ALAMOSA — A clear blue sky and a brisk wind set the stage for the Women’s Street Gathering 2021 Main Street on Saturday morning, Jan 23. Standing in clusters of two or three, the women (and some men) were spaced out on the sidewalks along Main Street, holding up signs and waving as late morning traffic passed by. Most were residents of Alamosa, but there were also participants who came from as far away as Pueblo.
Facilitated by six women with the San Luis Valley Action for Change Together (SLV ACT), the gathering largely reflected the temperament of the women who brought people together. Calm and friendly with a clear purpose and a well-defined idea of how they hoped the gathering would go.
No marching. No standing in the streets. And a request that signs be respectful.
“We’re a small community,” states Patricia Eagle, one of the event coordinators. “We’re friends and neighbors. We want to just make people aware that there are many issues that still aren’t being dealt with.“ Eagle cites the #MeToo movement. Women’s reproductive rights. Human rights. Justice. Support for LGBTQ. “We’re here to promote good feelings. Unity. Community.”
SLV ACT was originally formed in 2016. Since then, the group has organized annual marches and held programs at Adams State University focused on issues relevant to the times, such as health care, immigration and equality. They have also organized programs that involved members of both political parties.
But, this year, the current environment – including the pandemic and a nation struggling with divisive partisanship – called for a different type of gathering. One that is non-confrontational and respectful of different, maybe even conflicting, opinions.
“We’re not looking for everyone to be on the same page,” Eagle says. “I want two parties. I want a healthy debate. But I don’t want that debate to be destructive. I’m hopeful that we can move away from divisiveness to politics that honor people of different beliefs.”
Charlotte Ledonne, another organizer, admits the goal is ambitious but doable. “Civil discourse is possible,” she says. “But it’s going to take time. Maybe even longer than four years. First, we have to acknowledge the past. But, to really step into it, we have to repair it.”
Carla Kochis, a participant in the gathering, holds a sign that reads “My body, my choice” and describes herself as “cautiously optimistic” about the direction things are headed. But she is still waiting to see where the administration goes from here.
“I was extremely politically active – the most I’ve ever been – in this last election, and I don’t want to let up now that Biden has won. We can’t just…let it go again. There’s still a lot of work to do.”
Although there were a few “nasty” comments yelled by people driving by, the reaction to the gathering was largely supportive, as demonstrated when the driver of a car passing by honks his horn and shows the thumbs-up sign. Carla stops speaking to hoot and hold up her sign in response.
“I’m out here today,” she says, “because, even though this is a small town with maybe not a whole lot of diversity, even if people don’t take to our signs, I think it’s good that they can at least they can see that there’s a community here who really believe in this.
And if people just moved here or are just passing through, I think they can look at this and see that, yeah, this is a friendly and inclusive place.”
Standing nearby, participant Christina Bolt says,” I’m here celebrating things women have done and being hopeful. This really started in 2016, and there was a lot of energy behind this kind of thing. I just want to keep it going.”
SLV ACT does not have any future events planned at this time, but it seems that this is not about organizing individual events. It’s more about a perspective and way of life. “We’re all activists,” says Eagle. “We’re activists who love our community and our country.”
As if on cue, the driver of another passing car honks his horn.
The six women who organized Saturday’s Women’s Street Gathering 2021 Main Street included Charlotte Ledonne, Patricia Eagle, Beth Kinney, Barb Kolupke, Jan Oen and Elisa Rudolph. More information about the organization can be found on the SLV ACT Facebook page.