As Deena Katz (Cami ’19) stood on stage dancing to “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, surrounded by her sisters, daughter and 91-year-old father, staring out at 800,000 marchers, she knew she was witnessing a historic moment.
Deena Katz has served as the co-chair of Women’s March Los Angeles since the first march in 2017, working alongside her daughter and chair of the teen outreach committee Cami Katz.
“It is a really incredible feeling, just all of [my family] being together, and I am lucky to have a close-knit family, but there is something about putting on the marches and especially being at the marches every year,” Cami Katz said. “We just feel so close together, and it feels great knowing we are all trying to help this change and we are all doing it together.”
Prior to this year’s march, controversy arose when the east coast Women’s March organizers received backlash for making anti-Semitic comments, as well as for their public support for Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam who has publicly expressed his contempt for Jewish people.
Even though the marches across the country are all called “Women’s Marches,” the Los Angeles march is organized separately and does not answer to any national leadership, Deena Katz said.
As a Jewish woman leading the march in Los Angeles alongside her Jewish co-chair, it was difficult for Deena Katz to lead the movement during this period when there is a rift centered around her religious identity, she said.
“We were trying to plan [an event where] everybody’s equal, and we have somebody that is trying to be the face of the Women’s March and saying things that not only we don’t believe in, we don’t align with,” Deena Katz said.
The Los Angeles team was assured that the women at the center of the controversy were going to resign, but as of press deadline, that promise has not been fulfilled, Deena Katz said.
“We couldn’t let that bother us,” Deena Katz said. “There was a moment where I thought, ‘Gosh, do we not do this?’ And I said, ‘We are here to do good, and I know in my heart this isn’t me, and I know in my heart this isn’t anyone surrounding us, and we can’t just let one person do something and ruin what is needed at an emotional time.’”
Going into this year’s march, Cami Katz said the organizers had to take extra precautions in order to show that the Los Angeles march represented everyone.
“The people who came actually cared enough to read through [the headlines] and understand the Los Angeles march had nothing to do with [the controversy], so it was so amazing to be among this group of people who knew the march was more than the controversy,” Cami Katz said.
Following the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, Deena Katz and Cami Katz sat alongside their family trying to brainstorm how they could make an impact and affect positive change.
After hearing rumors of a Women’s March being started in D.C., Deena Katz had the idea to start a similar march in Los Angeles.
“I immediately thought, ‘We should do something here, you know, try and channel some of what we were feeling into working to make sure the human race was going to get to keep all of their rights,’” Deena Katz said.
For Cami Katz, the marches have shown her how politically active those around her are and how much they care about making a change if they are not satisfied with what is going on, she said.
“Young people and people my age were caring about politics in a way that I had never experienced before and caring about the marches and doing things to make a bigger change,” Cami Katz said. “I felt that we used to be very complacent because we thought that everything was just okay, but now we all take it more upon ourselves to really understand what is going on in the world and do our best to change it even though we might be young.”
As they began to plan and organize the first march in January of 2017, Deena Katz said she expected a turnout of around 10,000 people.
However, soon into the march, she realized they were going to far surpass that estimate, especially when LAPD officers told them there were 800,000 people in attendance.
“I always joke around that the first march wasn’t really a march, it was a standstill because we had no idea the amount of people we were going to have,” Deena Katz said.
Deena Katz expects the marches to continue annually, especially looking towards the 2020 congressional and presidential elections, she said.
During the rest of the year however, she hopes people will continue with their activism, she said.
“Just make sure you take care of each other and fight for everybody,” Deena Katz said. “I think that’s what [the march] has done. I think there’s a generation now that sees. [This] generation, I think, is more motivated and more educated than my generation was at 18, and I think this helps [the cause].”