Tecumseh residents to march in national protest

By: 
KERRY HAMILTON SMITH

Among 19 local residents participating in the March on Washington are (l-r) Breinne Reeder, Kailah Clifft, Rev. Cathi King, Ann Walker, Isabella Wanke and Jeannie Bauman. Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

Nineteen women and men from Tecumseh are making the journey to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Women’s March on Washington (WMW) on what will be President Donald Trump’s first full day in office on Saturday. Kailah Clifft, Breinne Reeder, and the Rev. Cathi King will be among them.

The group is marching for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they want to see that decency, civility, accountability, and dignity are brought back to the office of the President – characteristics they feel the President-elect disregarded during his campaign and after the election. They are hoping for systemic change, much like the change that took place due to the peaceful marches and speeches of civil rights activist, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Two hundred thousand people, two hundred thousand reasons,” Cathi explained as the motive for the march. She has several. “The level of rhetoric, the level of discourse was so personally demoralizing and demeaning. I'm marching on the first day of his presidency. That date was chosen for a reason. I want to bring dignity and honor to all of the people and let (Trump) know we will not accept that level of discourse, of treatment, of disrespect.”

On November 17, Cathi decided to post something on her personal Facebook page, referencing the WMW from the Presbyterian Church USA page, and asking if any of her friends would be interested in attending. She reached out to a colleague who is the pastor at the Bethesda Presbyterian Church near Washington who agreed to host. After several affirmative responses from her friends, Cathi began making plans. “We’re doing this on the cheap,” she said. The group will carpool, bunk at the church or in homes of church members, and take the Metro to the march.

While the Bethesda congregation of about 40 people won’t be marching, they will host a potluck, listen to the Tecumseh contingent talk about why they are marching, hold a vesper service on Friday night and then listen again as the Tecumseh group leads the worship service on Sunday.

Reeder didn’t make the decision until very recently to attend the march. While she is busy as a graduate student at the University of Michigan, she decided she couldn’t miss the opportunity. “I thought if I don't go, I'm going to be really disappointed,” she said. “So many others can't go; I have to be there to represent them.”

It’s just so big in this town,” Clifft said of the election. “There is such a divide.” One of her biggest concerns as a woman who works with children as a nanny and an educator, is that she feels the President-elect is not setting a good example as a role model.

Cathi’s great-great aunt was a minister in the 1880s who had a difficult time in an era when mostly men stood in the pulpit.  “I feel like I'm marching for the past and for the future,” she said.  “It’s a bookend on the faith experience. Jesus calls us to live the gospel and we do that in different ways. There will be a diverse swath of people and I hope that we will have this powerful encounter of encouragement. I’m marching for people who can't. I'll march for you.”

As for what Reeder hopes will come of the march, she said, “I’m expecting things to change.” She said her message will be, “I'm here and I want you to notice.”

Cathi said the lack of accountability was another reason she will march. “I don’t want the next generation to think this is okay,” she said. “I want people to own their stuff. I hope and pray this begins a different kind of activism. We must be more diligent and more determined to live with decency and humility.”

“I hope this inspires young people to do something,” Reeder said. “They have a voice and they need to use it.”

“I’m not protesting the inauguration,” Clifft said. “Everyone intends for this to be peaceful. I understand he is my president, but I want dignity and honor for all citizens of our country. I think this has the potential to be a catalyst for change.”

Cathi wants to make sure the parishioners at First United Presbyterian Church, where most of the marchers are members and where she is the pastor, understand this is a personal endeavor. She knows there are those in her church who voted for the person she will protest and wants them to know she respects their decision. “This is just me going personally and not as a pastor,” she said. “Somebody may disagree with this, but I hope people in the congregation will see me as their pastor. However, I'm also a citizen, woman, and a disciple in my own right.”

Cathi’s son, Alex, will also be attending the WMW. He said he’s marching because he wants “to defend decency and civility, but also to ensure that this past campaign and future presidency will not be normalized.”

What will be the outcome of this march? “I don't know; we'll see,” Cathi said. “We need to be able to have this conversation. Everybody wants to be safe and happy.”

A local public rally in support of the WMW will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at Tecumseh City Hall.

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