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Preparations are underway for Saturday’s Santa Maria Valley Women’s March, which organizers hope will bring people from around the area together to stand in support of progressive values and celebrate achievements in the 2018 midterm elections.

The Santa Maria march is just one of the hundreds of similar events that will be held in cities around the country. While other Central Coast cities, like San Luis Obispo, have held annual Women’s March events since the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump in 2017, this year will be the first time a march will be held in Santa Maria.

On Saturday, marchers will meet at Buena Vista Park at 10 a.m. for a pre-march rally that will include several speakers, including City Councilwoman Gloria Soto. Around 11 a.m., marchers will walk east down Morrison Avenue to Broadway, from Broadway south to Enos Drive and then west to Minami Park, located at 600 W. Enos Drive.

“We’ll start the program at Minami Park around noon and we’ll have several speakers,” Solario said, adding that Rep. Salud Carbajal, Mayor Alice Patino, Santa Barbara County Supervisor 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann and Planned Parenthood Central Coast CEO Jenna Tosh will also be among the featured speakers.

Organizers will hold a poster-making party from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the United Domestic Workers of America (UDW) office, 402 S. Miller St.

Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt, president of the Santa Maria-Lompoc NAACP and one of the organizers of the march, said planning for the Santa Maria Valley event began in early 2018, after marches took place in other cities on the Central Coast.

“At that time, some of us went to San Luis Obispo or some of us went to Santa Barbara,” she said. “We thought, ‘It doesn’t make sense that we don’t have one in Santa Maria and that we’re deferring to other people. We should be doing it.’”

“It seemed very appropriate to us that the city with the largest population in the area hold a women’s march, especially after the last election,” said Patricia Solorio, one of the event’s planners, noting the large number of women who were elected to positions in federal, state or local government during the 2018 midterm elections. “We wanted to draw attention locally to progressive values that do exist on the Central Coast and specifically Santa Maria, although it does tend to be more conservative than most of the other regions in the state.”

While every individual has their own reason for marching, Lyons-Pruitt said the march is meant to affirm progressive values on topics like immigrant rights, farmworker rights, LGBTQ equality, health care, the environment and reproductive rights.

“Everything that’s under attack — and everything is under attack,” she said.

The nationwide theme for the 2019 march is the Women’s Wave, which refers to the number of women who ran for political office after the 2017 and 2018 marches. Following the 2018 midterm elections, there are a record 21 women in the U.S. Senate, and more than 100 women serve in the House of Representatives.

Locally, organizers want to celebrate what Soto’s recent election to the City Council means for representation in Santa Maria.

“This is a group made up of a lot of her campaign volunteers,” Solorio said. “Of course, we’re very excited for her win but in addition to that, it was a huge win in Santa Maria. We feel a significant change, not just in demographics but perspective, especially with [Soto] being so young with lived experience as the daughter of immigrants.”

Anne Bercilla, who assisted with the organization of the march, said, “With Gloria’s election, Santa Maria is very much a part of [the Women’s Wave], and I think her election is indicative of a desire in the city for more progressive leadership.”

Organizers also hope the march inspires young women with the message that they can take on leadership roles and make a difference in their communities.

“We want to keep the momentum going,” Solorio said. “It feels like there’s a lot of talk and a lot of thinking about the 2020 elections already and I think typically there was this sense of, ‘Oh my gosh, we just had an election, can we give it a rest for a while?’ Maybe it's just me, but I feel like there's a different response this time around, a desire to keep the momentum going.”

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed

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