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'From a moment to a movement'

deborahharris.jpg

photograph by Kisha Bari

Woman's March Nevada Coordinator Deborah Harris

A lot changed between last year’s Women’s March in Las Vegas and this year’s — which wasn’t actually a march, but a rally organized by the Women’s March organization to kick off a series of similar rallies around the country. On January 21, 2017, some 10,000 to 15,000 people (depending on whose estimates you believe) filled Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard between the locally-dubbed llama lot and federal courthouse, while the January 22, 2018, event at Sam Boyd Stadium drew 20,000 attendees to UNLV’s Sam Boyd stadium, according to organizers. The original came off as a collective protest of the recently elected president’s attitudes and policies affecting women; this past Sunday felt like a massive GOTV operation for the 2018 midterms.

One thing — er, person — is still the same, however: Deborah Harris, the Women’s March coordinator for Nevada. Having interviewed Harris at last year’s march, Desert Companion circled back to her this year to see what the intervening 12 months have brought. Here’s a selection of related snippets from the two conversations.

On the previous year’s developments leading to this…

In 2017: I’ve done some activism in different communities, with Parkinson's, with other women's issues, and actually in the fashion community, to try and get jobs developed (in Las Vegas), but this past April was the first time I dipped my toe into community activism on this scale.

In 2018: It's been a year of actions, a year of resistance, a year of constantly pulling this community together, you know, being real allies to one another in our struggles that we're facing in our communities. It went from the first Women's March to the strike, A Day Without a Woman, to the Women's March going toe-to-toe with the NRA. We have been fighting for Dreamers. We have been for fighting for black women and black communities experiencing police brutality.

On the event at hand…

In 2017: We’re here to acknowledge one another, to really hold onto one another and bind each other together for today. We need to understand each other, have open minds and hearts and have each other’s backs. We have to be accountable not only to each other, but also to persons that we’ve placed in positions of power. That's not to say that the people do not have the power. But we need to act like we do, and we need to share that with communities that may not look like us, encourage them to take back their power. 

In 2018: We're doing a new campaign, and it's a tour. It's about getting people registered, civic engagement, and making sure people are plugged in where they need to be, so that we're bringing actual power to the polls. When they said, "We're coming to Nevada," I was like, “Wait, what?” … But I knew that this state could do this. We have an amazing ground team of grassroots organizations and larger organizations. We have people doing the work every day. A lot of people throughout the whole year have come out to each other's actions, and so I was like, let's start this year off strong.

On the issues…

In 2017: One thing that concerns me is criminal justice reform and education reform. The women's march national has released a pretty strong platform that's fighting for LGBTQ rights, prison system reform, immigration reform, things like that. So, the banner platform is pretty strong.

In 2018: The platform is huge. Here's the thing: None of us can win the race unless we all win together. So, it can't just be about one thing. It's intersectional. It all has to happen at once, and I know that may seem difficult, but we've tried to do it in separate pieces for centuries, you know. We all need to move as one voice, as one people, with all of our collective voices, all of our collective struggles, so we can have one collective victory, and finally be where we need to be.

On what’s next …

In 2017: After this march, they're going to start releasing a formula (outlining) what it's going to look like for each state, to go after legislation and policy, and keep their senators and assembly persons and congress people accountable.

In 2018: Definitely more strategy with how we win 2018. It's all about building a deeper bench for everybody, which means we have to be more intentional with our messaging, with outreach, with our organizing around campaigns, but also around the issues. People want to understand how their vote counts. They need to know that it starts here at the local level, with your vote, and builds its way up. So, it's education, that outreach piece, so we can expect more coalition-building for sure.

On what victory looks like …

In 2018: When we see more women, especially more women of color, running, that’ll be the proof. This year, with more than 20,000 women signed up to run for office, you can see, it went from a moment to a movement. It's intentional now. We have to get to work. That's the beauty of it.

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