Book Group to Focus on Race & Racism

By Ellen Miller
Moderator, Feminist Book Group

The books chosen for April are on the topic of racism and how it impacts women in our culture. The first book we will discuss is So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Recently on the NY Times best-seller list, Oluo has written a personal and balanced and brutally honest book in which she presents complicated situations in a way which makes them seem simple.  It is brilliant in its insights, plus she uses humor to help us understand things which are really not very funny.   Depending on your experience with racism, you are also encouraged to read Waking Up White by Debby Irving, and  White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.

The April meeting will be on Friday, April 5, at the West Tisbury Free Public Library starting at 5:15 p.m. If you do not get to the library before they close the front doors at 5 p.m., come in the program room door which is off the porch in the back on the right side of the building. If you would like to bring a snack please do so, and bring any women friends you think might be interested, as well as your ideas for topics and books to read.

There seems to be some confusion as to what the book group is all about. We are a project of the Women’s Committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos, although you don’t need to be affiliated either one to participate in the book group. Susanna Sturgis put together a film festival of women’s films last year.  Five of the six Island libraries hosted at least one film, and they were great. The Women’s Committee also compiled a list of recommended films mostly by and always about women.

Partly out of that experience we decided to put together a book group. Our mission is both to inform ourselves about the history of the women’s movements in the U.S., and about legal and economic and cultural issues confronting women in our country today (particularly here in Massachusetts and on Martha’s Vineyard), and then to figure out how we can help effect change.

Although there are hundreds of wonderful books about women’s lives, fiction and nonfiction, novels and biographies (all of which I will include on the book list as you recommend them to me), the focus of the group needs to be on books from which we can gain insights into particular issues confronting women in our culture.  In addition, in choosing books to read as a group we need to make sure they are still in print and readily available both through the library system and for purchase.

We are certainly interested in suggestions both for books and for topics. Just to give you a heads up, the topic for May will be the history of the women’s movement in the U.S. If you have a particular resource you want to read (or have read), please let me know and we will try to find it.

MV Women’s March 2019

The weather was blustery, the forecast daunting, but about a hundred Vineyarders turned out for last Saturday’s march, delighting organizers who were expecting far fewer to show up. And unlike most Vineyard demonstrations, it really was a march: after rallying at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven, most of us walked down the Beach Road, over the drawbridge, and down New York Avenue to Washington Park, near Oak Bluffs harbor.

Five Corners is the go-to place for island demonstrations, with good reason: it’s centrally located, there’s plenty of room to stand (crowd estimates for last summer’s “Families Belong Together” demo ran as high as 350), and even in January the traffic in all directions is pretty much continuous. Five Corners, however, is both noisy and windy, which means that demos there almost never include speeches or music.

Organizer Margaret Emerson addresses the crowd. Photo by Daniel Waters. Used by permission.

Here too, Saturday’s Women’s March broke with tradition by featuring two speeches and the reading of a poem. Organizer and Women’s Committee member Margaret Emerson, aided by a blue bullhorn, kicked off the event, saying:

We are here at a great time in our nation’s history. In spite of the terrible daily news coming out of Washington about the current administration, we live in a time of renewed awareness of what our democracy means and how we can be involved to keep our government on the right track and our democracy strong.

The 2017 Women’s March brought about changes in our federal, state, and local government. Women became mobilized to the point that more women were elected to the US Legislature than ever before; Women-lead political groups were formed in our state and our island, and political activity has energized us to run for office, lobby, work on campaigns and make a difference in the lives of many. Ask any spouse, partner, child, or friend and they will tell you the change is here and it is here to stay and to be passed on to the next generation of activists.

She went on to list the “Why we march?” priorities of the national Women’s March: civil rights and liberties, environmental justice, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, reproductive rights and justice, disability rights, economic justice and workers’ rights, and an end to violence against women.

Carla Cooper of Indivisible Martha’s Vineyard. Photo by Daniel Waters.

