way to get involved.
The end goal, she said, is “to empower and activate” people to take tangible actions. That can be as simple as registering to vote or writing a letter to a legislator to something as ambitious as running for office.
For those who cannot attend because of physical disabilities, mobility issues or transportation barriers, this year’s march will be streamed live online whereby viewers at home will be able to ask questions and comment in real time. Streams will be available at www.facebook.com/womensmarchvt and www.nsnsports.net.
A number of local organizations will have tables at the event, including Rutland NAACP, ACLU-VT, 350 Rutland County, Rights and Democracy and Castleton Indivisible.
Tabitha Moore, president of the Rutland chapter of the NAACP said she is “excited” to have the march in Rutland County.
She said she hopes it will “bring attention to people in our area that they are just as impacted by issues of gender equity as anywhere else.”
For more information, visit www.womensmarchvermont.com.