The Activist Divide Over The Women's March On Washington

Originally published on January 15, 2017 11:47 am

Lena Gardner, co-founder of the Unitarian Universalist's Black Lives Matter group in Minneapolis will attend the Women's March on Washington, but initially felt excluded as a woman of color. She tells us why.

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LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Elsewhere in the show, we're going to hear from people who are here in D.C. to celebrate Donald Trump's inauguration. Now though, we're going to meet someone who is joining the giant protest planned for the day after Donald Trump takes office. It's called the Women's March on Washington, and it is expected to draw at least 100,000 people. The organizers say they want everyone to attend. Some women, though, say they have felt excluded. We're joined in our studios by Lena Gardner. She's from Minneapolis, Minn., and she is attending the march next week. She's a co-founder of the Unitarian Universalist Black Lives Matter group in her home city.

Thanks so much for being with us.

LENA GARDNER: Thank you so much for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you were skeptical at first about going. Tell me why.

GARDNER: I was skeptical because a lot of the stuff I was seeing on social media was really centered around white women being upset that they didn't get their way. And to me, you know, as a black queer woman navigating the world, it was really clear to me post-election that black folks, immigrants, LGBTQ folks like myself included, are at a higher risk of violence of targeted policies that are meant to take away our rights.

And I really wasn't hearing those sorts of things from a lot of white women. Some were articulating that. And some were just like - it was almost like a temper tantrum. And I think, in and of itself, attending a march doesn't do that much. It does something. But if that's all you do and you're also not willing to accept criticisms from people and integrate and respond to their criticisms and pivot, then I think that that's unhelpful to what we're facing in the next four years under a Trump administration.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, that - you weren't alone, obviously...

GARDNER: Right.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...In expressing those concerns. This was - a lot of people were expressing these doubts. What made you change your mind?

GARDNER: What made me change my mind is a colleague and co-founder of the Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism group. She has done work with Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour. They joined the national organizing team effort. And I - honestly, I saw a Facebook Live video where they said, point-blank, if you feel like your voice isn't being heard as a woman of color or as an immigrant or as part of the LGBTQ community - come, speak up, work through that and use your voice.

And I really heard that. And I said, you know, I think they're right. I think that if I feel like my voice isn't at the table and I feel like there's room for me to be heard, it's kind of my duty to show up.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So they did a lot of work. They acknowledged some of their mistakes.

GARDNER: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In your view, did they go far enough?

GARDNER: You know, my father taught me that you have to meet people halfway where they're at and you have to extend people grace. I think that's something, in our modern times, we're not very good at. And for me, the fact that they are acknowledging, you know, people's critiques and criticisms - I guess, for me, that is enough.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It strikes me, this conversation that's that's happening around this march, is happening at just such a wider level across the United States when we talk about issues of race and and people working together and trying to sort of navigate the very complicated scenarios right now. Do you think this could be a model going forward?

GARDNER: Yeah, I hope it's a model.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Or are you still skeptical?

GARDNER: Yes, both. Both-and, right? I think the bittersweet edge of all of this is that, you know, Black Lives Matter movement, which is the movement that has nurtured me, that I've come into organizing through really. We've been out in the streets marching for years. And a lot of white people haven't been there with us. And now, suddenly, they feel like it's really important that they come out. So are you marching because you're upset because you didn't get your way, or are you marching because you recognize that your life and your liberation is connected to mine now?

And I think there's a long way to go between those gaps. But in my work in the past two years, I've seen it happen. So I have hope that it'll happen for some people. I know it's not going to happen for everyone. But all I can do, again, is meet people halfway and say welcome to this work. It's really hard. It's really difficult, and there are no certain answers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lena Gardner, thank you so much for joining us.

GARDNER: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.