Next up was Carla Cooper, founder of Indivisible Martha’s Vineyard, who spoke of how the 2016 election and the 2017 Women’s March changed her life:

I went to the first Women’s March in Boston in 2017 because I didn’t know what else to do with my fear and my anxiety. I didn’t know where to put it. It was the first time I ever participated in anything remotely political. And it was a life-altering experience for me. I was surrounded by thousands of beautiful people who turned my desperation into hope, and inspired me into action. And while two years ago, the Women’s March for me was all about Trump, today it’s not about him. It’s about us, and what we have been able to accomplish, in spite of him.

Out of the smoking crater of the 2016 election arose a monumental upswelling of grassroots activism all across the country. We emerged from the dark fog of the aftermath of the election, and we found each other. We’ve grown from a community of reluctant resisters to a community of eager activists and leaders. During the last two years, we organized, we rallied, we protested, we campaigned, we registered voters, we knocked on doors, we wrote thousands of postcards, we laughed, and we cried – and we drank a lot of wine. We agonized over our defeats and we celebrated our victories. We watched women run for office and get elected in record numbers. 102 women were elected to the US House of Representatives! 14 women were elected to the US Senate! And 9 women will serve as Governors! And we helped create the blue wave that won back the House of Representatives!

The rally concluded with the reading of “Who Will Mend Me?,” a poem by Lorraine Parish, another Vineyarder who was called to action by the 2016 election. Despite the bullhorn, most of the words got lost in the wind and traffic noise. Fortunately palmcards with the entire poem, in which the poet speaks in the voice of the United States, were passed out to listeners. Here it is.

Women’s Committee members Cathy Walthers, Maggie Brown, and Maria Black all attended the Boston Women’s March, where they helped with the activities of the Massachusetts Coalition to End Child Marriage. (You’ll be hearing more about this issue. A new bill to end child marriage in this state was recently introduced.)

Also at the Boston march was Lorraine Parish, which is why she wasn’t at Five Corners to read her own poem.

 

Feminist Book Group Starts Feb. 1

It is not news that women’s rights, dignity, opportunities, equality, and justice have precious little support in our culture, either from the law, from our families, and even from other women. The time has come to fix that. But before we can start to change things, we need to arm ourselves with the facts. The Women’s Committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos is starting a reading and discussion group to learn more about and provide an opportunity to discuss women’s legal and cultural issues.

Starting on Friday, Feb. 1, the Feminist Book Group will meet on the first Friday of each month, from 5:15 to 7:00 p.m. in the program room at the West Tisbury Public Library. If you are not in the library when it closes at 5 p.m., you may enter the program room through a door off the porch on the right side of the building.

The book we’ll be discussing at the Feb. 1 meeting is Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. Good and Mad examines the transformative power of women’s anger, including both historical perspective and insightful comments on today’s events. It has been chosen one of the best books of 2018 by the Washington Post, NPR, People, Esquire, Elle, and Wired (among others).  It is available at bookstores, at Amazon.com, through IndieBound (a community of independent local bookstores), and through the CLAMS system, both in book form and as a CD.

Upcoming titles will be posted on this website, so please sign up to “follow” and you won’t miss anything.

Women’s March 2019

The Women’s March is happening again, nationally and internationally, and you don’t have to leave the Vineyard to participate!

On Saturday, January 19, we’ll gather at Five Corners at 1 p.m. and march along the Beach Road (etc.) to Washington Park, near Oak Bluffs harbor. Bring a sign! Bring friends!

The main march will be on Washington, D.C., and sister marches are happening in many places, including Boston.

This year the theme is #WomensWave. From the national Women’s March 2019 website:

It’s time to march again.

The 2017 Women’s March inspired hundreds of women to run, millions more to vote, and dozens to win elected office. The 2019 Women’s March marks two years of resistance to the Trump presidency, two years of training new activists, and two years of building power. And this time, we’re coming back with an agenda.

And:

The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers to engage in their local communities through trainings, outreach programs and events. Women’s March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.

Come connect with other women working to make change on Martha’s Vineyard!

Families Belong Together

The Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council has called for a standout at Five Corners at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 30, to oppose the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their asylum-seeking parents at the southern border. All welcome — bring signs!

A national “Families Belong Together” march on Washington has been called for June 30 by MoveOn.org and many other organizations to protest the inhumane treatment of immigrants, many of whom are fleeing terrible violence in their home countries. Hundreds of local rallies have been called in communities across the country. If you’re not on the Vineyard, you can find the ones nearest you on the MoveOn.org website.

