Int’l Women’s Day: Unity against racism, sexism, war and poverty

New York — The atmosphere was electric and filled with optimism on March 8 as a dynamic march took over the sidewalks of the East Village and then went up Sixth Avenue toward midtown Manhattan. The march commemorated the 104th anniversary of International Working Women’s Day.

Carrying banners, placards and flags in several languages, at least 300 protesters, the vast majority young women, chanted slogans calling for a united fightback against racist and sexist attacks on working and poor of all nationalities, especially women of color.

Many women bystanders, including those at their workplaces, stopped what they were doing to clap, cheer and even chant as the protesters passed by. After yelling “Shame, shame” in front of Bank of America — which is responsible for millions of foreclosures and evictions — the protesters set their sights for a nearby McDonald’s. There, a flash mob did a five-minute mic check inside, while marchers outside chanted for “$15 an hour” in solidarity with all low-wage workers.

Before the march began, a powerful women’s assembly at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Memorial paid homage to the 146 garment workers, mainly immigrant girls and women, who perished in a fire when bosses locked the exits in 1911. Speakers there stated that the legacy of this heinous crime is to carry forth the struggle for social justice.

After the march, the assembly continued at the Solidarity Center. Women spoke about some of the important struggles happening today, either from their own day-to-day experiences or in political solidarity with many struggles.

Lynne Stewart, a people’s lawyer who was recently granted a “compassionate release” from prison, thanked the movement for being a catalyst in winning her freedom. Stewart, who is suffering from cancer, just won the right to Medicare since her release Jan. 1 from Carswell Prison in Texas. She encouraged the activists to carry on the fight to free other political prisoners like Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani framed up by the U.S. government.

Pam Africa, from International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, denounced the U.S. Senate’s rejection of Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s nominee to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, because of Adegbile’s legal advocacy work for Abu-Jamal.

Latina activists from the Bronx paid tribute to the women who played a role in the Mexican Revolution. Showing the length and breadth of the global movement represented, women also spoke about struggles from Egypt to Honduras, Haiti and the Philippines.

Women also raised many pressing issues in the U.S., including education cuts and the war on youth and students; sexual harassment on the job; transgender and lesbian oppression; homelessness; Indigenous and migrants rights; and the need for affordable, quality health care, reproductive justice, workers’ rights and more.

The assembly was chaired by Irma Bajar, Brenda Stokely and Monica Moorehead, co-chairs of the International Working Women’s Day Coalition, which sponsored the event.

WW photos: Brenda Ryan