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Free our sisters, free ourselves

The international women’s day marchers take a stand

On Sunday, March 8, citizens organized a march through Baltimore to bring awareness to gender inequality and social injustice in celebration of International Women’s Day. The event kicked off with a vigil for our fallen sisters who’ve worked hard for women all over the world to reach the state they’re in today. Several UMBC students were present, and one even sang a song commemorating a famous human rights icon.

International Women’s Day, celebrated for over a century, aims to celebrate disenfranchised women around the globe, including sweatshop laborers, mothers, activists, workers, artists, strippers and anyone who identifies as a woman.

It’s an annual holiday held on March 8, and this year women and girls around the world chose to celebrate it mostly through social media campaigns. The People’s Power Assembly of Baltimore hosted a march from the Health Care for the Homeless building to the Brown Memorial Woodbury Presbyterian Church for a light supper, stopping by the women’s detention center along the way.

The march began promptly at 3:30 p.m. with a short vigil dedicated to female ancestors and women’s lives lost in the past. The speaker led the vigil by pouring a bit of water from a bottle onto the sidewalk as surrounding marchers called out women’s names: Nina Simone, Ella Baker, Mahalia Jackson and more.

The line then proceeded down Fallsway towards the Baltimore City Detention Center chanting “Free our sisters! Free ourselves!” and “Que queremos? Justicia! Cuando? Ahora!” Once they reached the prison, an open mic was held where marchers were allowed to read poetry, speak their minds or sing songs.

Sharon Black, a People’s Power Assembly leader, shared some words on the state of incarcerated women and female laborers in contemporary America: “People don’t deserve to be locked behind bars and treated like animals,” she said into a megaphone. “Our sisters deserve respect … We’re not only marching for control of our own bodies, for defense of Planned Parenthood … because that’s only one half of the puzzle. The other half of the puzzle is the right to raise healthy children.”

After Black’s speech, one long-time protester read “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, and another voiced her frustrations as a pregnant ex-Walmart employee. UMBC student and activist Benji Schulman, a freshman psychology and social work major, proceeded to sing a song about Harriet Tubman.

The group then marched to Brown Memorial Woodbury Presbyterian Church, where they were fed macaroni and cheese, rice, several types of chili and “kale slaw” (cole slaw with raw kale as the main ingredient) provided by men from the People’s Power Assembly.

Brianne Best, a junior English major at UMBC, was in attendance as well, marching along with the group. As a member of the Women of Color Coalition and the Critical Social Justice Alliance, she said that she “just wanted to bring more awareness on- and off-campus.” When asked why she decided to join in the protest, Best described Ferguson as her source of inspiration.

“I only got to go to one Ferguson protest in Baltimore with the People’s Power Assembly and wanted to go to another,” she said. “I love protesting because you get to meet new people and bring attention to social justice issues. UMBC seems to be a bit apathetic to them.”