September 26, 2018

How this city’s sister march came to be

“Dancing With the Stars” producer Deena Katz had no idea what she was getting herself into when she reached out to Women’s March organizers one week after the presidential inauguration.

She’d heard about the upcoming rally in Washington, D.C., and wanted to organize a sister march in Los Angeles. But she never could have anticipated the response: 750,000 participants took to the streets by organizers’ estimates (the Los Angeles Police Department left it at “well past 100,000”). Globally, more than 3 million people took to the streets.

To Katz, who attends Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades, the march was an important way to react to Donald Trump’s electoral victory.

“I could either curl up in a ball and cry or try and do something proactive,” she told the Journal, days before the march.

Katz said she had considered buying tickets to fly out to the nation’s capital for the march there, but then had a different thought: “Gosh, if they’re doing it in D.C., maybe we should do it here.” After that, as she told the Journal, there was no turning back.

JEWISH JOURNAL: Have you ever organized anything like this before?

DEENA KATZ: No, I’m a television producer, so this is out of my world. Part of [organizing a march] does feel like you’re producing a really big TV show. [Emiliana Guereca], my co-chair, actually is a producer for live events, so she knew how to deal with permits. Other marches were having more difficulty with that, but that’s what Emmy does. So I’m thrilled we were working together on this.

JJ: Why did you get involved?

DK: Instead of spending the money to fly my sisters, my nieces and my daughter all out to D.C., I think the [American Civil Liberties Union] and Planned Parenthood need that money more right now. And it’s more empowering for it to be in another city to show solidarity. So we thought, even if 5,000 people come, that’ll be pretty amazing.

I reached out to the women that were running the D.C. march and it happened that the woman who’s my co-chair also did the same thing at the same time. We had never met each other and it started, honestly, as the most grass-roots thing. We got everyone involved to volunteer and it’s grown. I’m so proud.

JJ: What has this whole experience been like for you?

It’s been the best experience. The scariest experience. It is the most empowering experience.

DK: It’s been the best experience. The scariest experience. It is the most empowering experience. As fantastic as it is here in Los Angeles, we’re all pretty like-minded here. We get on these calls with the sister marches — because there’s a couple hundred of them around the country now — and to hear the women in Texas and Arizona and parts of North Carolina, where it’s not as easy to be, as it is here, to resist — and talk about empowering, these women are trying to get a couple hundred people in their town to attend, having their kids in school draw posters for it. This is much more difficult for them than it is for us. We’re easily going to have over a million people around the country march on the same day.

JJ: Why march? In your opinion, what’s in jeopardy?

DK: I think human rights are in jeopardy. I think women’s rights. I think reproductive rights. I think immigration rights. I think LGBTQ rights. Environmental rights. Religious rights. You can go on and on and on, sadly. To me, there are so many human rights in jeopardy. More people need to register, get out and vote. Without people voting, we’re not going to make a change. I have a 16-year-old daughter and unfortunately, what we fought for, for so long, I think people are going to have to fight for again.

Deena Katz

Deena Katz

JJ: Describe the shift you’ve witnessed in people, before and after the election?

DK: With my daughter in particular, she didn’t think she had to speak out. She took things a little bit for granted and I think now she’s realizing the power of her voice, the power of her millennial voice. If something comes out of this, it’s the power in people that didn’t necessarily pay attention, didn’t think they had to. So hopefully people will realize that you do have a voice and for me doing this, it energizes me. I’m looking forward to the end of January, I’m looking forward to March, I’m looking forward to June.