Monday, Jul. 22, 2019

Taking Peacebuilding to 'Speak Truth to Power NOW' Conference

By Nancy Merritt · July 26, 2018

Women hold up half the sky.  – Chinese Proverb 

The California Department of Peacebuilding (DoP) Campaign tabled and took peacebuilding to the national conference of the National Organization for Women (NOW) – “Speak Truth to Power NOW” – in San Jose, CA from July 6-8, 2018.   The conference featured long-time NOW activists and young activists, and highlighted both discouraging and hopeful issues and developments.    

Peace necessarily includes equality.  "No truth, no equality.  No equality, no justice.  No justice, no peace.  No peace, no love.  No love, only darkness," said Suzy Kassem.  Legislation to create a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding (DoP/ HR 1111) calls for equality between men and women and for empowering women and girls.  (See HR 1111, Finding #10 and Section 106(G).)

The CA DoP group advocated for violence prevention and support of DoP legislation  and tabled with sacred activists/ authors Marilyn Nyborg and Sushila Mertens (“A Women’s Guide to Sacred Activism: How Do We Move Forward?”).  CA DoP State Coordinator/ Southern CA and past president of CA NOW, Jerilyn Stapleton, was a panelist at a workshop on “Analyze the Rape Kits: Breaking Barriers to Justice.” During a session with famed women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, Gloria acknowledged and  thanked Jerilyn for her long-time work in the women’s movement.  When asked what she would tell Trump if he walked into the room right then, Gloria said, “I would tell him justice is coming.”

Department of Peacebuilding (DoP/ HR 1111) sponsor Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), who has represented the San Francisco East Bay in Congress since 1998, was a featured speaker.  Prior to serving in Congress, Barbara Lee was a member of the CA State Assembly and the CA Senate.  In these capacities, she authored 67 State Assembly bills and resolutions that were signed into law, including LGBTQIA+ rights and hate crimes reduction legislation.  As a State Senator, she authored and passed the first CA Violence Against Women’s Act and served as a member of the CA Commission on the Status of Women.  

NOW President Toni Van Pelt wrote that NOW is a united front, “joined together by our vision for women’s rights and equality to be recognized, honored and respected by our society, our laws and our public policy… We will not stop calling out, standing up, advocating for, being present, speaking truth to power NOW until we see an end to the cultural acceptance of violence and bullying that permeates throughout our country and our world.  Enough is Enough!  Time’s Up!” 

Currently, American women and girls do not have basic civil and human rights under the U.S. Constitution.  For many years, NOW and others have worked to include in the Constitution an amendment affirming equality between the sexes – the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which requires ratification by 38 states.  In 1982, 35 states ratified.  As of 2017-2018, 37 states have ratified.  At the July 2018 conference, NOW adopted a “Resolution to Support Passage of the Congressional Joint Resolutions to Repeal the Arbitrary Ratification Deadlines for the Equal Rights Amendment.” Congress first passed a ratification deadline of 1979 for the ERA and later extended that to 1982.  There are measures in Congress to repeal this arbitrary ratification deadline as occurred when, after 203 years, the 27th amendment on Congressional pay raises was adopted. 

The 24-word ERA is: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Regarding the ERA, Toni Van Pelt said, “Together we are the vanguard of the protracted campaign for women’s constitutional equality. With the (recent) wins in Nevada and Illinois, Virginia is poised to be the next state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.  We are tantalizingly close to finally accomplishing our goal.”

Conference honorees, speakers, topics and resolutions reflected a broad spectrum  of issues.

Honorees and award winners included:  

  • Gloria Allred, Lifetime Achievement (founding partner of the law firm Allred, Manoko & Goldberg, which handles more women’s rights cases than any other private law firm in the nation and has won hundreds of millions of dollars for victims; television commentator; and author of “Fight Back and Win My Thirty-Year Fight Against Injustice – and How You Can Win Your Own Battles”); 
  • Jennifer Brea, Women’s Health Honoree (patient, educator and advocate for ME/CFS, which afflicts 1 – 2.5 million persons – mostly women – and has no treatment  and a recovery rate of just 5%, with advocates now demanding of the National Institute of Health clinical trials, a diagnostic test and development of effective treatments); 
  • Ivy Bottini, Woman of Courage (pioneering lesbian feminist; designer of NOW’s iconic logo; with Betty Friedan and Muriel Fox, established the first NOW chapter in New York City; on the West Coast she became the Women’s Program Director for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center; worked to defeat the Briggs Initiative, which threatened termination of lesbian and gay teachers in CA; formed AIDS Network LA and Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing, Inc.);
  • Charlene Carruthers, Young Feminist of Action Award (Black, queer feminist community organizer and writer with over 10 years of experience in racial justice, feminist and youth leadership development movement work and currently serves as national director of the Black Youth Project 100); 
  • Moriah Engdahl, Young Feminist of Courage Award (16-year-old gun reform activist from conservative Gillette, WY who participated in her school’s walk-out after the Parkland, FL shootings, marched to the county courthouse to protest the WY statute that allows school staff to carry firearms on the job, and  delivered a speech at her county’s school board to suggest they label their schools “Gun Free Zones”; 
  • Katherine Spillar, Woman of Impact Award (Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Feminist Majority; Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine, which increased its investigative reporting and one year after the vicious murder of abortion provide Dr. George Tiller, Ms. Published a groundbreaking investigation exposing the connection between Tiller’s convicted murderer, Scott Roeder, and anti-abortion extremists who promote violence).

