At last year's Women's March in New Orleans, thousands of worried people took to the streets, joining worldwide protests for gender equality and against just-inaugurated President Donald Trump. The march returns Jan. 20 to renew its call for women's rights under this administration - as well as the rights of people of color, immigrants, disabled people, LGBT people, workers and other groups national organizers see as threatened by the current political climate.
"We have to come back this year because we're worse off than we were a year ago," says Angela Adkins, president of the National Organization for Women's (NOW's) Baton Rouge chapter and an organizer of the New Orleans Women's March. "These are definitely some scary times we're living in."
[jump] Last year's event, with its massive turnout, felt like a spontaneous expression of emotion from women, many of whom were stunned by the election of a candidate who had fielded multiple sexual assault accusations during his campaign (and into his presidency). This year's New Orleans march, Adkins says, will attempt to channel that energy into the creation of a small army of community activists, bridging connections between marchers and local advocacy groups.
Several sponsoring groups, including the League of Women Voters, New Orleans Abortion Fund, Lift Louisiana, NOW, Indivisible NOLA, Planned Parenthood, Our Revolution, Independent Women's Organization and others will table at Duncan Plaza at the beginning and end of the march. They'll offer information on their services and network with potential volunteers.
"It's great that people come out [and] they show support ... but when we go home at the end of the day, we have to get up the next morning and do the real work," Adkins says. "If every person who marched last year or who will march this year gave two hours a week to a local organization, imagine what we could do."
Aside from greater integration with community groups, this year's march also features a slightly different route. Rather than departing from Washington Square Park, the march will begin and end at Duncan Plaza. Marchers will rally at the plaza across from City Hall at noon and line up to marching at 1 p.m., heading down Rampart Street, turning down St. Philip Street in the French Quarter then back up Decatur Street to Poydras Street.
A lineup of speakers - some of whom are returning from last year - includes City Councilwoman-elect Helena Moreno, Erika Jupiter from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Jenny Yanez from NOLA Matters, author and abolitionist Fox Rich, Matthew Schoenberger of Our Revolution, and several others who have yet to formally confirm their attendance. An official T-shirt also will be sold at the event, which is scheduled to proceed rain or shine.
Adkins points to ongoing challenges to abortion rights, decreased access to birth control and the recent defunding of programs that help prevent teen pregnancy as areas that show how women, specifically, have lost ground in recent months. Events like the Women's March, she says, can highlight the many battles for equality that aren't yet settled.
"[People forget] how long it took us to gain those rights, and how quickly we've lost a lot of them," she says. "A lot of young women, when they were born, all these rights were already in place. ... Those are all being eroded faster than we can protest."
Will similar marches take place every year of this administration? Adkins isn't sure, but her guess is that events will continue "as needed." In her view, women's issues are key to unlocking many intersecting social problems, such as poverty and racial inequality - the latter of which has loomed especially large in recent months.
"We can't keep isolating women's issues as, 'Oh, that's just those feminists over there,'" Adkins says. "This is an all-hands-on-deck situation."