On January 21, we started the year by participating in the historic Women’s March in Los Angeles, 600 strong, marching in unity and solidarity with hundreds of thousands of women and men of all ages and background. Many of you who could not join us marched here in Santa Barbara. Our voices joined the voices of thousands of women across America, Europe, Australia, and Africa. We stood tall to show that we will not tolerate the regressive politics of fear and hatred. So began the Activist Year.
It is easy to be distracted by the non-sense happening in Washington but we must not lose our focus on the issues that matter. It is more important than ever to commit to meaningful social action not only to protect women’s rights and our feminist values but also to be bold for change, even in these challenging times.
This was the theme of the Presidents’ Circle Lunch, “Moving Feminism Forward in Challenging Times,” a lively conversation with District Attorney Joyce Dudley, Community Environmental Council CEO/Executive Director Sigrid Wright, Planned Parenthood President/CEO Jenna Tosh and CAUSE Executive Director Maricela Morales, moderated by Past President Barbara Lindemann. The panelists offered strategies to defend our values in the critical areas of civil rights and justice, the environment, reproductive rights and access to health care and immigration.
One of our core missions remains to elect feminist candidates, from school boards to Congress and everything in between, as they will be the agents of change. We must also encourage women to take leadership positions in the community, on boards and commissions. It is critical that we nurture the younger generation and non-traditional candidates to ensure dynamism and diversity.
With that goal in mind, the Candidate Development Committee kick-started the year with “We Need to Talk! Diversity Dialogues # 1,” a conversation on best practices for effective political leadership across and within diverse communities. The Committee is planning other workshops in the coming months so keep an eye for them on our website.
We also created two new committees. The Young Feminist Committee’s goal is to increase young feminists’ awareness of and engagement in our mission and core values through fun monthly networking events designed to inform and activate participation in our local political process. The Good Government Committee will plan forums and informational materials on how our government operates with a program on the Electoral College.
Supporting and opposing legislation is an important focus of our advocacy. The Legislation & Advocacy Committee has been hard at work. So far, we have sent 33 letters supporting or opposing proposed legislation in Sacramento and in Washington. We have also expanded the reach of the Committee by creating a Networking Sub-Committee which will connect SBWPC with women’s organizations nationwide to coordinate legislative lobbying efforts.
At a time when women’s rights are under attack, we decided that it was important to send a loud and clear message that equality under the law is a fundamental civil right which must be expressly restated in our Constitution. We joined the renewed effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment by forming an ERA Committee. Our first action was to organize a sister-march to the Feminist Majority’s Rally & Walk for Equality on March 26. We are dedicated to advocate for the rights of all women, including women of color, lesbian and transgender women who suffer further bias based on race, sexual orientation and gender identity, as a fundamental component of that advocacy. Over 250 people came and marched with us from De La Guerra Plaza to the beach and back after hearing from community leaders and elected officials.
Our vision of a society based upon the feminist values of social, political and economic gender equity reaches beyond our borders. On March 8, we stood in solidarity with women all over the world and participated in a rally at De La Guerra Plaza to celebrate International Women’s Day. We strongly believe that “respect for the fundamental rights of women and support for their economic and social equality are crucial to the security of every nation, including our own, and to the elimination of war and political violence.” We adopted a new position paper on International Peace and Security which reflects our view that “the 21st century world calls for a feminist approach to global engagement and international relations in order to achieve worldwide peace and security.”
Like you I worry every day about our future. Our institutions are imperiled. The policies pursued by our government show little regard for the most vulnerable among us and, if left unchecked, will have far reaching consequences. But I am also hopeful that we will overcome this dark period of our history. It is amazing to see the level of activism here in Santa Barbara and elsewhere. Our strength is in our ability to work together, to form coalitions and to support each other. We will continue to partner with other progressive groups on issues important to us and make our feminist voices heard.
We have to do the best we can and stand up for what is right. Together, we will prevail.