Speakers included: Nina Ahmed, Ph.D. (Scientist, NOW activist, former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement); Hala Ayala (Virginia House of Delegates); Nancy Buermeyer (Public Policy Advocate to Reduce Exposure to Toxic Chemicals); Cindy Chavez (Supervisor, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, CA);  Mary Durden (Ibis Reproductive Health); John Erickson (Commissioner, CA Commission on the status of Women and Girls); Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA); Ethel Guttenberg (Moms Demand Action, Grandmother of Parkland shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg); Rep. Barbara Lee (CA); Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA); Protima Pandey (Director, Office of Women’s Policy in Santa Clara County, CA); Rachel Paizza (Feminist Self-Defense); Lois Galgay Reckitt (ME State House of Representatives); Jennifer Reisch (Legal Director of Equal Rights Advocates); Jeanne Rizzo, R.N. (Breast Cancer Prevention Partners); Carol Robles-Roman (Co-President and CEO of the ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality); Esta Soler (President of Futures Without Violence); Nerexda Soto (Hotel Worker Union activist, advocate to protect women for speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse, TIME Magazine Silence Breaker); Patricia Spearman (NV State Senator);  and Nora Vargas (Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest). 

Some plenary, panel and workshop topics included:

  • Screening of the films Equal Means Equal and SEEING ALLRED
  • Building Your Own SHAC on Campus:  Sexual Harassment Advisory Committee
  • Analyze the Rape Kits: Breaking Barriers to Justice
  • Child Custody Courts: A Solution to End the Family Court Crisis
  • Constitutional Equality and Emerging Issues
  • Economic Equality
  • Ending Racism
  • Ending Violence Against Women
  • Homelessness is a Feminist Issue
  • I Have a Right To:  A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault 
  • The Incarceration of Women in America
  • Killing Me Softly – Gender Bias in Medicine Denies Women’s Health Needs
  • Making Our Voices Heard in the Halls of Power
  • PAC Roundtable discussion on the importance of the 2018 midterm elections
  • Reproductive Rights and Women’s Health
  • Self-Care and Wellness: Teaching Healthy Living for Healthy Activists
  • Speaking Truth to Power: Change the Misogynistic, Patriarchal Court System 

In addition to its resolution relating to the Equal Right Amendment, NOW considered resolutions on such topics as coordinating statewide equality acts; immigration rights; mass shootings at school; aid to our Puerto Rican Citizens; passage of equal pay for equal work bills in all 50 states; crisis pregnancy centers; trans inclusivity; abortion, birth control and contraception; sexual violence as a problem on K-12 campuses; “You Too Are Responsible”; and giving equal voice to all NOW members.  These resolutions either passed at the conference or were referred to the NOW board,

Thank you to NOW for your leadership and long-time support of women’s rights and equality issues and for being builders of a culture of peace. And thank you to CA DoP volunteers (Lily Marie, Doug Merritt, Nancy Merritt, Jerilyn Stapleton and Stephanie Thomas) and “Sacred Activists” Sushil Mertens and Marilyn Nyborg.

Nancy Merritt

On Behalf of the CA Department of Peacebuilding Committee and Volunteers
Including Maggi Koren, Lily Marie, Doug Merritt, Kendra Mon, Josh Roebuck, Jerilyn Stapleton and Stephanie Thomas 

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hamza abbas wrote 5 days ago

NOW President Toni Van Pelt wrote that NOW is a gathered front, joined together by our vision for women’s rights and equality to be standard, pleased and valued by our society, our laws and our public policy. We wrote writers per hour review yesterday. We will not stop calling out, standing up, encouraging for, being present, speaking truth to power.

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