“We as citizens need to remember our president works for us. Our senators and legislators works for us. But we have to speak with a unified voice of how we want them to carry our voice forward. And if we are silent, they aren’t going to hear us.”
This is the point of the Unity March and Celebration being held Friday, Jan. 20 at 4:30 p.m. at the International Park Gazebo in downtown Toledo. The march is a sister-march to the national Women’s March on Washington happening on Jan. 21.
Lisa McDuffie, president and CEO of YWCA Northwest Ohio, who is hosting the march in Toledo, said the Unity March was being planned even before Election Day, before the country knew who the next president of the United States would be.
“We came together as an agency, somewhere halfway through the election to really talk about the divisiveness and the nastiness that was starting to come out,” McDuffie said. “The comments that were being made about Latinas and African-Americans and women and all of that. That’s what started our agency to saying, ‘Post-election, we need to bring the community together.’”
At the time that the YWCA started to plan their march, polls nationwide showed the 2016 democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as the favored frontrunner. McDuffie said many believed she was going to win.
“Even if she would have been president, we still would’ve been having a march,” McDuffie said. “From that perspective, we were that sold on the need to bring like-minded individuals that have common interests together to carry one voice and one message that we care about our fellow citizens.”
The theme of ‘unity’ stems from events occurring in other communities, including hate crimes against Latinas, women, Muslim Americans and African-Americans. The YWCA wanted to show that those things are not acceptable in Toledo, Ohio.
“And it was like, ‘Why are we back to that?’,” McDuffie said. “I’m young enough where luckily I didn’t see things like that. But I’m a historian enough where I’ve watched enough to see where it used to be and I feel like that was being reintroduced into our culture and into making it almost acceptable to treat people incorrectly.”
McDuffie said for her personally, she first started to feel the call to action when President-elect Donald Trump made his first comment about ‘building a wall.’
“Our mouths fell open and we scratched our heads and said, ‘Did he really just say that?’,” McDuffie said. “We said that quietly, we said that in safe circles, but many of us didn’t say it outwardly. And then there were comments made about Muslims and comments made about African-Americans. And so far you have those small subsets, folks that were scratching their heads going, ‘Wait a minute, how dare he?’”
Marchers attending the Unity March will be coming out for a variety of different reasons. For some, President-elect Donald Trump isn’t the candidate they wanted. For others, they want to stand up for legislation that may now be at risk. To McDuffie, those reasons all fall into their common interest to support one another.
“Now it’s time, clearly, that all those groups come together because an attack on one is an attack on all,” McDuffie said.
Lily Ostrander, a third-year pharmacy major at the University of Toledo and a part of the planning committee, said that the march will be a great way to bring together different community members in one place.
“During the past election season, a lot of people felt isolated or divided among party lines or viewpoints,” Ostrander said. “This march is meant to bring everyone in the community together and to help us brace ourselves for the next four years. Unity means sticking together and supporting our neighbors, even if we might disagree. The divisions we create among ourselves will only serve as diversions from the real problem.”
Ostrander said that the theme of ‘unity’ speaks to the community to keep them united as the next presidency begins.
“I want to be involved in this march because I think it’s a great statement to march on Inauguration Day and acknowledge that we, as a community, cannot be divided by hate and we will not tolerate it to any degree,” Ostrander said. “And it’s funny, because I’m not originally from Toledo, but I have lived here for the past few years and I’ve fallen in love with this city and the people within it.”
For more information about the march, visit the event Facebook page, YWCA Unity Event.