Suburban women march calling attention to voting, racial and gender rights
As the mother of a biracial child, Jen Perkins worries about a climate of growing racial unrest nationwide.
"I'm a white mother of a Black child, and so racial justice and social justice ... do keep me up at night," said Perkins, 30, a special-education teacher from Aurora.
As she prepared to join women in rallies planned Saturday across the suburbs, Perkins sought to give women, particularly women of color, a platform to raise their voices and air collective grievances.
"I was waiting for someone to do something and no one did, so I found myself planning a march," said Perkins, who organized dozens of women Saturday along a 28-mile stretch of Randall Road from Aurora to Algonquin.
Hers was among several women's marches held across the suburbs, including in Buffalo Grove, Des Plaines, Downers Grove and Glenview.
On the lawn at Mike Rylko Community Park in Buffalo Grove, about 150 supporters weathered a chilly drizzle to hear several speakers. Homemade signs with slogans like "Womens Rights = Human Rights" and "We Can Do It" were prevalent. There was nary a maskless face and no apparent counterprotest to the messages.
Mundelein resident Dani Noves brought her 9-year old son, Cooper, who held a sign urging others to vote for his little sister's sake.
Noves said it's important for Cooper to see the impact events like this, as well as the upcoming election, "can make on his sister's future."
Nearby, 3-year-old Ryan Vogel poked her head out from under a blanket held by mom, Ann, of Arlington Heights.
"I've been marching with her before she was born," said Vogel, who was pregnant when she traveled to Washington, D.C., for a march in 2018.
"I love seeing all the kids here and letting them know the fight is not over," she added.
Eighth District Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Schaumburg, urged supporters to make the election count.
"We're voting to break down barriers to women's equality," he said.
This rally was among hundreds across the nation Saturday to highlight women's issues.
They called for equal pay and preserving reproductive rights and the protections of the Affordable Care Act. They protested the likely confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat, and they marked the centennial of the 19th Amendment granting women voting rights.
And they urged people to vote in the Nov. 3 election, a right Perkins said wasn't afforded to many Black women until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"Women of color have worked hard to progress feminism, but traditionally have been left behind," Perkins said. "This movement has been built on the backs of women of color, and (they) have never reaped the benefits."
Many women shared concerns about a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade -- the landmark 1973 decision barring excessive government restrictions on abortion. They also expressed fears that millions of Americans could lose health care if the Affordable Care Act is rolled back.
Patty Kearnan of Lake Zurich is concerned that she won't be able to keep her 19-year-old daughter and 22-year-old son on her health insurance if the ACA is overturned. But what bothers her more is the rise of hate in politics.
"We are such a divided country right now," said the 56-year-old business owner. "I don't think I could take another four years of that constant barrage. I'm really looking for some leader who can bring some calm and unity. We have a lot of healing to do."
Cathy Wilson of Glenview said President Donald Trump's election in 2016 was a pivotal "wake-up" moment for many progressive women.
Wilson, 67, never had been an activist before but began organizing rallies in Glenview soon after Trump's election. She volunteers her time doing freelance marketing for political organizations, female candidates and nonprofits.
"I'm worried about everything," she said. "It's an endless list ... women's health issues, control of our body, criminal justice, the right to vote, sexism, economic justice, environmental justice. These are issues that impact everybody. We're just women (who) are choosing to raise our voice about these critical issues that are facing our country. I'm marching to preserve the women's rights that we earned 20-30 years ago that are on the verge of being taken away."
In Des Plaines, a socially distanced crowd stood for 87 minutes along the sidewalks at the intersection of East Oakton Street and Mannheim Road. Participants honored Ginsburg's legacy with a moment of silence and a group chant of "I Dissent" -- once for each time she was the lone dissenter on the nine-member court.
"(These marches) stand for not just women's rights, but really all human rights," said Jessica Maag, 41, of Des Plaines, who marched with her three daughters. "I feel strongly that I need to stand up for the rights of different races, genders, identities. I feel we have come so far and still have so far to go."
Barrett's expected appointment to the Supreme Court could undo "what RBG accomplished in her lifetime for women's rights," Maag said.
Racial justice and progress on LGBTQ rights are potentially at risk with this election, said Carolyn Pinta, of Buffalo Grove, who marched along with several hundred people in Buffalo Grove.
"To me, this whole march is about equality," said Pinta, who has a bisexual daughter. "Anybody who is not white, cisgender and male is in danger of losing their rights."