Attendees make their way down Main Street from Roop’s Fort during the January 20 Women’s March in Susanville. Photos by Jake Hibbitts

Local Women’s March honors Zellamae Miles

More than 112 residents from Lassen and Plumas counties joined millions of marchers across the nation and around the world in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington Saturday, Jan. 20. The local march also honored the late Zellamae Miles.

Marchers show off their sign in memorandum for the late Zellamae Miles, who passed away tragically Jan. 2.

The organization’s website, womensmarch.com, reads that, “The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change.”

The national and international group details its platform known as the “Unity Principles,” which consist of ending violence, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and environmental rights.

This is the second annual event, which is led by Co-Presidents Tamika D. Mallory and Bob Bland.

Miles, a beloved community member and great granddaughter of Susanville founder Isaac Roop, passed away Jan. 2. Miles was honored by the event, as one attendee, Christine Johnson stated, “Zellamae was my P.E.O. sister; I honor her memory and more important than honoring her memory, I strive to just use her as a role model. She was an amazing, accepting woman and she was always interested in others.”

P.E.O. is the Philanthropic Educational Organization, which provides educational opportunities for women.

Another attendee of the march, Deborah Abbott, recalled Miles as, “A personal friend” and, “an inspiration for why she was there.”

Miles was deeply involved with her local community. She was a Campfire Girl leader, a faithful member of the Lassen County Historical Society and a board member of Lassen Land and Trails Trust.

A wide range of people gathered and marched together, all with their own unique story. Again, Johnson mentioned that she was also, “out there to encourage women to register to vote, become educated about the issues and to exercise their right to vote.”

Her husband, William Johnson, stated he was there to support his wife and to “support the memory of Zellamae.” However, he went on to say that he believes “our political situation has gotten worse since the current administration has taken office,” and that “people need to be vocal.”

Another marcher, Mary Piowaty West, gave her story.

“My mother-in-law lived to be 99 1/2, and she died in July 2017. She was so disappointed; she wanted to see a woman president. She was a pioneer woman herself and she went to medical school in 1940 when women couldn’t get into men’s medical colleges, so she went to a women’s medical college in Pennsylvania. She was a go-getter; a pioneer, and I adore her. So I march in honor of Irma West, M.D. and Zellamae Miles.”

Not all of the marchers knew Miles; some were there to support the cause. Christian Lewis Gray said that he was there because he “believes this rally, allowing both parties to be here, is the only way to truly achieve equality and by having males and females coming together, we can truly make this a better world for all.” He added, “Both sides have to come together to create true equality.”

Retired Navy veteran Pat McKenzie salutes marchers as they walk by on Main Street during the Saturday, January 20 Women’s March honoring the late Zellamae Miles and standing in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.

Walking along Main Street, spotted in the parking lot on the corner of Main and Ash, there was a gentleman, Pat McKenzie, who was saluting the marchers. When asked about why he was choosing to salute the group as they walked by, he mentioned, “I did my service, and I’m honoring these people that are doing their service.”

As the marchers made their way toward Walgreens and then back up Main Street again, there was a lady named Deborah Herzik who mentioned she “wouldn’t have missed this march for the world.” She said, “I love the community spirit, and I’m so happy to be here to share this event.”

Herzik said she worked at the Northeastern Rural Health Clinic in Westwood for three weeks while the primary care provider is on vacation. She went on to say that last year when she was on assignment in Napa Valley she went to the Women’s March there and so far has yet to at her home in Redondo Beach when the event has taken place.

Overall, the group was cheerful and quite conversational, with many carrying posters honoring Zellamae’s memory. Others were waving their American flags and numerous participants were seen carrying signs speaking of “Love,” “Equality” and “Peace.”