Updated, 12:25 p.m.
The Women’s March on Washington’s policy platform has been called “the definition of intersectional feminism” — but the rally has been met with concerns over appropriation and exclusion since day one.
Celeste Scott heard about the issues with the national march, “where they were saying that it was inclusive and intersectional, but it was turning out that it was not intentionally being that,” she told The Incline.
She learned about the Pittsburgh sister march and asked via Facebook if it was going to be “intentionally intersectional” — an acknowledgment that feminists aren’t just white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied women. When she asks questions like that, Scott — a black woman who lives in Homestead — said she’s usually gets a response like “we’re working on it.”
Instead, Scott said her question was “met immediately … with extreme defensiveness” from one of the organizers behind the page. (That person is no longer involved with the march and could not be reached for comment.) Scott was blocked from the page, as were others who asked similar questions.
That incident and the resulting conversations “unearthed a whole lot of things that caused us to do our own thing and to be intentional about that work,” she said.
Scott is now one of the organizers behind Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional Rally/March, an event planned for Jan. 21 in East Liberty to “celebrate black women and black femmes,” Scott said, “but everybody, of course, is welcome.”
The event will begin at the low-income Penn Plaza Apartments — which are being emptied and demolished to make way for a mixed-use development — and end at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the site of the 19th annual Summit Against Racism. Scott and others plan to attend the summit on Saturday.
“We want it to be really powerful, really beautiful,” Scott said of the march, “and to be a healing type of event, because we know this didn’t start with Trump, and it’s not going to end with Trump.”
The issues on the Pittsburgh sister march’s Facebook event page didn’t end with Scott being blocked. She and others were later unblocked before the page itself was deleted and later replaced with another.
“There were serious mistakes made by the team with little or no time to process. There are also substantial safety, privacy and time issues. We reformed with the capacity to work this week but not process the work of that team,” one of the organizers, Tracy Colleen Baton, wrote on the new Facebook page.
While we are not going to be stopped by this, the national organizers have now decided to delay putting our march back on the sister march list. We have focused on face-to-face life and planning and we are excited that we are on track. They are encouraging us to continue to march and fill the streets,. Nevertheless, they have not yet reposted us and are offering us advice. They “are concerned this kind of conflict in the community is not in keeping with the mission of the event”. We see no conflict. Let me be clear. We are a new team. We want to see Pittsburgh out and marching. Our challenge in these says is to get people out and engaged. Please March! . All of the sister marches are self-organized events. National or state organizers had no decision in the selection of leadership. They only add the events to the lists. They will add us back to the list if we can resolve these issues. But list or no list we will march and be counted!
The reestablished “sister march” Downtown and the intersectional rally/march in East Liberty are both taking place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday — to coincide with the Women’s March on Washington. The Downtown march has a permit, per a spokesperson for the mayor, while the East Liberty march does not.
Scott said she and others who raised issues with the sister march organizers are being painted as “angry and divisive people who aren’t about unity,” which isn’t the truth.
“Asking for accountability is part of building a true unity rather than a false unity that doesn’t include everybody,” she said.
Scott, who works as an organizer for Pittsburgh United, said, “We’re all accountable. We’re all going to mess up and make mistakes. We know that.”
One of things Scott does when she’s organizing outside of her particular intersection — like for the trans or people with disabilities communities — “is to make sure you fully engaged those people from the beginning and don’t make those people an afterthought.”