Video: Watch a video of the rally on the-journal.com
By Stephanie Alderton
After the large turnout for the Women’s March for Unity in January, Cortez residents participated in a sunnier, more laid-back demonstration on Saturday.
The Montezuma Alliance for Unity, a coalition of local groups that provided the main force behind January’s event, organized a Women’s History March that drew about 170 people to downtown Cortez. Starting at the Cortez Cultural Center, participants marched around a loop that took them down Montezuma Avenue and Main Street, holding signs bearing portraits of famous women from history. After the march, the crowd gathered back at the Cultural Center for a rally, during which Mayor Karen Sheek and other speakers talked about the accomplishments of women in Montezuma County.
International Women’s Day was on March 8, and March is recognized in the U.S. as Women’s History Month, so the Montezuma Alliance decided it would be a good time for their next event.
“The idea for this march was, ‘Let’s do something not angry, something celebratory,’” Alliance member Heidi Brugger said. “This isn’t a divisive issue.”
Rather than political slogans, most of the signs and T-shirts on display during the march simply highlighted women’s accomplishments. Famous historical figures like Georgia O’Keefe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sojourner Truth, Sally Ride and Margaret Sanger decorated signs and banners as the marchers shouted chants about the strength of women.
Many of the marchers had also participated in the January demonstration, including representatives from Montezuma County Democrats, various local churches and nonprofits. But with temperatures near 70 degrees at noon, the weather was a sharp contrast to the heavy snow and cold the marchers braved in January. Employees at several businesses along the march route came outside to cheer on the participants, and several cars honked in support as they walked along Main Street.
Most of the speeches at the rally focused on the accomplishments of women in Montezuma County specifically.
“Women are really filling important roles in our community, and they are taking on leadership in ways that, many years ago, wouldn’t even have been considered,” Sheek said.
She listed several women who fill government positions in the city and county, as well as business owners and founders of nonprofits like the Bridge Emergency Shelter. But she also said it’s important to recognize the efforts of women who aren’t in the spotlight, but simply work hard and care for their families.
Several other women gave speeches as the rally stretched into the afternoon, including Retha Williams, who spoke about her experiences with discrimination and injustice in the military, and local musician Kim Lindell, who sang a few songs with activism-related themes. Most of the marchers left before the rally was over, but many stuck around long enough to buy T-shirts and other items to benefit the Montezuma Alliance.
Barbara Stagg, an Alliance organizers, said she wasn’t surprised at the lower turnout.
“We’re not aiming at the 500 people we got for the January march,” she said. “This isn’t about any particular cause, just celebrating women.”
But she said she does hope more people participate in Cortez’s version of the People’s Climate March on April 29.