It was chilly but clear on Sunday as a small but dedicated group gathered in Washington Square Park for an event organized by Rise and Resist, an activist group that was formed in reaction to the election of Trump in 2016. Titled “Pass the ERA: Women Lead the Way”, the get-together combined music, speeches and poetry to demand that the Equal Rights Amendment be finally added to the U.S. Constitution, after a long history that began when it was originally introduced in 1923.
The pre-show featured Mark Leydorf and his organization ‘Sing Out, Louise!”, who invited attendees to sing along with their versions of several newly politicized popular tunes, including ‘ America the Pitiful’, ‘God Help America’, ‘It’s My Body’ and odes to AOC, Kamala Harris and Governor Cuomo ( spoiler alert – that one was not a tribute).
The always rousing Fogo Azul, a “Brazilian samba-reggae drum line” group of women drummers, got the crowd’s attention and even had a bunch of them dancing prior to the opening remarks by Virginia Vitzthum, who was an organizer of the event.
Although scheduled speaker Letitia James, the NYS Attorney General, was a no-show several formidable women made their viewpoints known. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, noted that “there is no deadline on inequality, it just goes on and on.” Cathy Marino-Thomas, an advocate for marriage equality, stated that the ERA is “not law because we have to demand it, ” and called for “deeds, not words.”
Transgender activist TS Candii spoke on the plight of the trans community and led several chants as the group marched through the city to Union Square. They stopped along the way at the site of the tragic 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed 146 garments workers – 123 of which were women. At that building, which is now owned by NYU, Nancy Hagans of the New York State Nurses Association pointed out that “women workers are critical” to our society.
About 60 or so marchers continued up 6th Avenue in their own lane as the NYPD kept the traffic away from them. Signage included thank you’s to several notable women of color, including Stacey Abrams. Flyers were handed out to passersby and the chanting continued as they approached Union Square. Poet and activist Pamela Sneed ended the rally there with a reading of her own work that touched on the Black Lives Matter movement.
We asked participant Jackie Rudin, a long-time advocate for political causes, what the result might be of an action such as this. “I have no idea what effect it has,” she said.” It might not do anything. But let the record show that were there and we said what we had to say.”
And what is that was said? Rudin replied, simply, “That holding up the ERA is insane.”
For more info on upcoming events go to www.riseandresist.org