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Women's March Chicago honors the disabled, highlights key issues
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Women's March Chicago ( WMC ) kicked off its fourth large-scale march on a wintry Jan. 18 morning in Grant Park.

The march—with more than 50,000 participants—honored people with disabilities and celebrated the historic number of women elected to city, county, state and national office across Illinois over the past two years.

Representing the many women officials across Illinois were Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Robin Kelly and Jan Schakowsky, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller, Illinois state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin was also a march leader.

The march featured volunteer Wayfinders who assisted people with disabilities as they made their way from Grant Park to Federal Plaza in the Loop. The elected officials served as honorary Wayfinders.

Just before the march stepped off, Lightfoot said, "When people say stupid things that demonize our [LGBTQ] community I am going to speak up every time. This is broader than what happened this week at city council. We have an obligation as leaders to make sure that we are speaking up, expressing our values and having an unambiguous voice about the things that matter to our communities. I am going to continue doing that."

On Jan. 15, Lightfoot criticized aldermen for objecting to a plan to determine if the LGBT community faces obstacles in obtaining city contracts—with a few aldermen using language that some considered borderline homophobic. For example, Ald. Walter Burnett ( 27th Ward ) said, adding that while transgender business owners likely face discrimination, "white gay males, I don't think they're discriminated against," CBS Chicago reported.

"WMC exists to empower womyn across this city, state and country to use their voice towards the issues that matter most to them," said WMC board member Graciela Guzman. "For us, that means marginalized voices are at the center of our movement: they lead our issue work and tell us what their communities need to feel safe, included and welcomed at the march. Our partners challenge us as a board and community to be transformational in our solidarity: do something and that means not just attending the march.

"We have become strengthened from our coalition building with communities of color, the disability community and the LGBTQ+ community. These are communities that have been disproportionately under attack during this administration and our job is to lift up their voices, causes and solutions to make our communities and country better every day. We all gain so much from not just lifting up their voices but the invaluable expertise they have as some of this country's greatest champions for justice."

Along the march were signs and supporters highlighting the issues WMC and coalition partners chose to focus on this year—the 2020 Census, climate justice, gun violence prevention, healthcare access and voting. GBTQ and HIV/AIDS organizations were among the many entities listed as coalition partners on the WMC website.

WMC Board President Jaquie Algee told this publication, "Our goal today was for marchers to leave with a 2020 vision of what they marched for and how they can be actively involved in those issues and others throughout this year to support the 'must get right priorities' for them, their families and community."

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