Women not si­lenced in La Plata

So. Md. ‘A Day With­out Women’ strike sends mes­sage of ‘be bold for change’

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIFFANY WATSON twat­son@somd­news.com

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIFFANY WATSON

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.

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