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International Women’s Day celebrated in Chicago

By staff |
March 12, 2019
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Jeannette Taylor, City Council candidate speaking at FRSO's program
Jeannette Taylor, City Council candidate speaking at FRSO's International Women's Day program (Fight Back! News/staff)

Chicago, IL - You know people are having fun at a political event when community activist Jeanette Taylor, a candidate for city council, gets the room to sing along to Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman! The feeling continued when Christel Williams, a candidate for a principal office in the Chicago Teachers Union, led the singing of Ella’s Song.

The mood at Freedom Road Socialist Organization’s event for International Women’s Day was festive, but also militant. As Erica Anna of FRSO said at the outset, “Our program for this evening includes mu-sical performances, some poetry, and a drag performance, as well as words from women active in local movements. Though International Women’s Day isn’t broadly celebrated in the U.S., we wanted to come together to lift up the revolutionary tradition of this day, honor the contributions of all people oppressed for their gender, and create some joy in a society that sees us as playthings and property.”

Taylor had led the fight to save Dyett High School in the Bronzeville community, and now is a leading advocate for community control of the police through an elected, civilian police accountability council (CPAC).

More than 150 people attended the March 9 event.

Speakers included Susan Sadlowski Garza, the alderwoman from Chicago’s 10th Ward, who introduced herself as the first member of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to sit on the city council; Jazmine Sa-las and Veronica Tirado Mercado from Chicago Boricua Resistance, committed to fighting the U.S. pil-lage of Puerto Rico; Jen Conant, chair of the CTU Chicago International Charter School council, and a leader in the victorious nine-day strike of teachers and paraprofessionals in February; and Love Jordan of Gabriela, the Filipina patriotic women’s organization. Later, another CTU militant, Tara Stamps, rose to call for support for Shoneice Reynolds, a mentor for Black students in the Oak Park/River Forest schools. Reynolds was suspended because of recent Black high school student protests on the anni-versary of the death of Trayvon Martin.

Alexandra Westberry, a trans woman, an activist with Students for a Democratic Society at College of DuPage, and a member of FRSO, spoke about how the oppression of women is built into this capitalist society. Speaking historically, she remarked, “The centering of life around property that men own cre-ated a pervasive worldview that women are property.” Then she brought that theory to the current struggle of women, stating “The recent headlines about the #MeToo movement demonstrate how pervasive sexual assault and discrimination are.”

“Trump’s rise to power, with his overt sexual aggression and interest in male domination, has borne out intensified attacks on women. In response, masses of women have risen up in opposition. There have been millions of women in the streets and in defiant resistance to the pigs in power,” said Westberry.

“Violence and discrimination have become especially unavoidable for women of color, trans women and particularly trans women of color… and the murder rate just keeps rising. In Chicago, there have been no confirmed cases in the last 25 years where a trans woman’s murder has been solved. These facts aren’t really surprising given 40% of police officers are domestic abusers of women or children.

“But International Women’s Day is a reminder that solidarity can defeat that violence and destroy the patriarchy. It reminds us that our oppression is so deeply rooted in this rotten system that it will take revolution to give us back our rightful place.”

Westberry concluded, “I am hopeful that in groups like this, we can build the revolutionary fight against patriarchy together, from the Philippines, to Puerto Rico, to right here in Chicago.”

The event also included visual art, a vendors’ market, and food as part of a celebration by and for trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming people and cis women.

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