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National NOW Times >> Summer, 2001 >> Article

Excitement in Philadelphia: 2001 National NOW Conference

by Sommer Spector, Conference Manager

The National Organization for Women is gearing up for the 2001 National NOW Conference, Not For Ourselves Alone, in Philadelphia, PA, June 29 through July 1, 2001.

In the Cradle of Democracy, chapter activists will concentrate on strategies and skills building to counter the Bush Administration, including a focus on electoral organizing at the second national NOW PAC Political Institute. Activists will also refine NOW’s campaign to prevent packing of the courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, with anti-women’s rights nominees. Despite official denials from the Supreme Court spokesperson, rumors of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s imminent retirement persist, and activists will be ready for immediate action at and after the conference.

SONiA of disappear fear and blues icon-in-the-making Mary Shaver, who offered a taste of their talent at the Emergency Action for Women’s Lives, will perform in concert at the plenary Friday evening following opening ceremonies and presentation of a Woman of Courage award to Olympic medal-winning weight lifter Cheryl Haworth (see article Spring 2001 issue of the NNT). Deejay Camille Weiss, who energized the Emergency Action with her a capella rap, will perform at the dance Saturday night.

Courage in the Face of Political Fire

Maryanne Connelly, former mayor of Fanwood, NJ, will fire-up conference participants at Saturday afternoon’s plenary and accept a Woman of Courage award for her extraordinary congressional campaign in 2000. With strong grassroots support from NOW New Jersey activists, Connelly beat the odds--and the man selected by the party establishment--in a Democratic primary marred by sexist attacks. The Republican man who edged her out in the general election used similar tactics, but Connelly came through unbowed and continues to inspire feminists to political action.

At last year's successful NOW PAC Political Institute, participants learned how to run an effective grassroots campaign and then went back to their hometowns to help Connelly and other feminist politicians. In fact, graduates of last year's Political Institute organized for almost every feminist candidate throughout the country. It's no surprise then, that the Political Institute is back by popular demand. Institute workshops will range from voter registration to recruiting feminist candidates to analyzing your district.

"Given the attacks on women’s rights from the fledgling Bush administration, we need the support of feminist politicians, and the local activists to ensure that those leaders get elected, more than ever," says NOW /PAC treasurer Karen Johnson. "The next four years pose a hard but necessary fight, and we need to be prepared with as many organizers as possible and the organizing strategies to back them."

The Conference will focus not only on feminist leadership outside of NOW, but also on the feminist leaders of NOW with the election of national officers to serve for the next four years. Candidate teams will present their visions and qualifications in speeches at Saturday morning’s plenary. Election and conference rules as well as nominations of candidate teams will be on the plenary agenda Friday morning. Friday evening the plenary will include a tribute to the fourteen years of Patricia Ireland's leadership as a NOW officer, including her decade-long presidency.

The Conference will also feature a track of young feminist workshops and two workshops by NOW’s Structure Review Task Force, focusing on how the multiple tiers of NOW work together to accomplish NOW’s goals.

Our S-heroes

The Conference keynote speakers are also seasoned leaders who will inspire NOW activists. Linda Chavez-Thompson, born to cotton share-croppers in Lubbock, Texas, and a second-generation American of Mexican descent, rose up in the ranks of her local union to become the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO. She is the first person of color to be elected to an executive office of the AFL-CIO and the highest-ranking woman in the labor movement. Chavez-Thompson was also appointed by then-President Clinton to serve on the President’s Initiative on Race as well as to serve as the Vice Chair of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

Jane Smith, Ed.D., scheduled to speak Saturday afternoon, began her activism in 1974 as a Whitney Young and Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Spellman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She then served as faculty and an administrator at Spellman, and at Atlanta University. In 1991, Smith was asked by Coretta Scott King to join the New Direction Team at the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Smith served as President and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. from 1998 through 2000. Smith was also appointed by former-President Clinton to the National Women’s Business Council and by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright as an official delegate to the United Nations Beijing Plus Five Conference.

The exhibit hall will be full of diverse exhibitors ranging from feminist and grassroots organizations to government agencies to woman-owned businesses and local craft stores.

For more information, go to www.now.org and click on the conference button, or call 202-628-8669, x.145.

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