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New, Returning Charlotte Women's Marchers Say They Are Energized

Alex Olgin

For many women who marched in Charlotte on Saturday, it was a year of political involvement and female empowerment. Many men across multiple industries lost their jobs after sexual harassment allegations surfaced, sparking the #MeToo movement.

First timers and returning marchers came to First Ward Park in their pink knit pussy hats. Many came with homemade political signs and chants.

"Tell me what democracy looks like."
"This is what democracy looks like."

"Si se puede"
"Yes we can"

Pat Martinez of Charlotte energetically led the "Yes we can" chant. Martinez said she wants to give Latinas a voice, and wants more women to run for office.

"I myself am contemplating it," she said, without elaborating.

Fellow marcher Amber Popham, 37, said she's gotten more involved in local politics in the last year.

“I voted in the local elections (in 2017) for the first time in my entire adult life, which is probably sad to say," she said. "I’m trying to make myself just better educated about what’s going on here.”

Popham went to the Women's March in Washington, D.C., in 2017, but is glad she stayed home this year.

“It’s just as important here in Charlotte," she said, "to to be a part of the community here and fight for what we need in this state is important.”

Before the march began, City Council member Dimple Ajmera told the crowd that a movement that embraces diversity is underway. Ajmera. who emigrated from India at 16,  was elected to an at-large seat last year. She is the first Asian-American to serve on the council.

“A movement for all women," she said. "White, African American, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans. All women.” 

Ajmera thanked Gen X and Baby Boomer women for paving the way for her, a millennial. She said she hopes to do the same for future leaders.

Of course, it takes support from both sexes, Ajmera said.

“We cannot forget to thank our men who also fight for women’s rights.”

Credit Alex Olgin / WFAE
Ray Tyler of Rock Hill, SC.

A man - held a black sign with white block lettering that said “This is what a feminist looks like.” Sixty-four-year-old Ray Tyler is from Fort Mill, South Carolina. He teaches U.S. History at a high school in Rock Hill.  

“We need to focus for women, less on the shape of their body or how attractive they are, and more on the content of their character," said  Tyler, a high school U.S. history teacher. "I just teach some extraordinary young women with great character and I feel like I needed to let it begin with me."

Some marched without a support network. For 38-year-old Misty McKeehan, President Donald Trump has done for her what no other president has. MeKeehan says she's lost friends.

McKeehan: "They said to me, 'Why are you marching? I’ve never felt that I wasn’t equal.' Well, of course you haven’t because people have marched for years for you to have this right."
Olgin: "Do you feel like your friendship with people who you considered friends changed dramatically after the election?"

Credit Alex Olgin / WFAE
Misty McKeehan and her son.

McKeehan: "It did. I removed a lot of people from my life. I think it showed people's true colors."

She said at first it was hard, but she eventually let the anger go. She brought her 2-year-old son. As he looked up from his stroller, McKeehan said she hopes to impart on him ideals of equality and women’s rights that spurred her to march.