GRACE WELCH REPORTS ON NOW CONFERENCE
The title of the national NOW Conference held in Nashville, Tenn July 5th was was: UNBOUGHT & UNBOSSED, in honor of the late U.S. Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm, who has a founder of New York NOW, and the First NOW-endorsed Candidate for the Presidency of the United States.
Anyone who has attended a National NOW Conference, attended the workshops and plenary sessions knows the rush one gets from being among hundreds of activist women (and some men), all dedicated to changing this country and the world for the better - for girls, women and their families. Attendance was given at about 500 from all parts of the Country -- all ages, sizes, colors, shapes - some in wheelchairs, walkers and using canes. A big rally was held in front of the Nashville Capitol building the day after the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, at which former Senator and Ambassador Carole Mosely Braun spoke. CNN and other media outlets were there. LongIslander (East Hampton) Sandy Rapp with her guitar revved up the troops with her feminist rally songs. Also singing at the microphone were Marilyn Fitterman, past president of New York State NOW and Marcia Pappas, current NYState NOW president.
I was the Yoga Teacher for the Conference, and it was good to see the program schedule start with 7:00 AM Yoga (appropriate for any level of experience) Sarratt Room.
Much literature is distributed at a National Conference on a wide range of topics, and I've brought back many magazines, brochures, literature and buttons,
THE ELECTION: Kim Gandy, President,
and her Slate of Officers were being challenged by "Rosie's Riveters", Rosemary Dempsey for President, and her team,Vanessa Salina, Elizabeth
Volz and Kathy Lazear. The Kim Gandy slate won a 4-year term, and our new officers are: Kim Gandy, President; Olga
Vives, Executive Vice President; Latifa Lyles, Membership Vice-President, and Melody Drnach, Action Vice President.
It was a lively and spirited election, with the usual banners, posters, buttons, flyers; the winning team won by a 2 to 1 margin. Rosemary Dempsey publicly congratulated Kim Gandy on her win at the next day's Plenary session, and they embraced on stage, dedicating themselves to the challenges that lie ahead for NOW and all women.
Following is a review of the workshops I attended::
Workshop Title: HOT TOPICS IN WOMEN'S HEALTH, Karen Johnson, NOW Exc. V.P. Speakers: Ann Fonfa, Cancer Survivor
Tara Grandberry, Obesity
Mary Kinnunen, tit4tat.net
Katherine Prown, Vaginal vs Caesarian section
This was a hard-hitting, frank discussion of topics that concern women who are bombarded daily with commercial solutions/approaches to what "ails" us women, Much of the information we receive is false, unproven or blatently plays to our fears of not being "acceptable" to men -- that goes from what cup size our breasts are, to how much we weigh, and whether it is possible to have a vaginal birth after a Caesarian. During this workshop Ann Fonda shared her own experience with breast cancer.
WORKSHOP TITLE: WE USE PROTECTION! Keeping Reproductive Rights Safe from the Religious Right Moderated by Rosemary Dempsey
Speakers: Madeline Halperin-Robinson - Legal Momentum
Cari Sietstra -
Duchy Trachtenberg -
This workshop dealt with the serious threat to free information on sex education, which includes ALL OPTIONS. LEGAL MOMENTUM, (formerly the NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund) is a watchdog organization to check schools to assure that the Federal/State materials that are distributed in schools offer a wide-range of options to students, not just Abstinence. Cari Sietstra spoke about the Prevention First Act, with emphasis on full and free information to all. Rosemary Dempsey spoke on the alarming rising statistics that pregnant women are being assaulted. Marjorie Signer related a rather horrifying statistic:
WORKSHOP TITLE: PUTTING AN END TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Moderator: Lisalyn Jacobs - Legal
Momentum, V.P. Government Relations
Speakers: Stephanie Chalifoux - University of Alabama - VAWA Funding
Emily Nourse - YWCA Community Outreach, Nashville
Elle Shaaban-Magana - University of Alabama - Judicial Education
Lisalyn Jacobs was an excellent moderator, and a font of historical knowledge on this never-ending scourge. She explained how VAWA -- the Violence Against Women Act- came out of the Omnibus Crime Bill (during President Bill Clinton's term). The U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee oversees VAWA, which has a "sunset clause." To learn more about this important legislation for women, go to ListServe -
Emily Nourse spoke of her experiences overseeing the YWCA programs in Nashille, which includes a shelter. One of the major goals of the program is to increase the economic independence of the women who come into the program with job-training and self-esteem workshops.
Elle Shaaban-Magana spoke of her work with the student population at the university, and the phrase "Marry one person and divorce another", which illustrates the Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde personality transformation that takes place in personal relations and the ensuing violence within the family.
At a National Conference one meets many people who make the headlines and are movers and shakers in the world of progressive change. At this conference I was able to meet again and shake the hands of ELLIE SMEAL, former President of National NOW, and founder and President of the FEMINIST MAJORITY; DR. MARTHA BURK, current Chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations(NCWO), who led the effort to open the Augusta National Golf Club to women. She was available to sign her recent book "Cult of Power, Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It". DOLORES HUERTA,Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez in 1962. (She is mother of 11 children.); PATRICIA IRELAND, former president of National NOW. Burk and Huerta, along with 16 other women were the recipients of NOW'S "The Woman of Courage Award" for their outstanding contributions, whose biographies are contained in the Conference Program Book.
At the NOW President's Council Meeting held on Monday morning after the Conference a NOW chapter president, from one of the Red States, reported on the phobic nature of the citizens who are against Gay Marriage and promoting the Defense of Marriage Act the Republican Conservatives are introducing into Congress. Their flyers are stating: "If Gays and Lesbians are allowed to marry, the Abortion Rate will Soar!" ...... we have a lot of work to do! Anatomy 101 for starters!
Grace Welch, Member of VFA's board and president of Mid-Suffolk NOW