The Future is NOW

by Patricia Ireland

One after another, young activists from all over the country spoke out at a Friday night open-mike session during the Young Feminist Summit Against Violence. I was moved and impressed, as I always am when women tell each other our stories, by how much we have been through, how strong and resilient we are, and how determined to make a difference.

 Following the speak out, we honored three of the inspiring young women: Alexis Baptist, who at 20 is already a veteran anti-poverty activists, having been arrested at 17 in non-violent civil disobedience on behalf of the homeless; Desiray Bartak, who at 14 is a poised and powerful organizer of support groups for children who have been sexually abused; and Katie Koestner, a 24-year-old rape survivor who has devoted a year of her life full-time to putting a stop to such assaults on women.

 Clearly these young activists are not just leaders of the future, but also leaders of today, and we are profoundly impressed with the quality of their work and dedication.

 We are also gratified that many of the young activists at the Summit, like Sara Marcus and Kirsten Thompson who wrote the above story, have decided to join NOW and become "card-carrying members." I would like to welcome each of you personally, invite you to attend the National NOW Conference in Columbus, Ohio, July 21-23, and expand a little on the discussions you have had on NOW's process and procedure.

 NOW has a very conscious commitment to grassroots democracy in our organization. The national officers are elected and national policy is set by delegates representing chapters at the National Conference. The number of delegates each chapter has is determined by its size. Voting delegates to the National Conference also include state coordinators and national board members who are elected at state and regional conferences at which every NOW member can vote.

 Our appointed committees, like the national Young Feminist Committee, the Committee to Stop Violence Against Women and others, play a valuable role in developing materials, recommending plans of action -- and producing conferences. But it is our national conference delegates and, between conferences, our elected national officers and board members who are ultimately empowered and accountable for the decisions that guide our organization.

 This democratic structure helps NOW keep our policies and actions tied to, and reflections of the dominate beliefs of our members. By putting real power in the hands of our chapters' delegates, as they vote in conference, and in our elected officers and board members, we keep our tie to the grassroots people who spawned NOW and distinguish NOW from the many Washington-based lobby groups who have no grassroots.

 The process may at times be vexing; democracy can indeed by a cumbersome process. However, it ensures that those of you who have joined NOW will have a real voice in the direction of your National Organization for Women.


We're counting on you to come to Columbus and make your voices heard and your votes count in this crucial counter-offensive we have launched against the right wing. 
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