Elections, Civil Rights Headline National NOW Conference

The issue of who will lead the feminist movement and who will push for women's rights on Capitol Hill going into the 21st century will be a major focus of the annual National NOW Conference July 4-6 in Memphis, Tenn.

With the theme, "Living the Dream," the conference will feature the election of a team of four NOW activists to serve as leaders of the world's largest feminist organization, speeches by two of our most outspoken, reliable feminist allies in Congress and tours of this popular and historic river city.

Internal NOW politics is a training ground that goes hand-in hand with local, state and national political activism, and this conference makes that link obvious. It promises major plenary addresses Saturday afternoon from two well-known feminist politicians -- U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga. -- who have won elections thanks to strong support from NOW activists.

"Look what we did in Illinois, women went to polls and (elected) the first African American woman in history to the United States Senate," Moseley-Braun said at a 1992 NOW abortion rights rally shortly after she had cinched the Democratic nomination from her state. Her joy in that statement and the moment was captured in a 1994 NOW video that is posted on NOW's Website (http://www.now.org/pac/1996/video/) and available for review.

Moseley-Braun faces a tough bid for re-election in 1998, having had the courage to lead the fight against last year's welfare repeal bill. (See "NOW Must Remain Vigilant...")

Another defining moment in Moseley-Braun's work in the Senate came early on in her tenure there, when her passion convinced the Senate to reverse the special protection it had granted to an organization's logo that used the Confederate flag. She said the previous approval threatened to stir up the country's "snakepit of racial hatred."

"That's the kind of leadership we've come to expect from the women in Congress, and why we want more women there," NOW President Patricia Ireland was quoted as saying in the 1994 elections video, "More Voices, More Votes."

The other major plenary speech by McKinney -- who was featured in the previous NOW Times -- will focus, in part, on how she won re-election by a far wider margin than expected in a newly redrawn, white majority district. Her previous district had a majority African American population and was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Smith Barney, Mitsubishi Women Honored

Women battling sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace will be honored Friday evening as NOW's 1997 Women of Courage.

"When we asked the women who have taken on the giant investment firm, Smith Barney, to pick just one among them to come and accept the award, they responded they really couldn't, since their actions had been a team effort," said Ireland. "So all three of the women who started the class action suit will come to Memphis on behalf of the more-than-two-dozen named plaintiffs."

NOW will also recognize the courage of the women auto workers fighting for their rights at Mitsubishi's Normal, Ill., plant.

"On a daily basis, the women at Mitsubishi brave the pressure and retribution of their employers and often their co-workers, families and friends. But they stand strong on the front lines for all of us who have ever faced discrimination," Ireland added.

Tourist Sites Popular

As early registrations for the national conference came to the National Action Center, NOW activists seemed almost equally interested in touring the impressive civil rights museum, which includes a memorial to the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assasinated, visiting Graceland, Elvis Presley's home and burial place, or relaxing in local Blues clubs, said Membership Vice President Karen Johnson, the officer who takes lead responsibilities for conferences.

"Registrations for the tours are coming in steadily, and we're not surprised because we know from past experience that NOW activists make time for fun, too," Johnson said.

For more information on the tours and National Conference or to register, contact Vanessa Salinas at the NOW Action Center at 202-331-0066, or register online at http://www.now.org/organiza/conferen/1997/ on NOW's Website.

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