With a heart toward serving their community and a mind toward activism, both Kimberly Kirchmer and Robin Walters walk the walk, not only in their day jobs, but even after they’re off the clock.
Walters, a public defender for Kern County youth, and Kirchmer, a high school teacher, both commit countless hours to helping bring about positive change in our community.
In January 2017, just a few months after the 2016 presidential election, Kirchmer chartered four busses and took 140 women to the inaugural Women’s March in Los Angeles, an extension of the national movement. The following year, she was challenged to bring the march to Kern County.
However, with only 10 weeks to make it happen, many were skeptical, including Walters, her right-hand woman. But with the help of Women’s March Los Angeles and many local volunteers, they not only pulled it off, but they exceeded their expectations. Originally anticipating around 1,000 participants, drone footage shows that the crowd numbered more than 5,000 at that first march.
Last year’s march drew even larger numbers and the plans for the third annual Women’s March Kern County on Jan. 18, 2020, are well underway.
Although it started as a march, it has become a movement and it isn’t just for women. There are thousands of male allies who work alongside them. The movement isn’t meant to divide, but rather to unite us all in the common goal of making our community a better place for everyone who lives here, regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or party affiliation.
With a focus on the Unity Principles, the group strives to ensure civil rights, as well as the rights of those with disabilities, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, immigrant rights and LGBTQIA rights, while also promoting environmental justice and an end to violence.
The march in 2018 featured 50 speakers from all walks of life, each answering the question “I march because.” When asked why they march, Kirchmer and Walters both had very personal responses.
“As a victim of sexual assault, I was shocked, traumatized and outraged our country elected a sexual predator. The first march in Los Angeles was an opportunity to do something to express it and doing so with 750,000 other people empowered me to not wallow but do something,” said Kirchmer. “The next year, when I had the opportunity to organize a march in Kern County, I was honored to be part of a team to provide a platform to empower women to speak up and tell their stories and march alongside one another in unity. I’m also energized by my children and their future children, (as well as) my students (whom) I grow to love and want the best future for.”
For Walters, it was her then-high-school-age daughter who inspired her to become more actively involved after the 2016 election. Walters was also integral in organizing the first local march.
“After over 5,000 people showed up, I was energized and empowered. It was truly spectacular (to see) people from our own community loving and supporting each other, lifting up and empowering women, and truly loving their neighbor. That is what keeps me going,” said Walters. “When young girls come up and say, ‘I went to the march and it was so powerful,’ or, ‘I never felt so much positive energy.’ Hope and a core belief in the goodness of people, while sometimes hard to find, is what keeps me going. And I want to make the world a better place for my daughter.”
WMKC is currently in the process of putting together an advisory board made up of local female leaders in an effort to expand their reach and further unite various community organizations that share the same vision.
“This isn’t a partisan movement, this is a group of people committed to upholding the Unity Principles,” said Walters. “We want people to know how to get involved.”
On Oct. 19, they will be hosting a Resistance Boot Camp, along with other community-minded organizations. The camp will offer training in organization, phone and text banking, as well as other tools for becoming involved in our community. For more information or to register, go to their Facebook page www.facebook.com/resistancebootcamp or visit www.womensmarchkerncounty.com. ￼