“Red is the color of revolution!” says Barbara Smith, speaking into the megaphone in her sure voice.
The crowd is a spectacle doused in red; red hats, red pants, red coats, red signs, red flags.
“Red is also the color of the blood of women, unfairly shed around the world,” Smith continues, fire in her voice. “This is not lean-in feminism. We are not breaking glass ceilings, today. No, today, we’re getting women out of the basement,” she says. The crowd cheers.
“This is the women’s movement for the 99 percent!” yells Smith, and the crowd cheers louder.
The mood is genial, the weather is obliging. Activists of all ages mill about, proudly brandishing their signs at the passing cars — cheering whenever the drivers honk.
“This is explicitly a leftist movement, and that’s what makes it different from the Women’s March on Washington,” says Smith, when The Alt is finally able to speak to her privately. (It is no small feat to separate her from the crowd, as Smith is constantly mobbed by well-wishers and folks who want to introduce themselves to her.) “This is a radical mobilization around women’s rights.”
The focus, for the IWS (International Women’s Strike), is on women at the margins — women affected by xenophobia, economic oppression, racism and bigotry of all stripes. While the agenda for the Women’s March on Washington was explicitly progressive and intersectional in its focus (it was “phenomenal”, says Smith) the agenda for the IWS is striking in its radicalism. The platform is not just opposed to “Trump and his misogynist politics,” but also “the conditions that produced Trump, namely the decade-long economic inequality, racial and sexual violence, and imperial wars abroad.” The IWS explicitly names and shames the “decades of neoliberalism” that lead us to this point in history.
Citizen Action’s Sophia Smart explicitly declares solidarity with trans women, promising to “protect and uplift” them, and to “say their names”.
With an upraised fist, Democratic Socialists of America’s Lizzie Price reminds us all that “solidarity is our best weapon.”
Activists old and young, experienced and brand new, have gathered here today in order to participate in direct democracy.
The venerable Sister Honora Kinney, fixture of the Albany activist scene, and beloved community member, is present. “It’s a great and useful occasion, and we have to be in the street as much as possible,” she tells The Alt. “We don’t have to put up with this mean, impoverished cruelty,” she says, of the current administration. But at the same time, Kinney says that it’s not enough to protest; we have to “start to offer an alternative; we have to offer a vision for a different, better world.”
Kinney is a member of CAAMI (Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration), the Capital District Coalition Against Islamophobia, and SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice), though she wasn’t always as involved as she is now. Occupy Albany “reinvigorated” her, she says.
“I saw a sign here, it said ‘Make America Kind Again’,” says Kinney. “I liked that. That’s what I’m fighting for.”
Others who came out are less experienced than Kinney in activism and advocacy.
“I follow these groups online, and I saw this online. I’m not sure which group,” says florist Colie Collen. “I probably haven’t been involved enough,” she admits. “I’ve been to some marches and rallies since the election, and I’m looking for more ways to contribute my talents.”
When asked how she thinks she can best contribute in the near future, Collen says her mission, for now, is to just “be a body in this sort of space.”
“I’m here, and I represent a whole lot of people who can’t be here, for whatever reason. My presence represents twenty, or a hundred people.”
Many women here today are skipping work for the “A Day Without a Woman” action, planned by the Women’s March on Washington organizers — which is organizationally separate from the IWS, but similar in goals and methods. Smith acknowledges the sacrifice with a smile and quip.
“You have a wonderful day, and don’t do a lick of work.”