Meet the 16-year-old activist organizing a big equality march in Philly - Generocity Philly

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Dec. 14, 2016 12:35 pm

Meet the 16-year-old activist organizing a big equality march in Philly

Anna Holemans is hoping to reignite passion for the Equal Rights Amendment with a march in Philadelphia the day before the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump.

Anna Holemans, the organizer of Alice's March for Equality.

(Photo by Tony Abraham)

Almost 104 years ago, a day before the inauguration of known-racist and sexist Woodrow Wilson, activist Alice Paul led a march for women’s rights down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Next month, a day before the inauguration of known-racist and sexist Donald Trump, 16-year-old activist Anna Holemans will lead a march for women’s rights in Philadelphia, from City Hall to Eakins Oval.

Holemans, a junior at Friends Select School in Center City, has been organizing Alice’s March for Equality for about a year and a half with the support of the Alice Paul Institute in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, and the Friends Council on Education, the national umbrella organization for Quaker schools based in Philadelphia.

The march will raise awareness for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), the proposed amendment that would guarantee equal rights women, authored by Paul in 1923. The amendment has been sitting stagnant since being introduced to Congress the same year it was written (minus the early ’70s, when it was given new life in state legislatures and quickly dismantled by conservative Phyllis Schlafly, who argued the amendment would uproot housewives).

Though some states have some form of the ERA’s protections written into their state constitutions, the amendment is yet to be passed at a federal level.

“It’s not uncommon for people to not know what it is. People my age don’t know what it is,” said Holemans.

Well, except for her classmates at Friends Select.

“Everyone knows me as a feminist. That’s sort of who I am,” she said. “At first they were like, ‘You’re gonna plan a march? Do you know how to do that?’ I said, ‘I’ll figure it out when I get there.'”

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And she has — but not without the support of Colleen Puckett, Friends Select’s assistant head of school for external relations. Holemans started organizing the march as a Girl Scouts project, for which she had to have a mentor. (Puckett had to actually apply for the gig: “I felt like I was interviewing for a job,” she said. “I wrote a cover letter.”)

Puckett wants Holemans to run for president of the United States someday. Holemans would be OK with that, as long as there’s another woman elected first.

“It’s not that I’m not up to the challenge,” she said. “I’d rather have the path carved out so there’s not another generation of girls who can’t look up to someone in the presidential office.”

A lot of women are upset with the election of Trump, said Holemans, and don’t have a place to channel their anger. She hopes to see women rally around the ERA once again — but this time, with a “modern twist.”

“Not just women, but people in general,” she said. “Universal human rights and equal opportunities. We have to have that.”

The march will take place on Jan. 19, 2017. Speakers include Alice Paul Institute Executive Director Lucy Beard, Friends Council on Education Executive Director Drew Smith, Arcadia University School of Education Dean Dr. Graciela Slesarensky-Poe, New Jersey State Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington) and more.

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