Immigration law is complex, and so is the history of enforcement. The continual and contradictory misinformation put out by the Trump administration makes it hard to grasp all the ways that what’s going on now is a radical departure from what previous administrations have done. If you Google fact check immigration policy Trump or similar keywords, you’ll find a wealth of reliable reporting and commentary, but I found this one, Salvador Rizzo’s “The Facts About Trump’s Policy of Separating Families at the Border,” from the Washington Post, particularly useful.

And did you know that if you’re on Martha’s Vineyard, you’re in the 100-mile “border zone,” within which the Border Patrol can stop anyone on the slightest suspicion and check their immigration status? How slight is “slight”? Well, a woman in Montana was stopped because she was speaking Spanish.

This border zone extends 100 miles not only from the Canadian and Mexican borders but from both the east and west coasts.

Here is the ACLU’s fact sheet on the subject.

And here is a “know your rights” chart when dealing with the Border Patrol. It was prepared by the Arizona chapter of the ACLU.

Missing: Abortion Services on MV

Did everybody see this important story in the May 24 Martha’s Vineyard Times?

It’s titled “New Study Reveals Gaps in Island Reproductive Services,” and that’s exactly what it does. The whole thing is worth reading, but here are the key points:

  • The study referred to in the headline, “Addressing Sexual and Reproductive Health on Martha’s Vineyard,” was conducted last fall by Rural Health Scholars, a group of students from the University of Massachusetts Graduate School of Nursing and Medicine.
  • From the story: “The main findings of the study revealed a need for sexual education revamp at MVRHS, better support for the Island’s LGBTQ community, and inaccessibility to pregnancy termination services.”
  • Health Imperatives, the nonprofit that runs the M.V. Family Planning Clinic on State Road, Vineyard Haven, is federally funded and so can’t provide “pregnancy termination services,” i.e., abortions.
  • Not only is it impossible to get a surgical abortion on the island, medical abortions (a series of pills taken within the first eight weeks of pregnancy) aren’t available either.
  • Local pharmacies aren’t allowed to carry abortion pills, and to even prescribe the pills,physicians have to be certified by a pharmaceutical company.

To address the lack of access to pregnancy termination services on the Vineyard, the Friends of Family Planning (which supports the M.V. Family Planning Clinic) will host a public forum and panel discussion at the Old Whaling Church on August 4. What do Vineyard women want and need, and how do we best organize to get it?

Note also that Cecile Richards, former head of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will be speaking the very next day, August 5, at 7:30 p.m., as part of the summer M.V. Authors’ Series. Tickets are now available from Brown Paper Tickets. $45 includes a copy of Richards’s new book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead.

This sounds like a great opportunity to step up our efforts to improve women’s health care on Martha’s Vineyard!

Rally for Gun Safety

Before yesterday morning was out, news arrived of yet another school shooting, this one at the Santa Fe, Texas, high school. Nine students and one teacher were killed and ten others wounded, including a school resource officer who at last report was in critical condition. Once again the shooter was a white man: 17-year-old student Dimitrios Pagourtzis surrendered to law enforcement at the scene and has confessed to the crime.

Word spread quickly on social media and via email, and despite the short notice about 15 Vineyarders gathered at Five Corners at 5:30 to mark the event, honor the dead, and call for stronger gun-safety laws. Women’s Committee members Maria Black, Sarah Nevin, Sheila Lyons, and Susanna Sturgis were among those attending. Both the Martha’s Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette covered the event.

Many passing vehicles honked, waved, or called out their support. One fellow, however, driving a late-model pickup that was almost big enough for a tiny house, held up traffic while he vociferously protested the protesters.

By the way, there was a school-related shooting in Illinois on Thursday, fortunately with no fatalities; the only injury was to the gunman, a 19-year-old — you guessed it — white guy. Friday night in the Atlanta area, one woman was shot and killed and another wounded near a high school graduation. Reports are still sketchy, and it’s not clear if the shooting had any connection to the graduation.

Women’s Committee member Sarah Nevin is at right; next to her, holding the green “Enough!” sign, is her daughter Katrina.

Keith Chatinover, member of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos and senior at the MV Public Charter School.