“People united, will never be divided!”
“Show me what democracy looks like!” “This is what democracy looks like!”
“What do we want?” “Justice!” “When do we want it?” “Now!”
The chants and cheers at the 4th annual San Jose Women’s March were deafening. Thousands poured onto the streets from City Hall to Arena Green in downtown San Jose on Saturday to rally at Women’s March 2020, titled “Our Power Counts.”
Protima Pandey, director for Santa Clara County’s Office of Women’s Policy, emphasized the power of this year’s march ahead of the critical Census 2020 count. Santa Clara County has scores of hard-to-count communities, among which are women.
“Our office is one of the few in the nation that has created a subcommittee for women,” Pandey said. “(Women) are waiting to get counted. We need to help them get counted. You need to get counted, and you need to make sure five more people get counted.”
— Loan-Anh Pham (@theLoanAnhLede) January 18, 2020
Not only do women need to be counted in the census, activist Sera Fernando said, women need to be counted in all areas of life.
“We need to make sure all women are counted and all women are represented, in any space that we occupy,” said Fernando, 40, who’s also an advocate for the trans and non-binary community, as well as a representative from Silicon Valley Pride and Women’s Equality 2020. “When I talk about all women, it’s every single woman. We cannot exclude any woman of any religion, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
Among hundreds of creative and powerful signs, Jane Mulcaster, one of the thousands who marched on Saturday, held up the world… or at least, her 3D depiction of it.
Mulcaster, 53, constructed a model of Earth from a giant yoga ball complete with blue netting to symbolize melting ice caps and rising sea levels as well as red, orange and yellow pom-poms to mark worldwide wildfires. The globe took five hours to make.
“I just envisioned demonstrating, in three dimensions, our planet and the effects of global climate change,” Mulcaster, a longtime Willow Glen resident, said.
She attended the march with her daughter and friends, representing the group Mothers Out Front, a community organization that works to promote climate policy. Women, Mulcaster said, have a “unique” role in advocating against climate change.
“We represent the future,” Mulcaster continued. “We bring future generations into the world, and as mothers, we feel a particular urgency to make sure that our children have a future to grow into.”
At the “call-to-action alley” at Arena Green Park, where multiple organizations gathered to provide resources and information, Louansee Moua and her family stood out by wearing spectacular traditional Hmong costumes.
Moua, 43, and her family immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s as refugees following the Vietnam War. She has now fulfilled a long career in government, currently serving as deputy chief of staff for San Jose Councilmember Dev Davis.
The costume is a source of cultural pride, Moua said, but it’s also an attempt to highlight the strength of Hmong womanhood in a traditionally patriarchal society. “We want our kids to see that women can do anything and everything too,” Moua said. “And around the world and around the country to Hmong women: we also have power, we can speak for ourselves, we can do things for ourselves.”
Jessica Saini, a 29-year-old inventory analyst, said her attendance was an act of resistance to girls of her culture being told that they “can’t.” She’s tired of being “on the sidelines,” Saini added.
“I’ve always been told that I can’t,” Saini said. “I’ve always been seen as a rebel, as a bad person, for standing up for myself.”
Saini told San José Spotlight that she hopes for “any” type of progress to occur in 2020.
“It’s kind of ridiculous that we even have to do this in the first place. We’ve been here this whole time,” Saini said. “Being at the march is like, ‘Hey, I’m here. See me. You can’t ignore me anymore.’”
Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.