The ‘waves’ of the future: A youth-led rally draws 150 people who hear a call to action in advance of midterm election

  • Hundreds gather for the Women’s Wave rally Saturday morning on the steps of City Hall in Northampton as thousands of people march in cities across the country, including the nation's capital, to rally for reproductive rights one month before the midterm elections. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Alice Jenkins, 17, speaks on the steps of City Hall during the Women’s Wave rally that she organized Saturday morning in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Alice Jenkins, 17, speaks on the steps of City Hall during the Women’s Wave rally that she organized Saturday morning in Northampton as thousands of people march in cities across the country, including the nation's capital, to rally for reproductive rights one month before the midterm elections. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Alice Jenkins, 17, speaks on the steps of City Hall during the Women’s Wave rally that she organized Saturday morning in Northampton as thousands of people march in cities across the country, including the nation's capital, to rally for reproductive rights one month before the midterm elections. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Amherst Regional eighth grader Inanna Balkin speaks during the Women’s Wave rally Saturday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Congressman Jim McGovern speaks during the Women’s Wave rally Saturday morning on the steps of City Hall in Northampton as thousands of people march in cities across the country, including the nation's capital, to rally for reproductive rights one month before the midterm elections. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Senator Jo Comerford speaks during the Women’s Wave rally Saturday morning on the steps of City Hall in Northampton as thousands of people march in cities across the country, including the nation's capital, to rally for reproductive rights one month before the midterm elections. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hundreds gather for the Women’s Wave rally Saturday morning on the steps of City Hall in Northampton as thousands of people march in cities across the country, including the nation's capital, to rally for reproductive rights one month before the midterm elections. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Crowds gather for the Women’s Wave rally for reproductive rights Saturday morning on the steps of City Hall in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hundreds gather for the Women’s Wave rally Saturday morning on the steps of City Hall in Northampton as thousands of people march in cities across the country, including the nation's capital, to rally for reproductive rights one month before the midterm elections. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Alice Jenkins, 17, organized the Women’s Wave rally at City Hall on Saturday morning in Northampton as thousands of people march in cities across the country, including the nation's capital, to rally for reproductive rights one month before the midterm elections. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/9/2022 8:45:32 PM

NORTHAMPTON — She’s not eligible to vote yet, but that didn’t stop a Hampshire Regional High School junior from organizing a protest Saturday rallying for women’s rights and encouraging others to cast their ballots next month for candidates who support those rights.

Standing on the steps of City Hall before a crowd of more than 150 people, 17-year-old Alice Jenkins explained why she felt so strongly about gathering people together on a crisp fall morning.

“I had a realization early on way back in May when those drafts were released … This fight isn’t about me. I am a cis white female living in a blue state. I will be fine. I’m still angry, still scared and that is OK. But I’m even more scared and even angrier for those in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) community, those in low-income communities, those in red states,” she said. “We need to fight for them. They are the ones who need it.”

Jenkins’ self-described activist journey started at an age when she wasn’t even sure what it meant. She was 11 years old when Donald Trump was elected as the country’s 45th president. When the official results were announced, she wept.

“And 11-year-old me may not know exactly why she was crying, but on June 24, 2022, 16-year-old me knew exactly why she was crying,” she said, referring to the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. “And today, 17-year-old me knows exactly what I’m going to do about it.”

Initially, the Westhampton youth had hoped to travel to Washington D.C. for the weekend to join the “Women’s Wave” demonstration, organized by the Women’s March. The group described the event as a call to action to rally supporters of racial justice and reproductive rights prior to midterm elections and had more than 400 events planned throughout the U.S., including Boston and Pittsfield.

“When it clearly wasn’t possible for me to be with the Women’s March in D.C. today, I began to give up. After a lot of thought and reflection, I realized that giving up wasn’t an option. I realized I need to stop waiting for the Women’s Wave to come to me. I needed to go out and take it,” she said.

She told rallygoers, “My voice is still valid in western Massachusetts. My voice is still powerful in western Massachusetts, you all need to realize that yours is too. If you leave this rally today, at least leave with this: Your voice matters and your vote matters. In one month, on Nov. 8, when you go to the polls, do not vote for yourself. Vote for me and all the other youth activists who can’t. Vote for your mom or your grandma or your great-grandma who has been protesting this crap longer than we can even remember.”

In planning the event, Jenkins made connections with several local groups and organized a schedule of speakers. Among those who joined her rally were Carrie Baker, professor and chairperson of the program for the study of women and gender at Smith College; Beth Lev, one of the leaders of Indivisible Northampton; as well as U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester; and state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton.

Several speakers encouraged attendees to help support Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in states like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Georgia through postcards and letter-writing campaigns, so that Democrats will gain control of the Senate.

“I can’t tell you how much inspiration and hope that I get from seeing people like you, who care deeply about this country, are not content to let these right wing idiots take over. And you’re willing to fight that,” McGovern said. “We should never have allowed Donald Trump to get elected. We should never have allowed these right-wing senators to get elected, or these right-wing congressmen to get elected. That should never have happened.”

Jenkins was not the only teenager who let her voice carry through the downtown. Inanna Balkin, an eighth grader at Amherst-Pelham Regional Middle School and member of the student-led Generation Ratify Amherst, also encouraged those of voting age to keep the youth in mind when casting a ballot.

“As a young person in America, I want everyone to remember that my generation is the future. We refuse to be the future without body autonomy, the generation where it’s easier to get a gun than it is to end or prevent a pregnancy,” Balkin said. “I ask people who have the power to elect candidates that swear they will do whatever it is in their power to protect our rights, so that today’s youth can go to a world where they don’t have to fight to control their own bodies. We are putting our trust in you to go for candidates that will be the best for our future, candidates who recognize that access to safe legal abortion is a human right.”

Balkin said she felt that her country had failed her when they elected a president who encouraged rioters to overturn a fair election and “appoint sexual offenders” to the Supreme Court. She further described how it was hard to fathom a world that maintains technology like cellphones and solar panels, but with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many states are forcing young women as young as 10 years old to have a baby.

“Here in Massachusetts, it’s so easy to take for granted protection by political leaders. However, we need to work to uphold these protections. In order to uphold our rights in Massachusetts, we need candidates to understand that we need and deserve the right to choose,” she said. “We need politicians who will represent not only the people above the voting age, but also the youth. We need candidates who will give us the choices and freedom that so many before us have worked and marched for. And I urge every single one of you out here to elect these candidates so we can become a better America with a much better future.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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