A postcard the duo has produced for the Road to the American Woman project.
One day after president-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office and officially becomes the 45th president of the United States January 20, millions of women will march in protest across the country, including at the nation’s capital, during a planned Million Women March. Two Long Beach artists will set out on a road trip leading up to inauguration weekend where they will try to capture the essence of being female in America and tell the untold stories of those women they meet.
Long Beach residents Niko Galvez and Alyssandra Nighswonger will embark on a multi-week journey through the middle of the country to investigate the state of women in the United States, documenting those encounters and finally compiling it into a film to preserve their trip and to share with others.
Galvez said that their project, Road to the American Woman, will undoubtedly capture a vast array of viewpoints and experiences, but restarting the conversation, something fueled by the election of Trump last month, is an important step toward the future of women in this country. They hope to compile their trip into a documentary that may be screened when they return home.
“There might be some people out there that have some super poignant answers about what it means to be an American woman but I think that answer won’t come until after the film and I think that’s the next step,” Galvez said. “We’ve gathered all of our hopes and our dreams and our fears and we’ve started this conversation, with that, how do we unpack what’s defined us and how do we redefine American woman moving forward?”
Like any project, there are costs associated with traveling cross country by car for a multi-week tour. They’re launching a crowd-funding effort in hopes of raising the $6,000 they need to purchase the video and audio equipment they need to document the trip, and also to pay for travel expenses. However, if they don’t reach their mark Galvez has pledged to forge ahead even if it means using credit cards to get to DC.
The duo have had outreach from multiple city council members leading up to the project’s launch with Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce hosting an event to kick-off their project at the East Village Arts Park December 12.
Pearce said that she immediately got behind the project when she learned it would put Long Beach artists in Washington D.C during what could be a watershed moment for women’s rights, but also because of the value of the project going forward.
She recalled her own mother’s advocacy on behalf of the LGBT rights and increased efforts in AIDS research and watching Muslim women in Houston, Texas march in hijabs in the wake of 9/11. Women’s stories and capturing them for future generations to experience can be inspiring, much like her mother’s actions, and being part of them inspired her, Pearce said.
“As a mom, as a woman, I think that art is a great way to share our story and to learn from another and have anyone be able to look back at a place and time in history when women feel like their rights might be threatened,” Pearce said. “To have my daughter go back and look at history and learn from that and learn from the women that are going through this today is a unique opportunity and I think that’s why storytelling is so important.”
Galvez said that having the support of a local leader like Pearce has provided a sense of validation to their project. It will also provide much needed chairs and refreshments for the event that will serve as a launchpad for their crowdfunding effort.
Validation aside, the concern had been there since election night. Whether it was the threat to women’s reproductive rights, body-shaming former Miss Universe winners or the the general rhetoric used toward women during his campaign, there was plenty of conceivable things for women in the US to be concerned about.
One of, if not the most pressing concern among women she’s spoken with since November 9th is what a Trump presidency means for the victims of sexual assault in particular.
She referenced the Access Hollywood clip that surfaced a week before the election that showed Trump bragging about groping women and the lack of universal outrage that followed it. The indifference exhibited by some, she said, has potentially made it harder for women to come forward about a subject that is already difficult to talk about.
Galvez said that his election certainly shed light on the fact that maybe the fight for equality and acceptance was not yet over and she hopes that this documentary will be part of a larger national conversation that stokes that debate once more.
The two will hit 14 cities of varying sizes and makeups on their way to and from the Million Woman March at the National Mall in Washington and will span some 7,000 miles before ending in Monterey, California. Every leg of the trip is scheduled to be completed in one day with the duo’s only rest coming when they join the march in Washington.
Plans to join some 130,000 women in D.C. as well as hundreds of thousands of others planning similar gatherings in other cities throughout the county seem to have taken a hit yesterday when The Guardian reported that the National Park Service filed documents that would bar protestors from the Lincoln Memorial and much of the National Mall on the days surrounding the inauguration. While events in other cities are still planned to go on, the D.C. arm of the Million Women March could be in jeopardy with a lack of public space to fit such a large group of women.
Galvez isn’t certain what to expect when they get there, or on the road in between, but she thinks she’ll uncover a similar struggle voiced among most women and will see their collective resolve on display on inauguration weekend. wherever that may end up being.
“Instead of dwelling in it we’re all going to be gathering together in solidarity to say we’re not okay with what he represents and what his language endorses,” Galvez said about the Million Women March. “The fact that we’re all going to gather together I think it’s an amazing day one. If this is four years of this, this is what we’re doing day one.”