March for Unity brings southern Illinois community together


Sophie Whitten | @swhittenphotography

Vice President of the Women for Change organization, Deborah Woods, speaks during the introduction of the Women for Change march Sept. 18, 2021 in Carbondale, Ill.

Women For Change hosted their annual March For Unity Parade, which went from Rock Hill Baptist Church to Attucks Park on Sept. 18.

Women For Change is an organization dedicated to helping the Carbondale Community through food gardens, entrepreneur programs and other projects. Ginger Rye-Sanders, the organization’s president, said this parade is the organization’s biggest event of the year.

“We network with a lot of organizations in town,” Sanders said.“We come together to march for change in Carbondale.” 


According to Sanders they did have to make the celebration at Attucks Park smaller due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the message of the parade was the same.

“We are all a part of the same community, and need to come together to make a difference,” Rye-Sanders said.

The event had many different organizations from Shawnee Group Sierra Club, Spirit of Attucks, Attucks Service Board and Church Women Unite come to support Women For Changes cause by participating in the motorcade parade.

Jane Cogie, the chair of the Shawnee Group, has been a part of March for Unity since it started in 2016.

The Shawnee Group’s goal is to help the environment through various activities such as planting gardens and city clean ups.

“We want to work together to help change the community, make it healthier, and afford things for folks to do, especially young people,” Cogie said.

The Shawnee Group helped clean up the campus lake the first time the problems with blue green algae affected how safe the lake was for people.


Abdul Haqq, president of Attucks Service Board, said Women For Change is doing excellent work to spread awareness to the community.

“We share their goals for trying to reduce violence, and have grassroots efforts to empower the members of the community to find solutions among themselves, as well as to be united,” Haqq siad.

Attucks Service Board has programs similar to those Women For Change offers, providing meals to kids, and trying to end violence in Carbondale, Haqq said.

“The march helps the community because of Women for Change’s efforts to keep the community focused and aware of the importance of coming out, and supporting the diversity, and supporting programs, and that can help change their lives,” Haqq said.

Spirit of Attucks is made up of alumni from Attucks highschool. They provide scholarships to people in the community. Carlton Smith, president of  Spirit of Attucks,said this march is an important way to show the community that people are here to help.

“It is just a physical indication of unity,” Smith said.. “There is a whole cross section of people involved and it is just a physical deal of the fact that we are just trying to pull the community together.” 

Church Women United is made up of different churches and denominations from around Carbondale who fight against hunger in the community. Martha Ellert, the president of Church Women United, said her organization is proud to be a part of Women for Change’s effort in bringing the community together.

“It is a way of showing that various parts of the community are united and want the best for the community,” Ellert said.

Leatreasa Lilly-Madison and Susan Harper said this event brings a lot of people together.

“God has graced us five years to do his will and his way for our community because we are supposed to be out doing ministry, and we do it through Women for Change,” Harper said.

Women For Change means a lot to the people in the community and inspires them to help.  

“It brings about awareness. If you see me, and see that I am wearing this shirt, and see me holding a sign it makes you think. ‘What am I doing, and what can I do to help out in the Carbondale community’,” Madison said.

This event means a lot to so many people in this community because it spreads awareness and change through different programs such as gardens for the community, food drives and entrepreneur programs. 

“The message I would want to send to others is that we must come together, and collectively be people that will change what is going on in Carbondale,” Sanders said.

Staff reporter Janiyah Gaston can be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram at @janiyah_reports. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.