Feb. 13, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan
The Women’s March movement following President Donald Trump’s inauguration has inspired a local group to come together in Astoria and push for change.
Several local women began Astoria March last month, inspired by the Women’s March following Trump’s inauguration, and have formed a coalition to continue pushing for progressive issues on a local and national level, galvanizing support among the community and quickly gaining a large following.
After attending the Women’s March on NYC on January 21, Astoria residents Eileen Kielty and Andrea Dusel-Foil felt energized, and wanted to channel their energy in to action.
They saw that the Women’s March was launching a “10 actions in 100 days” campaign and that the first action asked each person to write postcards to their senators about issues important to them, so they decided to get some friends together at a bar to write postcards.
Expecting about 30 people to show up at The Bonnie 29-12 23rd Avenue on January 26, they were shocked when about 200 people participated throughout the night.
After the overwhelming response, Kielty and Dusel-Foil realized that many of their neighbors felt the same as they did about Trump and the actions he was taking, and decided to organize their group Astoria March to take action.
They began by putting together a mission statement, which reads, “Our mission is to inspire and inform others about our government, policies, and how to create change from local, grassroots efforts through events, calls to action, and community-based conversation. Think Global. Act Local.”
Kielty explained that her feelings on the movement can be summed up by what she wrote on her sign for the march last month: “I march for everyone before me whose voice has been silenced to give a voice to everyone in front of me.”
“I realized that I can’t be quiet anymore, and people over the years have been quiet and we need to say something, because we can, because we are able to,” Kielty said.
Since launching the group, Astoria March has over 300 followers on Facebook, and Kielty and Dusel-Foil said that running the group and keeping up with the many emails they get daily has practically become a full time job that neither expected.
Both Kielty and Dusel-Foil are dancers and fitness instructors, and were never all that active in politics prior to the election in November. However, both described a deep need to get involved once Trump took office.
For Kielty, this was the first year she even voted in an election, recognizing the threat that she believes Trump poses. Dusel-Foil, on the other hand, has always described herself as a “policy nerd,” and is very focused on the upcoming midterm elections, though this is also her first time being involved in a political movement.
Both said that they were able to translate skills from their work to help them lead the group, including being comfortable in front of large groups and knowing how to teach.
Astoria March is very much still taking its shape and finding its focus. The women explained that they know their end goals—a progressive agenda focused on race, class and gender equality, women’s rights, climate change, immigration, and more—and they know their starting point, but are working to figure out what comes in between.
In addition to following the 10 actions laid out by the Women’s March, they have plans to move beyond that, and are working to put together a team of 12 leaders to organize through three branches of their group.
One branch will focus on policy and government functions, working to keep up with the news, condense the most important information, and disseminate it to group members.
The second branch will focus on communication and community action, running social media and emails to engage more community members, and working to turn the ideals put forward by the group in to action.
The final branch will focus on event planning and fundraising, planning group gatherings, which Kielty and Dusel-Foil hope to have several times a month.
Keeping with the Women’s March platform, the group has organized several “huddles,” which is the second of the ten actions suggested by the organization.
The “huddles” encourage groups of 10 to 15 people to gather and discuss issues on their minds, their fears, and hopes for the future.
Astoria March led several huddles at the Astoria Bookshop last week, and will lead several more this Wednesday and Thursday.
“One of my favorite things that they asked of us is to think about what you would tell future generations what you did to make a difference at this moment, what did you do to save the world,” Dusel-Foil said, outlining the reason so many feel compelled to get involved.
Moving forward, in addition to following the actions laid out by the Women’s March and attending protests throughout the city, Kielty and Dusel-Foil hope to launch other initiatives as well, including self-care workshops to help alleviate the intense stress many have felt since the election, as well as drawing in more artistic means of expressing these feelings with a performance or art piece of some sort.
“We have to look out for each other because what actually makes America great is when we take care of each other, not when we’re trying to tear each other apart, not when we’re trying to divide, or silence or anything else,” Dusel-Foil said. “America is great when we are looking out and taking care of each other.”
To learn more about the Astoria March group visit https://www.facebook.com/AstoriaMarch/.
To find a registered huddle near you visit https://www.womensmarch.com/100/action2/.