With COVID cases on the rise in Northwest Florida, the Pensacola chapter of Women's March Florida decided to host the 2021 event virtually bringing in speakers from across the state on Saturday, Jan. 23.
This year’s Women’s March comes four years after the initial event was organized in D.C. as a response to the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Now, this year there’s a new administration in the White House. But, Women's March Pensacola President Allison Ferreira says they’ll be organizing for the same issues as before.
“(It’s) still a pivotal moment in society as a whole with women’s rights," she said. "We’re going to continue to show this administration, we’re not going to back down from maintaining and progressing women’s rights. It’s not a Democratic or Republican agenda, it’s a human rights agenda. We’re going to continue to hold any and all establishments accountable.”
One thing that’s changed this year is the venue. Like many events, the Pensacola Women's March was moved online as COVID cases spiked. Ferreira said she was given the OK from her board.
“They all agreed and we worked toward that and I went to state about that and asked if they could join us.”
Speakers will cover various issues including LGBTQ rights, environmental issues and justice for Black and brown people — they all fall under human rights, says Ferreira. With the event online, organizers are hoping to see an even broader mix of attendees.
Tamika Lyles is the Democratic Black Caucus President and Veterans Caucus Vice President in Osceola County. She first spoke at the Pensacola Women's March in 2018 as a candidate for state senate. Whether held in person or online, the Women's March is a time to set goals for the future and motivate others to join the cause, she said.
“It is the time to show advocacy for women and it’s to celebrate our accomplishments, but it’s also to motivate us to continue our work because we still have so much work left to do,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to speak with those likeminded individuals that are in support of our movement and gain support for our movement.”
Saturday’s event is also a celebration a historic milestone — the inauguration of the country’s first female vice president, Kamala Harris.
“This is something that is definitely groundbreaking and is motivating to minority women," said Lyles. "We hold a strong voice in the democratic party but we don’t hold a lot of seats at the table.”
Lyles said Harris is an example of why representation matters. It motivates new voices to step forward not just on the national stage, but in state and local races. Like Democrat Karen Butler who ran for Florida Senate District 1 last year.
Butler, who was a first-time candidate, lost the race to incumbent Doug Broxson, but she did win over 98,000 votes. It’s a number she’s proud of.
“They were actually excited to see me run not just as a Democrat, but as a woman,” said Butler. “Do you know our area no female has ever run for the Florida senate from our district in over 200 years?”
Butler will be another speaker at the Pensacola Women’s March. And her message stems from her experience as a candidate. Throughout the country, a historic number of women ran for office in the 2018 midterms and in the 2020 election. Butler said she wants to see that trend continue in the panhandle.
“We need to get women involved in things like city council, county commissioner, school board, mayor and work our way straight up from there,” she said. “Through my campaigning, I learned more about the process and how much I need to encourage women to get involved. There’s a gap that needs to be filled by women; it’s missing.”
The Pensacola Women’s March will be online from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23. For more information, and a link to the Zoom webinar, visit the Women’s March Pensacola Facebook page.