Women and men from all over San Diego County gathered at the Tubman/Chavez Center on June 29 for San Diego’s First All Women’s March. Marchers called for “Peace, unity, justice and an end to violence in our communities.” This call to action was organized by Rashida Hameed, a lifelong resident here, community activist, and president and founder of Epiphany Women of Focus.
San Diego’s mayor, Bob Filner, and District 4 Councilwoman Mertle Cole cut a ribbon to start the march, which began at the center on the corner of Euclid Avenue and Market Street. This corner is a great starting point because the Institute of Science, the Malcolm X Library and the Euclid trolley station/bus stop share this intersection.
Even though police cars and the police who were present on foot pretty much stopped auto traffic, cops told marchers to stay on the sidewalk.
Family members of victims who had been killed participated in the march and spoke at a ceremony after the march.
The ceremony following the march honored women who are actively involved in actions aimed at ending the violence. Tokens of appreciation were presented by Rashida Hameed, who facilitated the rally. Among those honored were Beverly Bravo and Beatrice Johnson.
Bravo, a mother who for years has comforted families victimized by gang violence, spoke about her son, Jaime Bravo, who was killed in the San Diego community of City Heights in June of 2012. Jaime, who was 21 years old, was not a gang member.
Beatrice Johnson of Justice for Oscar Grant recently returned from Florida, where she was supporting the family of Trayvon Martin in preparation for the trial of George Zimmerman. Johnson attended the San Diego People’s Power Assembly at the World Beat Center in March.
Johnson said that the conviction of Officer Johannes Mehserle, Oscar Grant’s killer, was the result of his family speaking out and taking the struggle to the streets. Johnson also spoke about the film, “Fruitvale Station.” This film won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Film at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and the Best First Film Award at the Cannes Film Festival. It is scheduled for general release in theatres in July.
Johnson encouraged everyone to see this film because it shows the true human character of Oscar Grant.
Oscar Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, spoke from a cell phone. She said that every life is precious and that we must work together to stop the violence. This was the same message offered by the mother of Billye Venable at a meeting to support the family of Victor Ortega earlier. Venable was killed by San Diego Police Officer James Hunter 10 years ago, in October 2003. Victor Ortega was killed by San Diego Police Officer Jonathan McCarthy in July 2012.
The family of Reginald White Jr., one of three people shot in southeast San Diego last January, was holding a graduation picture of Reginald. The 18-year-old Reginald was not a gang member.
The message from all the families and supporters is that the pain of losing a loved one from violence is constant because in many cases there is no closure, no answers, no reasons. Police officers who kill are not held accountable, and random killers that are seen as gang members are never found.
“Women are the ones left to pick up the pieces after these murders take place,” said Hameed. “It is time for the women in our community to speak out.”
The flyer given out at the event read, “We are tired of violence in our community and we will not wait for men to lead us. A people can rise only as high as our women. … Women it’s time to rise!”
The march was supported by many community organizations, including the NAACP, 100 Men Strong, the Black Contractors, Overcoming Gangs and Beyond, Project New Village and the Chicano Prison Project.
Other speakers included District 79 Assembly Member Shirley Weber and Councilperson Mertle Cole.
This All Women’s March is a first step in bringing this community together to begin the discussion on ending violence in our communities.