A Celebration on International Women’s Day – March 8, 2012

By Katie Earle

Published by NYC Indymedia

http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2012/03/118233.htmlOn March 8, 2012, at the Maylses Cinema in Central Harlem, Movement for Justice in El Barrio – an immigrant women led grassroots organization fighting against gentrification and displacement in El Barrio, NYC (E. Harlem) – celebrated women in struggle from around the world. Organized around the belief that women’s struggles transform the world, the event paid homage to all women for their profound contributions in the fight for emancipation and social justice, and against violence.

As is tradition for Movement for Justice in El Barrio, the evening began with its members presenting every women-identified individual with a red rose upon arrival. Attended by a diverse group of people of different ages and walks of life, including many representatives of community organizations and participants of Occupy Wall St., it was an incredibly refreshing tribute to those dedicated to justice, who are fighting for their rights and the rights of women everywhere.

Led and run entirely by women, the event program started off with an introduction of Movement for Justice in El Barrio and an explanation of why celebrating International Women’s Day is such a significant annual event for the organization.  Founded by a group of single mothers of color, the power of women is a daily reality for the Movement.  As adherents to the Other Campaign launched by the Zapatistas – or the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), a national resistance movement based in the Southeastern state of Chiapas, Mexico – Movement for Justice in El Barrio have made the commitment, much like the Zapatistas, to actively and concretely fight sexism in their lives, in society, and as part of their day-to-day local struggle.

Movement has also connected with many groups across the world that are struggling against displacement, much like they are here in New York.  They have friends and allies in Greece, Mexico, Egypt, South Africa, and elsewhere – many, in fact, appeared in the films that were screened during the evening.

The films were sequenced under the title “A Tribute to ‘Indignada’ Struggles from Around the World”.  The audience was first introduced to The European Women’s Network of Greece via a video message recorded by the organization especially for the event.  An organization confronting violence against women and the conditions that give rise to it, members sent greetings of solidarity to all women in attendance and discussed how they are working together to support one another through the political and economic crisis that is currently devastating their country.  Another video message from Greece followed, which feature a member from the Organization of United African Women, who spoke to the systemic barriers they encounter as African immigrant women in Europe. In particular, the member discussed the unique challenges that afflict African mothers and their children who have migrated to Greece—a country with, according to the member, rigid laws around birthright citizenship.

 After this the audience was transported to Cape Town, South Africa via a film that began with the South African saying: “When you strike a woman, you strike a stone.” The film focused on the Shack Dwellers Movement – or Abajahli baseMjondolo – and the important leadership role that women play in this movement.  Egyptian women were then represented by a short film entitled “Women of Tahrir Square,” which discussed the indispensable contributions of women in the country’s ongoing revolution. Similarly, Zapatista women made an on-screen appearance in a short documentary on the 2008 Zapatista Women’s Encuentro in Chiapas, Mexico.  In this film, women both young and old, from Mexico, the U.S., and other countries, spoke to an audience made up of all women, while men did dishes, cooked and cleaned – a testament to the daily steps that the Zapatista rebellion has taken to combat patriarchy in their communities.

Finally, a fantastic music video produced by Movement for Justice in El Barrio closed the films section. Upbeat and inspiring, it focused on the many recent uprisings the world over and the leadership of women in each of these popular movements. The film included clips from influential women dispersed throughout, such as Angela Davis.  This film can be found on YouTube under its title “Women’s Struggles Transform the World”: A Music Video for the “Indignadas”, and is well worth looking up.

After these incredible short films, a youth member of Movement read a communiqué from adherents to the Other Campaign in San Sebastián Bachajón in Chiapas, Mexico.  Written specially for this event, they spoke of the imposed borders that make physical closeness impossible, and the ability of voices of solidarity in struggle to travel across these arbitrary barriers.  They spoke of their commitment to defending their land with dignity, as indigenous peoples, and how it gives them strength to know that there are people involved in the same struggle here in New York, and all over the world.

In unison, audience members then raised their roses in the air, and shouts of “Long Live Women in Struggle” and “Long Live Women all over the World” rang out.  These rallying cries were repeated again. After, champaign glasses were handed out to everyone in the crowd, sparkling wine was poured for all, and a toast was made to all rebellious women everywhere—“las indignadas.”

The floor was then opened up for the audience to share and discuss their ideas about the women in the struggle. During this discussion, many women stood up and shared their impressions, poetry, perspectives on women, and the importance for women in leadership roles in the struggle for equality and justice for all people. Various viewpoints were shared, including reflections on the multiple injustices and marginalization that women face both in society and in social justice movements, the historical influence of women in organized movements and communities, and the need for women to build autonomy and power outside of electoral and mainstream politics, for and by themselves.

Finally, messages were read that had been prepared especially for this event – much like some of the video messages viewed earlier in the evening.  A message from a ¨from below and to the left¨ journalist from Chiapas, Patricia Chandomí, spoke to the impossibility of life without the fight against “this neoliberal, patriarchal capitalist system of death, war, hunger, exploitation, and destruction” and the necessity for community in doing so.  A communiqué was also read from the Zapatistas.  “It appears that that thing called dignity is contagious and it is women who are more likely to become infected with this uncomfortable ill…”, reads the poetic communiqué written several years ago to commemorate Women’s International Day and fittingly then the night was brought to a close with an invitation from Women Occupying Wall Street for audience members to attend the first Feminist General Assembly.

Those in attendance left feeling that the contagion of dignity had certainly caught them—with more inspiration to do something with that dignity than ever before.  Another world seemed tangible, and in formation, during this evening at the Maysles Cinema, a world where people came together to support one another and fight for equal rights, justice, and dignity, for and by women and all those marginalized by the current system of neoliberal globalization.