CAPITAL REGION -- While Tamara Flanders was inspired by the concepts behind the now-famous Women’s March which took place in Washington D.C. following President Trump’s inauguration, she also knows that being a part of a large group of thousands of marchers may be intimidating for some.
More than 470,000 women and their allies participated in that initial march on Jan. 17, 2017, with an estimated 7 million marchers worldwide. According to The Washington Post, roughly 250 marches and rallies followed in 2018 with up to 735,978 marchers participating at more than 300 locations in 2019.
This year, YWCA NorthEastern NY is hosting its own Women’s March in Schenectady, in what Flanders calls an attempt to create more of a “small-city” atmosphere for those who want to show support for “reproductive rights and climate-change” awareness without having to travel a great distance or become part of a massive crowd.
However, she isn’t the only one organizing a march in the Capital Region. Two 13-year-old Saratoga Springs residents, Emma and Maggie Anthes, are also coordinating an event for their hometown in order to provide their neighbors with a local alternative.
The Jan. 18 displays of solidarity may be more convenient options for Schenectady and Saratoga Springs residents to attend, with a date for the ever-popular Albany march still to be announced. Organizers of both marches are excited to be leading their respective events.
Flanders, who works as a housing coordinator for the YWCA and is one of 10 working behind the scenes to organize Saturday’s event, said that she and four co-organizers began planning the Schenectady march in November. To date, more than 300 people have indicated they’re interested on its event page on Facebook. While Flanders is hoping that around 500 participants show up for the march, she and her team know that there’s no way to guess how many will actually turn out.
The organizers for next Saturday’s march in Schenectady, whom Flanders refers to as “go-getters,” have attended previous Women’s Marches in New York City, Washington D.C., Woodstock, even Seneca Falls, so they’re hoping to use some of their favorite aspects from each to bring this local march to life. Flanders says, while she is hoping for the “good turnout,” of 500 people, she has been to marches that expected only 500 attendees that wound up with 10,000.
In addition to reproductive rights, the Schenectady marchers hope to address concerns about immigration and climate change, according to organizers.
No matter how many or few attend the march, members of the Schenectady Police Department will be on hand to escort them, according to Sgt. Matthew Dearing.
The Schenectady march will start at City Hall on Jay Street at 11 a.m. with a half hour of speeches. Participants will then travel .7 miles to the YWCA at 44 Washington Ave. for the rest of the speakers, information tables and a reception.
Sarah Rogerson of WAMC, Kim Siciliano, CEO of YWCA, and Hemavattie Ramtahal, community educator of Planned Parenthood’s local chapter, are among that event’s featured speakers.
“More than half of the residents of Schenectady County are women and girls,” said Rogerson, who hopes the event will “inspire the next generation” of local women. “This election year it is especially critical that we come together as neighbors to continue the mission of the Women's March movement: building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect."
Coinciding with the Schenectady march, the Saratoga Springs march starts at 11 a.m. in Congress Park at the Trask Memorial Fountain. Jen Wilcox, who hosts the Facebook event page, says her 13-year-old daughters, Emma and Maggie Anthes, are the “impetus” behind the march, organizing the event for the community.
Emma Anthes wrote in an email that she and her sister initially planned to travel to Washington to participate, but realized that organizing a hometown march would allow more of her peers to get involved. Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, City Supervisor Tara Gaston, and a representative from Planned Parenthood will be speaking at the event, according to Anthes, who hopes the event brings out at least 100 residents.
“Because we, the organizers, are young, we are encouraging young people especially to come,” Anthes writes. “... With the march, we want to promote gender equality and equal rights for all people. We also want to dissolve gender stereotypes.”
For those looking to show off or share some genius wordplay for either of the local marches, the YWCA will be hosting a “sign-making party” at its Washington Street headquarters in Schenectady next Monday beginning at 6:30 p.m. Flanders encourages locals to attend and share their ideas for “excellent signage,” adding that “it’s good to show your face and be part of a community of change.”
Rogerson says an event like next Saturday’s march taking place in Schenectady is “especially fitting.”
"[Schenectady] has a long history of powerful women who have transformed their communities through social change,” Rogerson said. “Schenectady was home to the first Upstate woman elected to the New York State Assembly in 1919, before women were even allowed to vote. This is just one example of a long line of firsts in engineering, medicine, science and the arts achieved by pioneering and socially conscious Schenectady women."
Ramtahal, who resided in multiple countries before immigrating to Schenectady in 1999, hopes the event serves as an opportunity for residents of all different backgrounds to get involved.
"People in Schenectady have made their message loud and clear – we will not tolerate attacks on our bodies, our families, or our communities,” she wrote in an email. “Now more than ever, we must raise our voices and advocate for a more equitable, just world; a world where everyone has access to vital health care - including safe, legal abortion.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified YWCA NorthEastern NY and misspelled the name of the organization's CEO, Kim Siciliano. It also failed to state that in addition to reproductive rights, the Schenectady marchers hope to address concerns about immigration and climate change.