50 Years of Organizing for Change

Statement of NOW President Toni Van Pelt

09.18.2017

The National Organization for Women (NOW) welcomes the opportunity to participate in the March for Black Women and the Racial Justice March. NOW believes that changing the culture that marginalizes, disparages and excludes women, particularly women of color, is our most important work.

We were distressed to learn that the March had been scheduled on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, a date this year that fell on a date of infamy for the African American community. When we first became aware of the Marches and the letter of apology for the scheduling conflict we thought long and hard about lifting up of all our communities as allies even when there is conflict and what that might mean for our members.

This is a very unfortunate coincidence and situation, one we did not take lightly when we decided to endorse and support the March for Black Women and the Racial Justice March. But if we have learned anything in 50 years of organizing for change, it is that every setback is an opportunity to regroup, learn, and rededicate ourselves to advancing the cause of women’s rights.

In a statement, March for Racial Justice has said, in part,

Choosing this date, we now know, was a grave and hurtful oversight on our part. It was unintentional and we are sorry for this pain as well as for the time it has taken for us to respond. Our mistake highlights the need for our communities to form stronger relationships.

After the horrifying events of the past weekend in Charlottesville, and the remarks by the President suggesting that “both sides” are to blame, we understand more than ever the need for unity against those who hate us in our many identities. We have learned from our Jewish friends that Yom Kippur is a day of making amends and of asking and receiving forgiveness. We hope that our sincere apology will be received with compassion, and that we will build a stronger relationship among all our communities as a result.

(For the full statement, click here)

After consulting with a wide range of our members, Jewish and allies of the Jewish community, NOW has decided to continue our participation in the March. We commend the organizers of the March for their willingness to make amends, and their thoughtfulness in addressing this fissure. This is why the concept and practice of intersectionality is so important. We must remember we have a common oppressor and that we experience oppression in different ways. NOW recommits to addressing all oppressions.

To our Jewish members and community please be assured your voices and grief have been heard. The message that NOW will deliver during the March for Racial Justice – that we must unpack racism, and take the needs of marginalized sisters seriously, must never be silenced. Our highest ideal is to find the path to work together with women – all women – despite the seemingly impossible challenges of doing so. We will prevail – together.

Contact

Laura Gross , lgross@scottcircle.com , 202-695-8223
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