This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Mennonites join the Women’s March on Washington

Photo: Wendy Chappell-Dick of Bluffton, Ohio, (pink scarf) and other Mennonite marchers carry a banner Chappell-Dick had printed for the Women’s March on Washington. Photo by Becca Kraybill. 

Mennonites were among more than one million people who gathered in the nation’s capital and sister cities for the Women’s March on Saturday.

The march, which originated as a viral Facebook post following President Donald J. Trump’s election, demanded human rights for “Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian, queer, and trans women.”

In mid-November, Wendy Chapell-Dick of Bluffton, Ohio, created a Facebook group called “Mennonites

Looking out over the crowd in Washington D.C. Photo by Becca Kraybill.

at the Women’s March on Washington.” With close to 600 members, the group hosted discussions on travel logistics, songs to sing while marching and news articles.

Chappell-Dick organized two charter buses from Ohio to the Washington march. Others attended locally or travelled in groups from Lancaster, Pa., Goshen, Ind., Harrisonburg, Va., and elsewhere. One group, assembled through directions on the Facebook page, marched and sang behind a large banner displaying the word “Mennonites.”

Mennonites attended sister rallies across the country and world, including ones in Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, South Bend, Ind., and even Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Marching for power, peace and policy

When Moniqua Acosta of Lancaster, Pa., saw the plans for the Washington march, she said it was a “no-brainer” to attend. She marched with her 16-year-old daughter, Andrea.

“I think it’s important for people like us, young Latina Mennonites, to be here,” Acosta said. “I’m so happy to share it with my daughter to show her it’s always the right thing to speak out for your rights.”

Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, Director of the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office, said she came to the Washington march as someone who “works for peace and justice on a regular basis.” She said she is concerned about policies of the Trump administration, particularly surrounding immigration.

Amy Stauffer-McNutt, who came with the Bluffton group, marched at the Washington march with a drawing by her 8-year-old

Amy Stauffer-McNutt with the sign designed by her 8-year-old daughter. Photo by Becca Kraybill.

daughter featuring the words “May it be” and a background image of two girls surrounded by butterflies and music notes. The image, she said, is her daughter’s vision of “the world when it is great.”

Stauffer-McNutt said the mass numbers of marchers made her not feel alone.

“I love the idea that all the things we care about are woven together,” she said. “We don’t have to pick one today.”

Marching as women of faith

 Melody Pannell, assistant professor of social work at Eastern Mennonite University, marched in the 1997 Million Women’s March in Philadelphia. On Saturday, she attended the Washington march as an African-American Mennonite woman, with both identities forefront.

“I’m absolutely marching with the Mennonites and using my radical Anabaptist theology,” Pannell said. “I’m also here to support and partner with African-American women.”

Prior to Saturday, Pannell said she was most looking forward to white Mennonite women attending the march and standing up for racial justice in historic ways.

“I have not seen that in a way that has been healing to me, and its something I’ve been looking for,” Pannell said. “It’s a relief that someone else is taking on the battle. There’s a new multitude, young and old, that has a sincere passion and calling to do that, and I want to partner with them.”

Rev. Erica Lea, Pastor in Residence at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., said she attended the Washington march as a white Christian, particularly in solidarity with non-white communities.

“As a white Christian, to join up with the Mennonites, which in my experience is a predominantly white denomination, I’d like to think of it as a statement to say no and push back and speak out,” Lea said. “I hope to communicate that I am a sincere and authentic ally to immigrant, African-American, disability and Muslim communities.”

Pannell said she was not surprised to hear of controversy surrounding the march. Early on, concerns were raised that the largely white-woman-led march was not taking seriously the voices and historical activism of women of color, concerns that grew from the march’s divisive original naming as the “Million Women March” to speculation of non-diverse organizing leadership.

“Women’s movements have historically struggled to include African-Americans,” Pannell said. “You can decide to protest the march, or you can participate and be present for what’s happening. For me, I have always chosen to be in the mix and speak from the margins.”

Marching ahead

 Since Saturday, the Women’s March launched a “10 Actions, 100 Days” campaign, and conversations on the “Mennonites at the Women’s March on Washington” Facebook group have continued.

Chappell-Dick is hoping to use the march to fuel her daily work ahead.

“The march isn’t going to solve everything,” she said, “but it is going to provide empowerment for the thousands of women who are there. You protest for yourself so you don’t despair.”

Acosta agrees, “I need my children to be a part of some chanting, praying and crying to break free of despair and see that there is hope.”

Marchers sing together at the Women’s March on Washington. Video taken by Kerry Bush. 

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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