ATLANTIC CITY — A wall of chanting women and men pounded along the Boardwalk just before noon Saturday to bring the resort’s first Women’s March and Rally home to Jim Whalen Boardwalk Hall.
Led by organizer Estina Baker, the crowd that held hundreds of people chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!” and “We love you, Fannie Lou!”
Kathy Iannacone and Maryann Moebius, both of Gloucester County, stood in front of Boardwalk Hall waiting for the marchers to arrive and the rally to start.
“We women have to stick together and not accept what’s currently happening (in politics),” Iannacone, 68, said. “We’re part of the resistance.”
The march, from South New Jersey Avenue to Boardwalk Hall, was held in honor of Fannie Lou Hamer, a voting and women’s rights activist who was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement, fighting for voting rights for blacks nationally and mounting a run for Congress.
Hamer’s phrase “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” — spoken at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City — was a rallying cry for the movement.
While marchers turned out alone and in pairs, there also were many groups, including casino-worker union Unite Here Local 54, the League of Women Voters, the Atlantic City High School Varsity Cheer Squad, professors and students from Stockton University and more.
“I’m marching (for) equality, love and unity,” Loreal Ellevintage Chrisp said. “And I’m marching for a government breakthrough.”
Ellevintage Chrisp, 37, a Local 54 member, said the government shutdown has dragged on too long, and that federal employees are suffering. If no one stands up, she said, nothing will change.
The rally brought everyone back to Boardwalk Hall, where Hamer testified at the DNC 55 years ago in opposition to the seating of an all-white Mississippi delegation. Although Hamer’s efforts were defeated, her testimony was broadcast nationally. One year later, the Voting Rights Act was passed.
“It was beautiful,” Atlantic County Freeholder Ashley Bennett said of the march before she mounted the stage to honor women who served on Atlantic City Council. “It was solidarity. It was sisterhood.”
Keynote speaker Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver spoke about Hamer’s political activism.
“Too often there are people among us, in our communities, there are everyday heroes all around us,” she said. “As a community, we need to honor and recognize and lift up the contribution of all of us.”
For Barbara Rheault, a union leader with the New Jersey Education Association, the word of the day was justice.
“We’re not an inclusive country anymore,” Rheault, 55, said. “It always seems that special interests are put ahead of the people, and that’s just not right.”
Rheault beckoned back to Hamer’s famous words.
“The whole idea is that people are sick and tired,” she said. “But people are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Positive change only happens when we collaborate together.”
Staff Writer Lauren Carroll contributed to this report.