Despite bitterly cold temperatures, hundreds of people took to the streets of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City Saturday afternoon for the third annual Women’s March, a celebration of and rally for inclusiveness and women's empowerment.
Joining similar rallies across the country, marchers wearing woven pink hats carried signs in support of causes ranging from LGBTQ rights to expansion of Medicare.
“Love, not hate, will make America great,” the Kansas City marchers shouted.
The original Women’s March in 2017 was prompted in large part by opposition to President Donald Trump and what were widely viewed as his misogynistic statements and actions.
On Saturday, Trump's name was rarely mentioned, as many participants focused on the importance of individual political awareness and action.
“It’s important that you get your voice out there. More people need to come together to do what’s right for this country,” said marcher Monica Greenfield.
The march brought together women and men, youngsters and seniors, with many mothers bringing their young daughters.
Some of the organizers of the national Women’s March have come under fire for their ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, known for his incendiary anti-Semitic statements, and their unwillingness to repudiate him.
Some also have questioned whether Women’s March leaders have taken adequate steps to make the movement welcoming and accessible to people of color and other minority groups.
Kansas City organizer Paula Nepote said inclusiveness was a priority for the local group.
“We’re trying really hard to be inclusive,” she said. “We’re still learning. We’re still trying to make sure we represent all the groups we can.”
The march originally had been planned to run from Brookside Boulevard to Swope Parkway, symbolically bridging Kansas City’s historic racial divide of Troost Avenue. But with weather forecasts calling for bitterly cold temperatures, organizers on Tuesday changed the event to a shorter march from Unity Temple on the Plaza to the J.C. Nichols fountain and back.
Jamie Braden, a 63-year-old retired school teacher who is African American, acknowledged that the turnout of people of color was small but applauded the march's organizers for their efforts.
“Sometimes you’ve got to start small. So let’s build from the bottom up,” Braden said.
Braden, who compared the march to civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s, said she hoped to model political involvement for the women in her family.
“I want my group of girls, that are part of my life, to always be able to say, 'Nana, Mama, Aunt Jamie, Great Aunt Jamie, she always stood up for what’s right,’” Braden said.
A rally after the march featured musicians and speakers, including Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Sharice Davids, the newly sworn-in U.S. Representative for Kansas’s 3rd congressional district. Davids, whose appearance on stage brought thunderous cheers, praised the crowd for their engagement.
"I urge everyone to remember that our government has power because the people allow the government to have power," Davids said.
Alex Smith is a health reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @AlexSmithKCUR.