Women’s marches inspire increased activism across Michigan

By CAITLIN TAYLOR

Capital News Service

LANSING — Amy Shamroe felt proud to hear Traverse City recognized in a speech by Michigan filmmaker Michael Moore at the Women’s March on Washington.

“Michael Moore said Traverse City is a place where people are active and engaged and you can find people there who make a difference,” said Shamroe, a Traverse City city commissioner and president of the local American Association of University Women (AAUW) chapter.

Though she was pleased by the shout-out, Shamroe wasn’t surprised: Since Election Day, she has seen increased engagement with AAUW Traverse City, which focuses on empowering women and girls. Shamroe has always had to recruit members, but now they’re coming to her.

“It’s something I haven’t seen in my six years in this community,” she said. “People are showing up and saying, ‘Where do I sign up?’ and ‘How can I help?’”  

Advocacy organizations across the state are reporting an increase in local interest since Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. Some credit the national march and dozens of local women’s marches for empowering women to get involved.   

Rachel Hood, a past candidate for Kent County drain commissioner who attended the Women’s March on Washington, said she has seen a groundswell of local activism in Grand Rapids.

“The movement is exploding — and not just in D.C.,” Hood said. “People aren’t taking politics for granted any longer. They know they have to show up.”

On Jan. 23, Hood attended the second session of a two-part event hosted by Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, called “A Work Session on Surviving the Trumpocalypse.”

LaGrand said 250 people attended the second event — 50 percent more than the first session — and 50 others had to be turned away due to the fire code at Long Road Distillers.  

The event included two breakout sessions. The first focused on how to contact elected officials, the basics of door-to-door canvassing, how to run for local office and engaging with vulnerable communities. The second was a discussion on education, mass incarceration, the environment and a redistricting plan.

“These are people who are saying, ‘Yes, I am willing to make a long-term commitment to engagement, and I’m willing to make it a part of my lifestyle,’” LaGrand said.   

Jenny Kinne, president of the Grand Rapids chapter of the National Organization for Women, said her grassroots advocacy organization is experiencing a similar boost in community interest. The organization lobbies for reproductive rights, promotes diversity and targets violence against women, among other issues.

Kinne has noted an increase in the Grand Rapids group’s social media hits, RSVPs to events, volunteer inquiry emails and sporadic donations.

Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids hosted the organization, among other nonprofits and artists, at a community event that took place before the Grand Rapids’ women’s march on Jan. 21. Kinne said the event was met with an excited crowd.

The momentum has also reached Petoskey, where the Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan is seeing increased engagement. The center serves Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet and Otsego counties.  

“It seems community members are feeling the need to be more committed,” said Dena Sydow, the center’s marketing and communications director. “Those who we’ve talked to have been speaking up and wanting to help out.”

The center is committed to the equality, justice and well-being of women and children. 

The center and other statewide advocacy organizations are focused on channelling community energy into volunteer work, promoting larger advocacy campaigns and mobilizing.

In Grand Rapids, “I think that our main priority is going to be bringing the community together and getting different community leaders and nonprofits together in order to have effective energy and political change,” Kinne said.

To get involved, visit the Michigan National Organization for Women website – http://michnow.org/about/chapters – to find your local chapter.