‘Millions of us feel the same way’
MICHIGAN CITY — When Christina Zacny isn’t managing table games at Blue Chip Casino, she spends her time trying to make the world a better place.
Next weekend, she will joining a group of Northwest Indiana women who will be taking a road trip to Washington, D.C. to take part in the annual Women’s March.
In 2017, the Women’s March was “the largest single protest march in American history when millions of women and allies marched on Washington, D.C. and cities in every state,” according to local organizer Julie Storbeck of Valparaiso.
In Northwest Indiana, well over 200 women organized trips to D.C. and hundreds more marched in Chicago, Indianapolis, and local “sister city” marches, she said.
Zacny she got involved at first because of the healthcare issue.
“I have a rare disease and wanted to help make sure that insurance companies covered pre-existing conditions.”
After taking part in the local march in Valparaiso in 2107, the 48-year-old Zacny joined her 27-year-old daughter Bristol Flachsenberger at the march in Indianapolis last year.
This year she is eager to take part in the big march in D.C.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so excited,” she said Friday. “I think this will be the most empowering event of my life, just to be with so many women who have the same values as I do.”
And she believes the marches work, though maybe not in the way many people would think.
“I think they have an effect, certainly; maybe not at the political level but on people’s perspectives. Just to prove to people that there are millions of us who feel the same way.”
And she also sees the march as a coping mechanism.
“I’m obviously not a Donald Trump supporter, but I think things like this helped us get through the last two years. These have not been easy times for a lot of us.”
Her only regret is that her daughter, a DeMotte resident, won’t be joining her this year.
“I march for health care and she marches for women’s reproductive rights,” Zacny said of her daughter. “She has a new baby so both issues are very important to us.”
Since that first march, the event has grown into a “formidable movement that helped change the face of politics and make ‘intersectionality’ a household word,” Storbeck said.
After the first march, “we started a local community group called Hoosier Women on the March, which helps educate women and allies about local actions like the March for Our Lives, protesting the water crisis in East Chicago, and the deportations out of Gary Airport.
“Plus, we provide a safe place to discuss some of these issues like #MeToo or harassment in the workplace.”
Hoosier Women has chartered a bus to Washington for this year’s march. It will leave Friday, Jan. 18, and make stops to pick up participants in Merrillville, Portage, and Michigan City, Storbeck said.
“From there, it’s a straight shot to D.C. for a whirlwind weekend that will change your life forever.”
Taking part in the first Women’s March definitely changed hers, she said.
“We had folks aged 18-85, of different genders, different races, different religions, different histories, on our buses talking and laughing together. I met one woman who was 100 years old. She was in a wheelchair and there was no shortage of women taking turns wheeling her through the sea of marchers.
“There were too many moments like that to share in one sitting.”
In 2018, Hoosier Women chartered three buses to the Women’s March in Indianapolis.
“With the elections, we felt we needed to march on our own capitol,”Storbeck said.
Erin Ledyard, a teacher in Michigan City, made banners that read “Celebrating Diversity” and “Marching for Equality” to take along on the trip.
Now in its third year, the group decided to send a bus to Washington. Those unable to go can donate for a marcher who otherwise couldn’t afford the ticket. Other women are carpooling to Indianapolis and some are planning to attend Chicago’s March Against Hate, sponsored by the Democratic Socialists of Chicago.
“This year, we’re marching on three states, so there’s something for just about everybody,” Storbeck said, “but, in my opinion, if you can get on a bus to D.C., that’s the place to be, especially if the government shutdown is still going on.”
For Zacny, a bus captain, it will be her first trip to Washington.
“The first year I marched in Valpo, and last year in Indianapolis. Now, I couldn’t be more excited about marching in Washington.”
So excited that she has taken time off from her job, though she said Blue Chip management has been understanding.
“They’ve been supportive,” said Zacny, who lives in Wheatfield and graduated from Kankakee Valley High School and Purdue North Central.
“I ran for political office after that first march [for District 16 state representative], and they have been supportive ever since.”
Both Storbeck and Zacny hope to see more women, especially from the La Porte County area, taking part.
“I know a lot of people from Michigan City are involved, and many will be going,” she said. “But we want to get as many more as possible to take part.
“This is our best chance to get our issues out, front and center, and show people that millions of us care about these issues.”
Tickets are $125 roundtrip, and include snacks, drinks and lightweight breakfast and sack lunches. Every rider will receive a commemorative pin.
Tickets can be purchased online at Eventbrite.com at “NWI Women’s March to DC (Jan 19, 2019),” or by emailing HoosierWomen@gmail.com. The event is listed on Facebook at “Hoosier Women on the March, the Page.”
Along with trying to rally more support for the march, Zacny is also organizing food and first aid kits for the trip.
“We’re women,” she said. “We make lunches. Nobody goes hungry or without Band-Aids when women are in charge.”