Southern Indiana residents traveling to Indy for Women's March event
Jan. 13--SOUTHERN INDIANA -- Deborah Henderson is taking action.
Scrolling through Facebook, or media websites, or President Donald Trump's Twitter feed only nourishes her belief that the country "is going to hell in a handbasket."
So on Jan. 20, she'll be one of 54 people aboard a bus bound for Indianapolis to participate in the Reclaiming Our State: Power to the Polls march, which is a sister event to rallies across the nation that weekend -- and a jumpstart to Henderson's new commitment to activism.
"The march itself is symbolic, but it's also a symbol of joining together with other like-minded people in hopefully taking the next step and see where I can make a difference or assist," said Henderson, a downtown Jeffersonville resident and the incoming chairperson of the Jeffersonville Neighborhood Leadership Alliance. "We have to start taking action. We've got to stop twiddling our thumbs."
The Jan. 20 event comes almost exactly one year after the inaugural Women's March on Washington, with a fresh focus: Power to the Polls, which will launch a national voter registration tour. The march, staged by the Washington, D.C.,-based Women's March organization, aims to channel momentum from the historic 2017 event into workable strategies and results at the polls in the November midterm election.
While the #MeToo movement has shined a national spotlight on sexual harassment and abuse toward women, motivation behind the Jan. 20 anniversary march encompasses a broad platform of what Indiana University Southeast professor Veronica Medina calls a new women's movement, with the end goal being sweeping change in elected offices.
"I think what's happening with the current march is a celebration of women's commitment to being more politically active, more politically engaged," said Medina, assistant professor of sociology at IUS. "It really demonstrates to the public that women have a lot of untapped political potential."
That's not to discount the impact of MeToo, an initiative begun in 2006 that encourages women to speak out against sexual violence. The movement went viral in October with the social media hash tag #MeToo, and has resulted in the downfall of dozens of high-powered men across a variety of professions.
"I think this #MeToo movement is going to have a lot of impact with what's happening with the march on the 20th," Medina said. "What the #MeToo movement has done is demonstrate that you can build alliances across industries, across different demographic groups."
The divisive climate hovering over the country has inspired people like Henderson to take action.
The Clark County Democratic Party chartered a bus to Indianapolis for the march -- sponsored by Women's March on Washington-Indiana -- that sold out in just over a day. Henderson has a seat.
"This is not a partisan issue we're facing," said Henderson, who claims to be a lifelong independent. "It's not a good environment of any kind. It's killing us physically, and it's killing us emotionally. It's toxic."
Kate Miller, chair of the Clark County Democrats, and her caravan are eager to voice support for issues like equal pay and reproductive choice, and to address sexual assault and violence -- regardless of who is president.
"I don't think anything specifically the president has done lights a fire beneath us," Miller said. "It's just a very general statement of the world today. We would like to make a livable wage that is the same amount a male makes for a job of similar status. It's issues like that, and you add the #MeToo movement on top of it, and it's all a perfect conglomeration of ideas that sort of melded into a rally in Indianapolis and across the nation."
Nicole Yates, who plans to attend the Indianapolis march, is encouraged by the results at the polls since the 2016 presidential election, including seven cities electing their first black mayors and the first Latina women to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.
"I am excited that women are still energized about the election and about our issues being dealt with in a way that is considerate and respectful," said Yates, a New Albany resident and president of the New Albany-Floyd County NAACP. "It's the energy that we have today that carries through the midterm election that could mean that we are on the verge of being successful in being heard, and that our issues are being dealt with appropriately."
That's exactly what Medina predicts, going so far as to say these are historic times -- and it goes deeper than the women's movement. With issues like immigration, specifically Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and the pushback against President Trump's travel ban, combined with women's issues, the stage is set for a New Age legislative battlefield.
"It is a historic moment in that the people in Congress do not represent many of the views that the American majority holds," Medina said. "What I think we want to do is swing that balance of power back to the people, and take it away from the elites."