Story by Cristina Cala. Photographs by Claire Bangser.
When Tren’ness Woods-Black had the idea to transport a group of local women from her neighborhood in Harlem to the Women’s March on Washington in January, she didn’t think 200 women would show up. But after attracting a turnout of 100 women on a bus from Harlem, 50 from a bus in Queens and another 50 from 31st Street in Manhattan, the event planner and entrepreneur has no plans on stopping the group she dubbed the Harlem Heels. Like many participants at the march, the seven women ahead are not professional organizers or activists, but they emerged from the history-making March on Washington as advocates, self-motivated to take action. For Women’s History Month, we’re glancing back at some of the first faces we met at the beginning of a movement. What they all have in common? They’re harnessing a contagious energy and tapping into quick-spreading networks to take early steps of action in their own communities. See what was on their to-do lists.
Tren’ness Woods-Black, 44, New York
With her own network and presence in Harlem (she’s the granddaughter of the late Sylvia Woods of the lauded soulfood staple Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem and sits on five local boards), Woods-Black has found an assembly of activists in the Harlem Heels. As one of the organizers of the group, she has plans to maintain the alliance as a community-level extension of the Women’s March by inviting those who demonstrated in Washington to meet regularly at home.
“We’ll be a Harlem arm to make sure the community is executing those first 100-day items that are outlined on the Women’s March website,” she said of the women’s next steps together.
Kristin Krantz, 39, New York
Harlem Heels member Krantz, who is raising a 6-year-old daughter, has plans to fight for equal pay. How she’ll do it: education. “I think we need to teach women how to negotiate and to actually be OK with negotiating and that it’s OK to ask. That is something we are not teaching our girls, or at least girls haven’t be taught that as much in the past,” said Krantz, who negotiates her salary as a real estate professional in Harlem.
Hope Attenhofer, 57, Pittsburg, Calif.
After traveling from the west coast to attend the Women’s March, ordained Disciples of Christ minister Attenhofer says she plans to push representatives and state legislature “as hard as we can.” Specifically on the state level, she says California has been progressive with social programs and environmental issues, but should do even more. “California can do a lot more than it does. We have made some good strides … with climate change [and] programs that try to help houses go to solar … but we can do a lot better ourselves,” Attenhofer said. “I’m a minister so, God willing, I’ll be using a lot of opportunities to have meaningful conversations with as many people as I can.”
Marlene Nava Ramos, 29, New York
Originally from Los Angeles and now a graduate student in New York, Nava Ramos has plans to protect a mixed bag of social-justice groups including women, people of color and non-citizens. “I think that Trump embodies the epitome of ugly things we have been seeing in our country for the last couple [of] decades,” the self-identifying daughter of immigrants and woman of color said.
As a teaching fellow at Lehman College in the Bronx, she is following education issues closely with intention to stand up against Cabinet appointments by the president, she says. “When it comes to education, he’s proven to select individuals who will clearly not improve the system of education in the country and actually have the potential to make it much worse.”
Lara Land, 36, New York
Land, who marched on Washington Saturday, is the owner of two businesses in Harlem, Land Yoga and non-profit Three and A Half Acres, which uses yoga, meditation and mindfulness to heal the divide in neighborhoods like Harlem between those in positions of authority and young adults who feel targeted by law enforcement or who have been incarcerated. Beyond the Women’s March, she’s using both businesses as platforms for change. Land sometimes speaks within the community on panels and at events, and works closely and frequently with local NYPD at roll call to share techniques for mental clarity when adrenaline is high (“more clarity, more choice,” she says). She meets with local young adults, as well. Eventually, the goal is to bring the two groups together.
“We just have to change how we see ourselves, how we see our neighbors,” she said. “As we get to know our neighbors, and people who are different from us especially—that will change our politics. That will change the people around us. And that is the beginning of a movement.”
Valerie Wilson, 46, New York
Aside from joining the Harlem Heels and attending an upcoming meeting to address letters to elected officials, Wilson is pursuing a deeper awareness of voter issues and focusing on the 2018 mid-term Senate elections. She’s already started to research local candidate options for an open city council position. “I really am interested in seeing more women get elected to public office, and I’m working with fellow college alumni and friends to find some candidates that we want to back and endorse for office.”
She’s specifically looking to educate herself and others on gerrymandering. “That seems to be a tactic that has been used very successfully to elect certain public officials and to keep the scales tilted in one direction as opposed to the other,” Wilson said of her concern.
Aly Lubov, 30, Washington, D.C.
Lubov’s next move—after giving birth to a baby girl shortly after the march, that is—may be an altogether new career.
“I’m now very interested in getting involved professionally in areas related to women’s issues,” she said, considering advocacy for reproductive rights or equal pay issues in a non-profit or federal capacity. Lubov’s academic background is in intelligence and security. She previously worked in the international non-profit sector and was a Capitol Hill Staffer for U.S. Congressman Tim Walz, a Democrat from Minnesota.
The Why Women Project is a group of women in media following the stories of women who mobilize. Follow us @thewhywomenproject.
Editor, The Why Women Project