Canisius College this week welcomed two of the national co-chairs of the Women's March on Washington, which mobilized 5 million people worldwide and became the largest coordinated peace protest in U.S. history.
The march took place on January 21 - one day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump - in an effort to call attention to world equity, tolerance and safety. National Co-President Tamika D. Mallory said organizers pride themselves on the fact that 5,500 "huddles" of mostly new activists were created from the march to start working in local communities.
"For us that is a great accomplishment," Mallory said, "that the march was inspiring enough to move people from just talking about change to actually trying to work in local communities and engage in what is necessary to actually create change."
Mallory - who worked closely with the Obama Administration and on New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's transition committee - said the large participation was unexpected, but now organizers feel "responsible" for turning a march "into a real movement."
"As a woman of color, I think that listening to the President call 70 percent of young black men who work for the NFL sons of bitches, and particularly Colin Kaepernick, was probably one of the most disgusting things that I've ever heard a President say," said Mallory. "I'm glad that he's straightforward with his racism and sexism and all the things that he is because it helps us as a people to realize we have to draw a line in the sand."
Mallory said the tactics protesters use today are more "in the face of public officials" and "unapologetic" than earlier in the civil rights movement, but she said the level of today's rhetoric has deemed it necessary. College students, in particular, she said, have a certain responsibility and legacy as "change agents" in the movement.
"I think that there's a perception by white men and men in general that women have had some kind of liberation from the 1960s and 1970s and that was some sort of completion of equity for women," said fellow march co-chair Bob Bland," but I don't think that has been the actual experience of women, particularly women of color."
Bland is founder and CEO of Manufacture New York, which promotes ethical work practices and sustainable fashion in its clothing, shoes and accessories.
"As the CEO of my own manufacturing company, I know that only 8 percent of venture capital dollars go to women, total," Bland said. "I know that more men named John will receive venture capital than all women, so I know that we are just scratching the surface of a struggle that is millennia in the making."
Mallory and Bland spoke on "Building Trust: Organizing for Social Justice," as part of the college's William. H. Fitzpatrick Chair of Political Science Lecture Series.