Courtesy District 37
Enthusiasm was contagious at DC 37 March 10, as a coalition of unions, including the New York State Nurses Association, 1199SEIU, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, celebrated the 10th annual International Women’s History Month at union headquarters.
“The energy here is incredible!” said Oliver Gray, DC 37 associate director. “I realize that if there must be another revolution, you will lead it.
“We are at a most difficult juncture in the history of labor and the United States. There are those whose intent is to destroy the labor movement, but I know you won’t let that happen. You’re fighting every step of the way!”
“In this time of great chaos, we must remain united and positive,” said Jill Furillo, executive director of NYSNA, the event co-sponsor. “We must resist all attacks on women!”
Resistance, empowerment, and love framed the social justice theme as over 400 women gathered at DC 37 to celebrate their diversity and their resolve to remain united for the enormous tasks ahead.
Emcees Kim Gooden of 1199 SEIU, Michelle Akyempong of Local 371, and Walthene Primus, DC 37 secretary, Local 957 president and DC 37 Women’s Committee chair, highlighted issues affecting women’s lives. Rooms 1 thru 4 were aglow in awareness colors: pink for breast cancer, red for heart disease and purple for domestic violence.
In a parade of colorful costumes, activists represented 28 nations and walked the red carpet for social justice. They focused on global issues like pay equity, domestic violence, human rights, world peace, voting rights, health care, safe staffing, access to education, immigrants’ rights, juvenile incarceration, the Cuba embargo, and freedom for Puerto Rico independence activist Oscar Lopez Rivera.
Festive and feisty, the night included poet Mariposa and the all-female Brazilian percussion band Batalá New York.
“This president and his administration have said nothing new – reproduction rights, immigration reform, voting rights, police brutality – these are all old fights,” said keynote speaker and civil rights activist Linda Sarsour, co-chair of the national Women’s March on Washington and executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York.
“Who knows better than labor what protest can do?” Sarsour said. She recounted labor’s legacy of progressive resistance, central to the struggle for social justice.
“Labor fights for workers’ rights, voting rights and civil rights. Labor strikes for bargaining rights, immigrants’ rights, farm workers’ rights,” Sarsour said. “We know the special energy labor and women bring!”
“Don’t be distracted by the outlandishness of this president,” Sarsour said. “Stay focused and in 2018 we’ll take back the House!”