Legendary actress and activist Rosie Perez was the heart and soul of a rally at the start of the Women’s March in New York City on Saturday, energizing the impassioned crowd and tying together the speeches presented by organizers, politicians and A-listers.
“This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” Perez told the crowd in her opening remarks. Perez, who was born in Bushwick, has long been an antiauthoritarian icon. She skyrocketed to prominence in 1989 after her extraordinary debut in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.”
In a Google search for her striking performance in the film’s opening credits dancing to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” the first hit will be to a YouTube video of the scene entitled “The Greatest Opening Credits in Movie History” (revisit the iconic clip above).
Perez has been an outspoken supporter of the march; she is also a vocal advocate for Puerto Ricans, a champion of the fight against HIV/AIDS and the artistic board chair of education nonprofit Urban Arts Partnership.
Among the speakers Perez introduced were Katherine Siemionko, who organized the Women’s March in New York City; Taylor Schilling, who plays Piper Chapman on Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black;” Heritage of Pride’s Michele Irimia; New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney; “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon, who brought Dame Helen Mirren onstage after her (Mirren, in practical walking attire, delighted the assembled crowd by by declaring that “today, I am a New Yorker!”); New York City’s comptroller Scott Stringer and public advocate Tish James and New York state senators Liz Krueger and Andrea Stewart Cousins; actress Whoopi Goldberg; and first lady of New York City Chirlane McCray (artist Yoko Ono, who was also in attendance, got a shout out from the stage, as well).
After the emphatic remarks of the many speakers, fired up marchers poured from the site of the rally on 47th street onto 2nd avenue. Marchers looking north could see crowds packing the streets all the way to the vanishing point.
The Mayor’s office estimates that nearly 400,000 demonstrators participated in the Women’s March in New York City. Among the marchers, Perez may have been the most prominent person with ties to Bushwick, but she certainly wasn’t the only one.
All photos by Emilie Ruscoe for Bushwick Daily.