The 2016 NC NOW State Conference is where we elect our state officers, and also where NOW members and other feminists gather to get organized and motivated to do the work that we do, work that we love to do! Education on issues! Getting people to Vote for their interests! Organization and Activism!
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the National Organization for women. This exciting year, we celebrate a woman candidate for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton. The NOW PAC is delighted and excited to endorse this extremely well qualified candidate. See NC NOW PAC’s endorsements here. We celebrate the first woman Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. We celebrate our progressive newswomen, like Rachel Maddow. And we celebrate our working champions, like NC State Auditor Beth Wood. Our theme, “Women Making History NOW” celebrates these women and others who made history, and we celebrate the 50th anniversary of NOW.
The “Women Making History NOW” conference began at 9am. See the agenda in the nc now program . Our opening plenary included election business and a presentation on the Cities for CEDAW plans by Melissa Peters of WomenNC.
The first panel, “How NC Laws Have Impacted Women,” focused more on the 2016 short session, not just what the NC Legislature did, but what they failed to do.
- Marion Johnson, from NC Justice Center (on right) laid out changes the NC Legislature could still make to help low income wage earners, including many minorities and single moms.
- Shana Broders talked about attacks on reproductive access. Anti-abortion bill HB 465 was signed into law in 2015 – and it added some surprising twists. Women now have to wait 72 hours instead of 24, the state is now tracking women’s personal medical records (the ultrasounds from 16 weeks on must be sent to the state), and the state is tracking doctors who perform abortions. In addition there is increasing harrassment at abortion clinics. Broders had been stalked by one of these anti-abortion groups at her workplace and neighborhood – this year and last year.
- NC NOW’s Robin Davis talked about this session and also about the many bills over the last few years that caused lawsuits that NC lost (based on the list verified by WRAL that former State Senator Josh Stein provided).
- Dr. Yevonne Brannon from Public Schools First NC rallied the room running through outrageous attacks on public education (vouchers, charters, money diverted, more) and the reality behind current administration claims of boosting it. See resources on public education including fact sheets on charter schools, child poverty, per pupil spending, state budgets, and more.
The “Our Time Is NOW: Equal Rights” presentation included the ERA timeline and also highlighted Women of Color. Senate Candidate Toni Morris from Fayetteville gave us chills when she read Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” speech.
ERA-NC Alliance leaders Marena Groll, Roberta Madden and Audrey Muck got us all ready for the ERA – reviewing history and talking about the new game plan! Audrey Muck is also Triad NOW President and on the National NOW Board.
Our Keynote speaker was State Auditor Beth Wood, the first woman to hold that office. She talked about her own work history and run for office and work, and talked about “the female effect.”
Many candidates attended all or most of the conference, including ERA bill sponsor Sen. Floyd McKissick, Toni Morris (presenting), and Laurel Deegan-Fricke. We had time to acknowledge a large group of candidates formally after our keynote speaker. Here is the group waiting while Judge Linda Stephens spoke. See also national board member Audrey Muck (purple NOW shirt sitting on left) and lifetime NOW member Mandy Carter (purple NOW shirt in front), who read Pauli Murray poems after the workshops.
The workshops addressed ways to deal with racism and immigration. Fayetteville NOW has been using a ‘Cracking the Codes’ program to open discussions on racism in Cumberland County. And some Durham community and school activists talked about how they saved or at least spared high school student Wildin Acosta from being deported, and about the federal immigration program that is grabbing children on their way to school, off buses and at school, and sending them to detention jails and deporting them.
Mandy Carter performed a few of Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray’s poems. Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray is one of the co-founders of NOW – there at the table in 1966 when things were written on the napkin! Later, in October of 1966, they held a conference with these women! Online there is a guide to who each of these women are.
We’ve made lots of progress for women in these 50 years, and hope to see a lot more in the next 4 years with Hillary Clinton and other women shattering the glass ceiling.