National NOW Times >> Summer, 2000 >> Article
Feminists Organize and Strategize Under the Sun at
2000 National NOW Conference in Miami Beach,
by Valerie Hennings, Communications
June 30, NOW activists from across the country hit Miami Beach, Fla., with
much more than sun and sand on their minds. The 2000 National NOW
Conference, held at the Fontainebleau Hilton, was an intense three day
event that aimed to educate, energize and empower all of those in
attendance. The 600+ conference delegates and attendees actively engaged
in an abundance of workshops, issue hearings and plenary sessions.
Inspirational speakers addressed issues including international women
political leaders, immigration, reproductive health, war crimes and the
2000 presidential campaigns.
"The 2000 National NOW Conference
brought feminists together for a weekend of political strategizing and
activist organizing that will strengthen our impact on this year's
elections," said NOW President Patricia Ireland. "The Conference's
international flair and inter-generational focus built momentum for U.S.
participation in the World March of Women 2000, a global action to end
poverty and violence."
The conference theme, The Power of Women,
reflected the fact that the 2000 elections are a critical point for the
future of women, and that activists can affect the
Fabulous Feminist Speakers
This year's National Conference was marked by unforgettable
speakers who addressed the critical issues of concern for women today.
Donna Brazile, Gore 2000 Campaign Manager, revealed how she took her
leadership background in activist organizing and worked her way to become
the first African-American woman to head a major contender's presidential
In her discussion of how to build strong feminist allies
among women in leadership positions and others in activist roles, Brazile
stated, "As women, we should support one another and be willing to network
and continue to build the strong alliances we need to win. When we win,
all women will win."
A subsequent panel of distinguished guests
discussed women in power and the often-times difficult act of working for
change from the inside. Those contributing to this inspiring discussion
included Brazile, Judith Ratzan, MD; Thomasina Williams, Esq.; and Olga
Vives, Senior Vice-President of Business Development for
On Saturday afternoon, Laura Liswood,
Executive Director of the Council of Women World Leaders; Minna Schrag,
who served at the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia and is currently Chair of the Board of the NOW Legal Defense
and Education Fund; and Marleine Bastien, President/Founder of Fanm
Ayisyen Nan Miyami (Haitian Women of Miami), spoke on global issues
concerning all women.
Liswood underscored the increasing power of
women internationally as heads of state. She discussed what it takes for
women to advance and succeed as leaders: "To lead, it takes courage. It
takes courage [to move] from being in the crowd to being in front of the
crowd. It takes an enormous amount of courage to stand up and have your
ideas be the ones that people react to."
Schrag spoke on the issue of
rape as a hate crime. "We must continue to work to bring an end to
violence and poverty here in the United States and everywhere in the
world," Schrag said in her discussion on the use of rape as a means to
terrorize and control women. By sharing stories of women who have suffered
under such persecution, Schrag emphasized that violence against women is a
problem in the U.S. as well as in other cultures.
expressed her concern with the poor treatment of Haitian immigrants
seeking refuge in the U.S. In her call for the right to due process for
Haitians, Bastien stated, "Women around the world today are asking for
She added, "As long as women are prevented from
attaining the highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to achieve
the greatness that might be theirs."
Women of Courage
recognized four extraordinary women at this year's conference. Three Woman
of Courage Awards were given to those who have demonstrated immense valor
and who will continue to pave the way for others in the fight for
equality. In an emotion-filled evening, conference participants came
together to celebrate these women.
Julia Gabriel, Christy Brzonkala
and Elaine Gordon were this year's award recipients. Gabriel was
recognized for her tremendous courage in working to improve labor
conditions for immigrants and for testifying against those who force
illegal servitude. Laura Germino and Lucas Benitez also received honors
for their valiant efforts in the fight against poverty and for farm
Brzonkala was presented an award for her brave
struggle as the first person in the nation to sue the men she accused of
raping her under the Violence Against Women Act-a case she took all the
way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gordon was honored with a
posthumous award which her daughters and grand-daughters accepted. She was
praised for her great integrity, character and unwavering commitment to
forwarding feminist issues in the Florida state legislature.
Mariye, film director and actor on "ER," received the first-ever NOW Film
Maker of the Year Award. She presented her thought-provoking directorial
debute, "Shangri-la Cafe," a short feature film that addresses the issue
of racism and how one Japanese American woman refused to allow herself to
be pitted against African Americans.
In keeping with NOW's dedication to increasing
feminist representation in the U.S. political sphere, the conference
included a NOW/PAC Political Institute. The Institute's workshops
demonstrated the essential elements of electing feminists to office. NOW
activists presented topics which included analyzing the demographics of a
voting district, forming an effective campaign team, grassroots
fundraising and getting constituents to the polls. The Institute provided
activists with skills in this intensive hands-on training.
treasurer Karen Johnson commented, "These workshops gave insightful
examples of political techniques that work and don't work in getting women
NOW/PAC expects to place dozens of activists who have
completed the training in targeted campaigns.
An exciting new addition to the National NOW
Conference was an inter-generational dialogue. This dynamic component of
the program brought feminists of all ages together in an open session to
identify, discuss and expand upon the many issues that are of importance
in their organizing efforts and personal lives. After breaking up into
small groups, girls and women from their teens to 80+ tackled questions
designed to enhance understanding among feminists at all stages of life.
These in-depth, one-on-one dialogues revealed the many stages of
feminism-where we've been, where we are and where we're going.
This dialogue was just the beginning for feminists dedicated to
creating a partnership for the new century that will use everyone's
experience, energy and ideas to change the world.
events charging the weekend, the 2000 National NOW Conference was an
empowering and reaffirming testament to the work done by many in the name
of women's rights and equality for all. Its success is proof that the
power of women will continue to grow in the future.
concludes, "The energy from the Conference will take us right into October
with the World March of Women, and from there our energy and determination
will be seen and felt in the November elections.