For the third year in a row, women in Humboldt County marched in synchronicity with the nation in the Eureka Women's March. While the organizers of the march started and ended on a divided front, the event still took place, rain or shine.
Most knew of the controversy surrounding the march—which in turn had an incredibly smaller turnout than the previous two years. The numbers fell in the hundreds rather than the thousands, but despite the arguments with two organizing groups, women like Margaret Emerson showed up to Madaket Plaza, sign in hand and ready to rally with the crowd.
“This way bigger than what’s going on between organizers in any particular march,” Emerson said. “We need to show everybody that we’re here, we’re aware and we’re not going back into the closet.”
Emerson was joined by half a dozen other women huddled under umbrellas and white canopies waiting for the rally to begin. One of the main troubles of the march was the notion that its leadership and representation was “overwhelmingly white." This idea and statement plagued the march’s reputation and divided many who felt conflicted on whether or not they should attend.
Bernadette Lincoln, who identifies as Tlinket from Alaska, Crow from Montana and Filipina, said she decided not to boycott the march nor buy into divisiveness.
“I’m a woman. Women need to stick together no matter what our culture, race, creed, whatever sexual orientation,” Lincoln said. “The only way we’re going to resolve that is if we leave the lines of communication open. I plan on always coming to this and supporting women’s rights.”
Eureka Women’s March speaker, Aundrea Stuckey agreed and was welcomed to the main stage area. Stuckey identifies as a queer, multi-racial black woman who grew up in Humboldt County. Dressed in a red coat to represent missing Indigenous women, Stuckey revealed to the crowd that she was nervous to be speaking for the first time at the march. She thanked the Wiyot Nation for the blessing to gather in Eureka and to have a conversation about issues affecting the community.
“I have always felt a level of invisibility in society and even in my own family, not ever feeling validated for my voice and my experience as a black woman. Constantly having to shrink my space for the narratives of those that society decided were more empowered than me.”
Stuckey said her father, who is black, was mostly absent from much of her childhood. She said he struggled to live within the mostly white and rural world of Humboldt. This left her mother, who is white, to care for her.
“My mother was a strong, fighting and loving woman like most of us,” Stuckey said and encouraged the crowd to clap for her mother, who was standing in the front. “She did the best she knew with whatever she had. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to protect me from the sting of prejudice that went on unchecked and I had no language to voice the oppressions that were occurring. To be a black woman with no one who looked like me, to identify with as a role model, I often felt like an oddity, an outcast and a stranger in my own home.”
Stuckey then acknowledged the racism that hasn’t changed since her ancestors came to Humboldt County, escaping the Jim Crow Laws of the South and finding refuge in the Humboldt logging industry during the 1960s, which she explained at that time did not always discriminate towards black people.
“It’s unacceptable that black people do not feel safe in this area and that diversity has become nothing more than an outdated buzzword that children are taught in classrooms. It is unacceptable that hate crimes that are happening here are not being rectified. It is unacceptable that black people are suffering from the narrative that crimes against blacks go unsolved as is the case in the murder of David Josiah Lawson,” she said as the crowed echoed her voice in chanting he word ‘unacceptable.’
In total, three women spoke at the rally before leading the march through a designated route in Old Town Eureka. All three encouraged the marchers to show up for the Martin Luther King Jr. Rally and March starting at the Adorni Center in Eureka on Monday morning as well as fight and advocate for Indigenous people, undocumented immigrants and marginalized communities within the region.