“I’m taking a leadership role — and if I can do it, anyone can,” Jacqueline Thair says modestly, regarding her part with Women’s March Global.
WMG is a grassroots network of people around the world aspiring to create equality of all kinds through action and events. Their annual days of action, dubbed #WomensWave, take place this Saturday and Sunday, with marches and gatherings scheduled in more than 15 countries.
Thair, a Shaw Festival actor, is no stranger to roles, but activism is a new element in her life. “A couple of years ago my sister and I went to Detroit for a women’s conference,” she says. “There were 5,000 women chanting in unison, and it inspired me and made me want to be part of something like that.”
Her sister went on to take a job with Women’s March Global, and that made Thair want to make a difference here in Niagara-on-the-Lake. While the organization’s name contains the word “women,” the focus is on all genders and issues. “The general population in NOTL is older and white. Trans people, persons of colour, these are not the average NOTL person. We want to help them be exposed to different types of people through things like this.”
Thair and event co-organizer Amy Jewell have planned a march and experience that will present different perspectives for those who might not be familiar with a broad range of issues. Speakers will include Mel
Thivierge, who is a transgendered person working in NOTL. They will be speaking about simple day-to-day
things most people might take for granted, like entering a public washroom.
“Natasha Mumba will be thanking her parents for helping her go to Canada,” says Thair. Mumba is an actor at the Shaw Festival. Elizabeth Zimmerman, executive director of the YWCA Niagara Region, will discuss economic security for women.
Lord Mayor Better Disero is also on the list of speakers, because “she is a woman in a leadership role — specifically in politics — which is part of the WMG mission,” says Thair.
“I look forward to participating in this peaceful protest,” Disero says. “It’s something that will be beneficial to the town. I’ve always believed that with good role models we learn more quickly.”
Jewell says, “I can’t keep yelling at my TV screen and hope things are going to change.” She joined Thair at the helm of this local facet of the global movement, feeling that “because of Trump, Ford and other current leaders, rights are being taken away from women. If women, as well as LGBTQ and other minorities, all speak out together we have a stronger, louder voice.”
On Saturday, Jan. 19, participants will congregate at the bandshell in Simcoe Park at 11 a.m. The march will move from there to King Street, taking Johnson Street to the Voices of Freedom Park, then down Regent Street to Prideaux and back to the bandshell where the speeches will begin.
There will also be musical performances by drag queen Maya Nority, singer/songwriter Ange Nethersole, and possibly an Indigenous women’s drum circle.
Thair and Jewell feel this event is important to provoke a “sustainable momentum of change.” Jewell refers
to a “grey zone,” where we tolerate “cat calls, comments on our appearance, and intolerance.” She tells of Black
actors at the Shaw being harassed in town, and relates the story of a gay friend. “I asked him if he walks down the street holding hands with his partner,” she says. His tear-inducing answer: “It depends.”
“Sometimes you need to step outside the grey zone to propel yourself into activism,” says Jewell, who feels she has found her voice in the passion she has discovered for the issues involved.
She quotes writer Dustin Lance Black: “If you want to change a mind, you have to start with someone’s heart.” She’s hoping this event will move people toward change.
The women say they will deem the event a success by small increments. “I hope people walk away saying ‘Maybe I’ll hold an event of my own, maybe I’ll show a meaningful movie,’” says Jewell. “I hope they talk to someone else and say ‘You won’t believe what I experienced.’” They also hope people will be moved to join
the Niagara-on-the-Lake chapter of Women’s March Global, which can be found through the organization’s website.
But mainly they hope the day will be mild, and families and friends will stroll over to Simcoe Park on Saturday with open minds and open hearts. For more information contact email@example.com.