By Ed Mickens
On January 19, when the Prescott Women’s March gathers for the third year in a row, it will carry a new, more inclusive name, Yavapai County Women March On, but it will still focus attention on the importance of equality, education, healthcare, environment and a thriving community. And in the crowd of women and men will be one of the stalwarts of progressive values in our area: Maria Lynam.
Looking back at the first Women’s March in January 2017, Maria recalls, “After the 2016 election I was depressed, and I am not a depressive person, but I was in an emotionally and mentally lethargic state for a few months. Then I happened to see an invitation in the paper to show up at Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist congregation to make posters for a women’s march, so I went. I figured there would be ten or so people. There were 60!”
“Everyone brought their poster supplies, there was no room to work. I didn’t think I would really know anyone, but I seemed connected to everyone there–friends and their friends. That lit the fire under me. I made more than 20 posters for that march.”
Maria and her husband, Bill Lynam, had retired to Prescott in 2000. She thought she would devote time to her art, especially her printmaking, and he wanted to focus more on writing. They soon found themselves volunteering for a variety of community activities: Maria at the PCA Gallery, Bill in the Civil Air Patrol, both at Sharlot Hall, both in classes at Yavapai College. These are involved people.
“At the first march in 2017,” Maria says, “I felt I knew over half the 1200 people who joined us. We were all closet Democrats, or closet Progressives. How could I not know that there was a progressive community here? I just didn’t pay attention, and I don’t think anyone else did either, but things sure change when you’re scared.”
Neither she nor Bill had been politically active since they protested the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Now, they turned their creativity toward helping the rest of the community get involved.
She smiles. “The day of the first march it snowed, and a lot of people, especially Californians, called me. They didn’t have boots! So I started a phone tree, and called around finding boots in all sizes. We became ‘Boot & Poster Central,’ parked in front of the ‘Tis Gallery on Cortez. Bill and I handed out all the posters & the boots. Then we joined the march.”
But it didn’t end there. “After the 2017 march, I saw an ad in the paper asking that people interested in forming an Indivisible group to show up at the Prescott Library. I went to the first meeting and put out a signup sheet to get names & emails for those attending.
“I started getting emails from people I knew, and meeting folks who had questions like; ‘What are we going to do next?’ I didn’t have the answers, but people felt comfortable asking me those questions. So I started a little newsletter. At the beginning I had 50 people on the list.
“My newsletter was subsequently titled ‘Persist and Resist,’ and until this past September I published it every week. This fall I stepped back and switched out my publication schedule so P&R alternates with the Prescott Indivisible Newsletter. I am proud to say that we now reach 1,324 people—most in the quad-city area. Both publications have a link to a community calendar that I keep current.”
The success of the first Women’s March, and Maria’s efforts to keep people connected, made a second march inevitable.
“In 2018 we were more organized,” she says. “We sold t-shirts, hats, and scarves and had a Facebook page. I was involved with Prescott Indivisible, and we got the word out. The Women’s March is supported by the progressive community–Granite Peak UU and many other church groups, Grandparents for Peace, Greater Yavapai County Coalition, Planned Parenthood, and social justice groups all marched with us.”
That also made it easier to organize, just two months later, a protest in support of students after the school shootings in Parkland, Florida.
Maria continues, “We had 1,100 people turn out to march for gun control after the Parkland shootings. This march was under the sponsorship of Prescott Indivisible and their Human Rights Team. While preparing, I did a search for all the school shootings since 1990 and printed 20-plus pages. Sadly, those numbers have gone up during 2018, and we have added shootings at hospitals, universities, synagogues, churches, malls, drive-bys. It’s horrible.”
Also in 2018, Maria got involved in the race for Arizona’s Fourth Congressional District. “This is the first time that I worked directly on a campaign. I knew Dr. David Brill. He was a member of Prescott Indivisible and worked with me on committee assignments. It was very informative and exciting working on his campaign. I met and worked with many new people. Eventually, I volunteered for the statewide coordinated campaign with the Yavapai Democrats.”
She shifted her attention back to the upcoming march on January 19. “This year we changed our name to Yavapai County Women March On to be more inclusive. We not only have people from all over the county coming; marchers come from Ash Fork, Kingman, all over northern AZ and the Phoenix area. We want to be inclusive. When people Google, ‘Where is there a women’s march in Northern Arizona?’, Prescott comes up on the national maps of events.”
And after the 2019 march?
“I laughingly say, a vacation, but we know 2020 is next. I’ll continue volunteering with Prescott Indivisible. We meet the first Friday of every month at the Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist from 6-7:30p. We have a number of committees that meet independently—Human Rights, Immigration, Environment, Education, Voting and Communication and Events. There is much to do.”
Maria was recently asked to become the chair of Democratic Women of the Prescott Area (DWPA). “I look forward to working with my vice chair, Marion Pack, and the rest of the board. Since 2017 membership has grown and political and social justice leaders present current topics at the meetings. For those interested, we meet the third Wednesday of every month at the Centennial Center in Prescott.”
Maria Lynam doesn’t think what she’s done is so extraordinary. She still considers herself just an artist, a neighbor, a citizen who is concerned about her community and its future. She just hopes more people will join her. “I encourage others to show up and find a niche to make a difference, she says. “Whether it is through an organization such as Prescott Indivisible, or working directly for a political party, or showing up once a year at the Women’s March, you can make your voice heard.”
Women’s March Events, January 2019
Yavapai County Women March On
Saturday, January 19, 2019, at 1pm. Courthouse Plaza, Prescott. Wear purple! It’s the color associated with feminine energy and the ability to think outside the box, and honors the work we’ve done to turn Arizona purple.
FlashMob dance follows the March, Courthouse Plaza
Join in and move! The public can practice their moves at rehearsals, January 5, 12, 13 and 17. Granite Peak UU. There will also be song rehearsals, poster parties, and other events leading up to the March. More information available on Facebook.com/march011919, or “Yavapai County Women March On.” Twitter: #yavapaicountywomenmarchON Email: YCWomenMarchOn@gmail.com
Women’s Wave Art Exhibit
January 18-25, 9am-3pm, plus 4th Friday Art Walk January 25, 5-8pm BUtiFULL Gallery/Art Studio, 211 N. Granite St., (alley access), Prescott. A juried exhibition of work by women artists, organized by Prescott’s own, internationally recognized Carol Russell. Opening Night Reception: January 18, 5-7pm. Open and free to the public.
[Editor’s Note: Heidi Hampton had helped in the making of this article.]
Ed Mickens is a well-know author/writer and activist in his own right. He is currently working on his own book. A new photo book, Why We March On, Prescott, AZ , will be available in early January. Go to facebook.com/@march011919 for updated information. We will also have buttons available this year. Hats and scarves are available for donation. T-shirts will be available from an online store YCWMO@anythingshirts.com. Show your support! To sign up for the Persist and Resist newsletter, or be included in the community calendar, send a request to PIAZnewsletter@gmail.com. IMAGES: Painting Maria Lynam courtesy of Maria Lynam, “Laughing marcher” and “Crowd of marchers” photos by Bonnie Dann, YCWMO poster, “Singing marchers” and “Flash mob organizer” by Stephanie Brown.