Five questions to Carmen Perez, Co-Chair of the Women’s March on Washington.
By The Editors
“This is a movement. And my work does not end here. It’s just beginning”, says Carmen Perez, one of the four national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, an event that is expected to be the largest demonstration in response to the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump.
As Executive Director of The Gathering for Justice, a nonprofit founded by the artist Harry Belafonte, Perez brings passion and extensive experience in civil rights activism to the march and assures that “this is not a protest but rather an affirmation of our rights.”
Women Across Frontiers (WAF): Have you known the other co-chairs before this march?
Carmen: “I met Bob when I was asked to come on as a co-chair for the march and we have worked very closely together to make this march a success and to work towards the future. I have known Tamika and Linda for years. They are my sisters in the movement as we work together with Justice League NYC and we have grown together personally, professionally, and in our activism. We support one another’s communities and passions and come together on issues that affect us all such as criminal justice reform and police accountability. In 2015, we led the March 2 Justice, a nine-day march from New York City to Washington DC to present a three-piece “Justice Package” to legislators.”
WAF: Why are you avoiding the term “protest” for the march?
“I’m a big follower of the Kingian principles of nonviolence and Principle Three says “Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil.” People come and go but the structures that bolster them and empower them remain. I am not protesting any one person because he is only a byproduct of a larger problem. At this march our goal is to affirm our rights and organize the tools needed to back this up – not to protest.”
WAF: One of the criticism is that the march lacks diversity, especially regarding to lower income individuals, women of color, and men. What do you say to that?
“This criticism is a result of the composition of the original leadership of the march and is understandable. But immediately after the idea was conceived, women like myself, who represent diverse backgrounds, identities, and communities immediately came on board. And not as tokens – but as major contributors to the development of the guiding principles, mission, vision, partnerships, and more. We have shaped this march and it would not be what it is without us. As far as men go, they are involved in various aspects but ultimately this is a women led march. That is important to us and to this movement – that those most ignored in conversations are most included in this march.”
WAF: What do each of you expect from the march?
“We expect an incredible turn out of people from all walks of life looking to affirm the future of this country as one and that respects and upholds the rights of women of all sorts of intersecting identities. And we expect to equip this mass of people with a venue not only to become energized for the fight ahead but also with tools for organizing after this point.”
WAF: What’s next?
“What’s next? Educating. Organizing. Resisting. As I have always done and always will do. None of us who have been organizing this movement want it to be a fleeting moment in history. This is a movement. And my work does not end here – it’s just beginning.”
*Answers were edited for clarity.