The first women’s memorial march was held in 1992 in response to the murder of beloved Cheryl Ann Joe on Powell Street in Vancouver. Out of this sense of hopelessness and anger came an annual march on Valentine’s Day to express compassion, community, and caring for all women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Unceded Coast Salish Territories.
The women’s memorial march continues to honour the lives of missing and murdered women and all women’s lives lost in the Downtown Eastside. Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women from the DTES still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. Indigenous women disproportionately continue to go missing or be murdered with minimal to no action to address these tragedies or the systemic nature of gendered violence, poverty, racism, or colonialism.
On Wednesday Feb 14th 2018, we will gather at 10:30 am at the Carnegie Community Centre Theatre, 401 Main Street (corner Hastings, Vancouver) where family members speak in remembrance. Given space constraints, we ask the broader public to join us at noon, when the march takes to the streets and proceeds through the Downtown Eastside, with stops to commemorate where women were last seen or found; speeches by community activists at Main and Hastings; a healing circle at Oppenheimer Park around 2:30 pm; and finally a community feast at the Japanese Language Hall.
We continue to call for a national inquiry that is led by family and community members and that centers our experiences, need for healing, and quest for answers, concrete action, and meaningful justice.
This event is organized and led by women in the DTES because women – especially Indigenous women – face physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence on a daily basis. The February 14th Women’s Memorial March is an opportunity to come together to grieve the loss of our beloved sisters, remember the women who are still missing, and to dedicate ourselves to justice.
* SUPPORT THE WOMEN’S MEMORIAL MARCH
There are many ways to support the Feb 14th Women’s Memorial March:
1) ATTEND: Spread the word and join us (all genders welcome) to the Feb 14th march. We respectfully ask that you please do not bring your agency or group banners, flags, or leaflets as the Women’s Memorial March carries five banners only to honour the women. Sign honouring womens lives are welcome.
2) KNOW THE PROTOCOL: In a good way, we want to inform everyone about the protocol the march that has been in place for 27 years:
At 10:30 am there will a family and community remembrance in the Carnegie Theatre. This is not open to media or the broader public.
The media and broader public begins gathering at approximately 11:30 in front of Main and Hastings where territorial elders welcome us. At noon the elders and family members exit from the Carnegie Theatre and everyone is asked to make a circle at Main and Hastings for the prayer. The march proceeds at noon only when elders and family members have exited the Theatre and after the prayer circle.
The March is organized and led by women. Women elders carrying medicines are at the front, followed by all women elders and family members and women drummers. The quilt made by loved ones in the DTES community is carried behind the family members and drummers. Everyone is invited to follow. We ask that you leave your organizational banners at home, signs honouring women's lives are welcome.
The march makes a numbers of stops along the way for ceremony to honour where women were last seen or found. There is no photography of the ceremonies. At approximately 2 pm we stop again at Main and Hastings for speeches by community activists, followed by a healing circle and drummers at Oppenheimer Park around 3 pm, and finally a community feast at the Japanese Language Hall.
3) VOLUNTEER: Please volunteer to support the march with setup, cleanup and more. We need approximately 55 volunteers. Volunteers can sign up here: http://signup.com/go/ZAisRjT
4) PLAN: Plan a memorial march in your community. Last year, memorial marches were held in approximately twenty other cities and communities. Please email us the details so we can maintain communication, compile the information on our website, and build strength in our coordinated efforts.
5) DONATE: Please donate. The February 14th Women’s Memorial March is made possible by organizations and individuals like you. Please make cheques payable to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, and include Feb 14th Women’s Memorial March on the memo line. Mail cheques to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, 302 Columbia St. Vancouver, BC V6A 4J1. All donations over $10 will be gratefully acknowledged with a tax deductible receipt.
Thank you all for your support and commitment,
Feb 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee