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Edmonton women’s march on Washington 

February 25, 2017

Felt proud, humbled … and empowered … to deliver this speech at the Edmonton Women’s March on Washington …

Like most of you, the language that I heard through much of 2016 left me feeling sad, anxious, even scared. But if you are a woman, a person of color, an indigenous person … if you are a person with disabilities … if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer or questioning, if you are Muslim, Mexican or any visible minority. You probably feel even more disheartened, even more frightened.

When we have leaders and people with large public platforms use sexist, misogynist, racist, homophobic language it gives others on society a moral license to do the same. When we have our elected officials and party leaders in our own province stay silent when their supporters viciously attack other politicians on twitter or their Facebook walls because of their gender … let me tell you … when you remain silent, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

When you don’t take a stand against sexism and misogyny … you stand for it.

When you don’t speak up to hate and intolerance, you give permission for people to turn their hateful thoughts into words. And hateful words become actions.

Just over a year ago many of us gathered on these steps to celebrate when protections against discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression were added to Alberta’s Human Rights Act. We celebrated when we were promised our LGBTQ kids would be protected in their schools. We showed up at the airport to welcome thousands of refugees … making our home … their home.

But be warned by what is happening in politics in the United States. Listen to the words of those in our own province and country who are campaigning to lead their own parties. We are always only one election away from losing many of the rights and freedoms we’ve spent decades fighting for.

But what can we do?

We run for office ourselves. If we can’t run for office, we actively support women in politics, we support candidates of any gender who share our values of diversity, inclusion, women’s rights, human rights and social justice.

We donate our time and money to causes which support equality. Causes that support reproductive rights. Causes that will protect the rights we have over our own bodies and identities.
We meet hate with love. We meet intolerance with acceptance. We meet fear with education.

We take the time to get to know people who are different than us.
We celebrate those differences and embrace the power of diversity.

We elevate each other, build each other up.
When we see someone fall at the hurtful words or actions of another … we don’t stay silent, we speak out.

We create spaces for their voices to be heard.

When those voices have been silenced by fear or oppression, we become their choir.

We can’t force people to be kind, respectful and honourable … but we can show them how.

No matter your gender, your color, your ability or disability. No matter your age. No matter your race or sexual orientation. Stand up for each other. Stand with each other. We stand with our children. We stand with our families. Our friends. Our communities. We stand with our sisters, mothers, daughters and supporters in Washington and cities across the world today and every day.

We link our arms and build our own wall … a wall of peace, love, respect and resilience. Because you may be able to knock one of us down. But when we stand together arm in arm … you can’t knock any of us down.

Together … we are stronger. Together … we are louder. Together … We are survivors. Together … we prevail. And make no mistake … we … will … prevail. — Marni Panas with Manwar Khan.


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