Women not silenced in La Plata
So. Md. ‘A Day Without Women’ strike sends message of ‘be bold for change’
Many schools were empty, malls were bare, employers left with little or no staff, and America saw what a day without women would be like.
On March 8, during the Southern Maryland “A Day Without Women” strike, women from around Southern Maryland formed peaceful picket lines on the sidewalks in front of the Charles County Courthouse and throughout La Plata in an effort to show support of the general women’s strike, and bring awareness to women’s rights.
Led by the organization Women of Action Charles County (WOACC), women dressed in all red and chanting “Democracy, united, never to be divided,” united for various causes — women’s rights, immigrants rights, access to healthcare, an end to gender-based violence, religious freedom and equal rights for all citizens.
“The message from the Women’s March on Washington was to do more on a grassroots level in the local community,” said Maggie Mudd of La Plata. “I hope on the global and national level I hope the world realizes how essential
women are to the global economy, teachers and domestic care providers. I hope that women and their value are realized, which will then work towards getting equality for all of us.”
“We should be able to have dominion over our own bodies,” said Lexington Park resident Stephanie Byrd-Lee. “We should be able to be in public without being objectified ... and if you think we’re going away, then you’re sadly mistaken. I’ve got a lot of energy so just bring it.”
Her daughter, Vivian Lee, described the strike as truly empowering.
“I think it’s important to let other people know that we’re not going to go silently. We’re going to be here and not go anywhere,” said Carolyn Lee of Lexington Park.
Waldorf resident Nadine Seiler said she was glad to be on the picket lines representing women of color.
“In 2017, women are 52 per- cent of the population and we are still advocating for women’s rights in society ... that makes me speechless. But it’s important that all of us are out here so that other women don’t need to do this five years from now,” Seiler said.
Karen Cozzens, a Leonardtown resident, said she is fighting for many causes but specifically for Planned Parenthood, which was her only health care option from 18-26 years old. “If I didn’t have Planned Parenthood I wouldn’t have had any health care. I didn’t have health insurance until my first job,” she said.
White Plains resident Teri Thir said she has been marching for women’s rights since 1977.
“I was raised by very strong women. My grandmother, my mother and my sisters and I marched in the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) March on Washington in 1977, so being here I feel is an obligation. We deserve equal opportunity and equal respect,” Thir said.
“Before the Women’s March on Washington, I lived long enough to have attended marches for the ERA, Planned Parenthood and Hands Across America, but we are losing the voice of women who fought in earlier years for equal rights, equal pay and reproductive rights,” said Bryantown resident Betty Mudd. “Many don’t understand what we are fight- ing for. There’s a level of ig- norance — being uneducated about our cause.”
Others fell on different ends of the spectrum. Laurie Jones of Swan Point said she was working Wednesday.
“I’ve always been proud to be a working mom. Never did it occur to me to stay home and in light of all of this, I’m even more empowered to ensure that I set a good example for my kids,” Jones said. “Not showing up for your responsi- bilities only hurts everyone in the end and it certainly doesn’t prove your worth. It proves that you’re willing to let others suffer in your absence. How many moms couldn’t go to work because school was out yesterday and they had no child care? We see that there is a domino effect.”
Hughesville resident Patty Williams said despite opposition, she remains hopeful for the future of equal rights for all. She said the only way women are going to the job done is if they all work together — even working with opposition.
Following the afternoon strike, women marched to La Plata Town Hall to gather for the rally with speakers from the community. Abena McAllister, founding member of WOACC, inspired audience members when she proclaimed that now is the time to be bold for change.
“I started the group, Women of Action Charles County (WOACC), following the Women’s March on Washington as a way for women to bring back that energy, excitement and inspiration that we received,” McAllister said. “I formed the group to give local like-minded women an opportunity to gather, talk about issues that are important to us, strategize and take action to fight for the changes they want to see locally, at the state level and nationally.”
McAllister said 44 women attended the WOACC Inaugural meeting previously held on Feb. 28. It was a very diverse group made up of youth, black, white, hispanic, Muslim, Christian and lesbian women. They now have 369 members in the organization.
“Be bold for change, decide what you are passionate about, but do not allow politicians or anyone to make decisions and make moves without hearing your voice on the matter,” said Karen Piper Mitchell, deputy state’s attorney for Charles County.
Dyotha Sweat, a local military veteran, spoke of not letting female veterans walk alone through depression, anxiety, homelessness and gender sensitive healthcare services, in order to rise above challenges in life after military service.
Wanda Wills Woodland, Charles County NAACP youth advisor, spoke of the ordinary women in Charles County who have laid the foundation for women to do extraordinary things.
“When you have this many women joining together all over the world, you better believe there will be no justice and no peace unless we are heard and taken seriously. Because we mean business and we are here to stay,” Wills Woodland said.
Joan Madewell, a LGBTQ activist, said women have marched too long and have fought too hard — losing many to violence and ignorance — to turn back now. While Laura Hendricks Joyce, director of The Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy, spoke about zero tolerance for domestic violence against women.
Aqsa Siddique, a Westlake High school student and mem- ber of the Muslim community in Southern Maryland, said she is committed to the fight of injustice and equality. She hopes to shatter stereotypes of Muslim women while also cherishing her religious and ethnic heritage.
“I don’t want any girl regardless of race, religion or ethnic origin to be discriminated against. I dream of a world where the president of the United States respects me and respects every woman. Deep down, my fears are still there, but I am fortunate enough to be in a community where my diversity is welcome and my beliefs are accepted ... I have a message for Donald Trump. I am a loud nasty woman and I will not be silent,” Siddique said.
The next WOACC meeting is March 25 and the ACLU is doing a “Know Your Rights” training for the immigrant community and their allies. For more information, contact McAllister at WOACCMD@gmail.com.
Women from Southern Maryland marched to La Plata Town Hall to gather together for the rally on March 8.
Women from Southern Maryland joined the picket lines Wednesday in front of the Charles County Courthouse in La Plata. STAFF PHOTOS BY TIFFANY WATSON
Women from all over Southern Maryland joined the picket lines Wednesday in front of the Charles County Courthouse in La Plata.
Aqsa Siddique, a Westlake High school student and member of the Muslim community in Southern Maryland, spoke at the Southern Maryland “A Day Without Women” rally on the west lawn of the La Plata Town Hall.
Abena McAllister, founding member of WOACC, spoke at the Southern Maryland “A Day Without Women” rally on the west lawn of the La Plata Town Hall.