Nearly 2,000 people attended a two-hour rally in Greenville, South Carolina on January 21, 2017. Billed as a sister event to the main Washington, DC march, protestors filled the downtown amphitheater in Falls Park entirely. We listened as religious leaders, minority and gay rights activists advocated for a more inclusive America. Following Friday’s inauguration, both the turnout and overarching message were welcomed. The large crowd was particularly impressive because there were other events nearby in Clemson, Asheville, and Columbia — and the weather was bad. A downpour started with the event at noon and lasted until 2:00 pm.
Those of us on the political left were excited to see so many other likeminded people given that we were in South Carolina, one of the most conservative states in the country. I wouldn’t have imagined such a gathering when, during the presidential primaries, Trump opened his campaign headquarters on Main Street, in the heart of the city, and I watched as a steady stream of volunteers came and went every day.
For me, the optimism generated by our local rally was tempered by the conspicuous absence of a representative number of the city’s nearly 31% African American residents. Like most cities in the US, Greenville is segregated by race and social class. The rally was held in the mostly white, mostly wealthy city center. African American residents remain isolated in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty adjacent to downtown. The rally was successful in many ways but if we are going to unite women across diverse backgrounds – a goal stated by the national movement – we have a lot of work to do.