This year’s Women’s March has been plagued with the controversy surrounding leader Tamika Mallory controversial relationship with Louis Farrakhan. But this has not stopped the march from happening. However, in Chicago, there will be no march. The Women’s March Chicago hosted a major march in October that was aimed at getting people to vote. So this January, they will be doing another initiative.
To mark its third anniversary, Women’s March Chicago will host Operation Activation on January 19, 2019. “Operation Activation calls on Chicago area women and allies to spearhead or participate in community actions that help people feel safe, included, respected and represented, while encouraging others to activate,” according to a press release.
Chicago area residents have already committed to the following: Organizing neighborhood cleanups in South Side neighborhoods; hosting a training seminar to teach people how to actively and safely support people targeted by bigotry and hatred; writing postcards to legislators advocating for the DREAM Act, automatic voter registration, and sensible gun laws; and collecting winter gear and supplies and directly distributing them to Chicago’s homeless.
WMC will march again in 2020. “We will be facing one of the most important elections in our nation’s history and we want our marching community to again have their collective voices heard loud and clear from Chicago all the way to Washington, D.C.,” Harlene Ellin, a Women’s March Chicago organizer, told Moguldom.
Ellin shared more information about the the Chicago organization’s current and future plans as well as the Farrakhan controversy.
Moguldom: Why did the Women’s March Chicago elect to do a major march in October and not in January?
Harlene Ellin: We hosted a March to the Polls in October to fire up people in the weeks before the critical midterm elections. WMC wanted to encourage people to activate. For example, we wanted people to phone bank, door knock, write postcards for candidates and get out the vote. But primarily we wanted to make sure that people got out to vote themselves! Early voting sites were open the day of the march and the march ended near the sites, so people could actually cast a ballot the day of the march. An estimated 100,000 people attended the event, which is amazing, as we were the only group in the world that marched that day. Additionally, Illinois saw record voter turnout in the midterms – it was the highest in decades and we do believe our marchers greatly contributed to this wave.
Moguldom: Why did you decide to not march in January and recognize the national march through action?
Harlene Ellin: To host a major march in Chicago is a Herculean task. Each march costs in the range of $150,000 to produce. WMC pays for everything from Jumbotrons to the sound system to security to porta potties and much, much more. It also takes hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours. WMC is a self-funding, volunteer run organization. And we knew it would be literally impossible to hold two major marches so close together. We wanted to see outcomes at the midterms and, boy, did we get them!
Moguldom: Has there been any blowback to Tamika Mallory attending the Nation of Islam’s annual Savior’s Day gathering in Chicago?
Harlene Ellin: WMC is an independent organization that has no ties or connections with Women’s March Inc. We still have been asked by some in our marching community if we are “anti-semitic” and if we support Louis Farrakhan. The answer is patently “no.” We do not support hateful rhetoric of any kind directed at any group and we have issued a statement explaining our position, which can be found on our website. As a Jewish woman, this has been a painful question to have to answer, because I know it is the furthest thing from the truth.
Moguldom: How did the action idea come up?
Harlene Ellin: The idea of action came up because acting is the next logical step after marching. So many people have walked away from our marches feeling excited, empowered and ready to effect change. So we decided to ask our marchers to harness that energy and do something positive in their own communities to mark WMC’s third anniversary this Saturday. We have asked them to either host or participate in an action that makes people in their communities feel safe, included, respected and represented.
Moguldom: What are you encourage others to do through action?
Harlene Ellin: We want people to understand that any action – large or small – can be impactful. We are asking people to either organize or participate in an initiative that makes people in their communities feel safe, included, respected and represented. You can check out a list of events at our website and see the wide variety of things people and organization have planned throughout the city and suburbs. There are food drives, clothing drives, panel discussions, volunteer training sessions, open houses and much more. Due to the expected snowstorm, we have even added a snow shoveling event that will assist the elderly and disabled.
Moguldom: What are the goals for 2019 for the Chicago organization?
Harlene Ellin: In 2019, WMC will focus on activating an engaged electorate, with an eye toward impacting current legislation and working toward progressive outcomes in 2020.