Pair of Saturday events saw focus shift from building toward November election to celebration first parade since 2019
By Debora Gordon for Ashland.news
Ashland Plaza was the pivot point for a pair of large gatherings Saturday, the first the “Women’s Wave” starting at 10 a.m, then the SOPride parade that began at noon at the Ashland Public Library, came down Siskiyou Boulevard and Main Street to the Plaza, then headed up Winburn Way to Butler Bandshell in Lithia Park.
The morning rally, one of hundreds across the country, was organized by Women’s March, the group behind the gatherings on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. The rally and parade in Ashland drew an estimated 20,000 participants.
“After Trump got elected, we put together the first march with 20,000 women,” Rhonda Lee, one of the original organizers of Southern Oregon Women’s March, told the gathering of about 300 people on the Plaza Saturday morning.
The group included women of many passages in life; many older but some high school and college women and those in their childbearing years, as well as a couple of dozen men. Speakers included high school and college women, after an introduction by Lee.
“No matter what we do here, voting is going to be the hugest issue. That’s the tipping point,” Lee said. “We are happy, grateful to see so many of you here this morning. You are all part of a giant blue wave of progressive women who have generated this before the November elections … Women like us are assembling all over the country today to make sure that the authors of draconian legislation understand that they have underestimated the power of women as a voting block. …
“At our last pro-choice rally in May, we had some women young approach us after the rally. They felt that the speakers for the last few years have been older and don’t adequately represent the younger people in this culture. It was a fair observation. We are proud to report that all the speakers today are young women whose lives are dramatically affected by the overturning of Roe v Wade. They’re going to talk to you today about their concerns around choice, how the overturning of Roe v Wade affects them, what they aim to do, what they need from us, and what they need from each other. ….
“You’re looking at the new leaders.” Speakers included representatives of the Ashland High School Truth to Power club, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board, Southern Oregon University Leadership and Planned Parenthood.
Among the attendees was Joe Vetter, running for Congress, who commented, “I practiced medicine for over 30 years; treated thousands of women, delivered hundreds of babies, all kinds of comprehensive women’s health care — I never felt that any woman, ever, needed the government to tell her what to do with her body. Women’s health care includes access abortion. I have conservative friends, when people come to me, anytime, I’d like to cut down on the number of abortions, I will put my arms around that person, ‘oh yes, yes, come together. Let’s provide education, empowerment of women and girls in schools, let’s educate boys about respect and boundaries, and once again, universal healthcare, and that includes health care for young women, that includes birth control, includes pre-conception counseling, if someone wants to get pregnant, medical care throughout the pregnancy so that birth defects are decreased in number.’”
Sophie, a St. Mary’s High School student who only gave her first name, shared her experience as a young woman of color faced with the implications of Roe. “I wanted to share with you all how I found my voice and we can all find ours and use it,” she said. “Standing as one is empowerment. … Many more students and classmates are beginning to find our power and our truth. Our truth is our power. Who we are, as individuals, with one voice, is our power. Standing here, as one group, with the sole right and purpose of protecting something that is a birthright, is power. I hope that you will have your truth be your power today.
Sierra Garrett, an SOU student, talked about facing the changes implied by the overturning of Roe.
“When I was asked a few weeks back if I wanted to speak at this event, I immediately said ‘yes,’” she said. “And for days, countless ideas rolled around in my head, topics to bring up, things I wanted to say to bring change. But as I sat on my bed, one night, ready for something to say … it is nearly impossible to sum up what it means to be a woman in today’s society, but as I sat there on my bed that one night I just came up with a little list of all the things that I have experienced in my life as a woman: catcalling, sexual assault, rape, all the expectations and rules about what women can and cannot do, can and cannot say, can and cannot wear.”
Amy Handler, Chief Strategy Officer of Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon concluded the remarks.
“Everyone has been showing up for Planned Parenthood since Roe was overturned 100 days ago,” she said. “Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in our area. Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere.”
The rally concluded with a request to support Tina Kotek for governor and Senator Ron Wyden for reelection, both of whom are supporters of Planned Parenthood, and to welcome the upcoming Pride Parade.
The SOPride Parade included dancers, musicians, and many marchers in rainbow outfits, led by Ashland Mayor Julie Akins, this year’s grand marshal this year. Mayor Akins expressed her pride in the SOPride (Southern Oregon Pride) organization, saying, “The Pride Parade is like a big Ashland hug. It’s when and where we affirm our love of community and each other and we say, ‘come as you are.’ I love that. I’m grateful that my friend and colleague, Gina, let me have the experience of being the grand marshal. It offered me the chance to let our town know how much I appreciate them being my neighbors. I was able to express how I really feel, which is love and respect.”
Performers at the bandshell after the parade included performances by The Bouray with Dan and Zara from DIZy; vocals by Arctic Moss; drag performances by Flynn Boyant, Miss D. Transition, Miss Jaxon, Demi Gag, Bleu Dinah and Dutchess of Hearts VIIi; Ashland Aerial Arts; Chemical Lace; and the SOU Dance Club.
Dr. Karen White, a visitor from Austin Texas, said, “I was amazed by the enthusiasm of the paraders and the parade attendees. There was such a positive and fun atmosphere. For a smaller community, Ashland put on an amazing Pride Parade.”
SOPride founder Gina DuQuenne announced, “Yesterday, I introduced Johanna Pardo as the director of the SOPride parade. This does not mean that I am going away. I simply believe in new ideas, new vision and the youth — this is what she brings to Pride.”
DuQuenne, added that “Ashland always shows up. The SOPride parade was amazing and the festivities at the bandshell were awesome. The people, the excitement, the vibe — it was exactly what Ashland needed.”
Debora Gordon is a writer, artist, educator and non-violence activist who recently moved to Ashland from Oakland, California. Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text him at 541-631-1313.