By Mary Getlein
On March 8 there was a gathering of women and men at 533 Rialto Avenue to celebrate International Women’s Day. The purpose was to celebrate women and to receive a proclamation from the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa. Bill Rosendahl read the proclamation out loud and presented the proclamation to Yolanda Miranda, who received it with enthusiasm.
After that there were speeches, songs, poems and a sharing of stories about the women who came before us. There was an abundance of food, provided by Tamara’s Tamales and individual contributions.
The room was filled with bright, happy women. Everyone was dressed in bright colors with paper flowers pinned to their clothes, or worn in their hair. The table was filled with tamales, beans and rice, fruit salad and lasagna. It was a happy occasion to mark the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day.
The Day also commemorates the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, where young, immigrant women were locked into the factory and couldn’t escape the fire. The doors were always locked so union organizers could get in to talk to the women. Many of the women attempted to escape the fire by jumping out the windows, and fell to their death. All those young women, with all their hopes and dreams, were destroyed by the greed of the factory owners, who escaped the fire by making it to the roof. This incident brought about needed change and the push for worker safety laws.
It was an evening of sharing and laughter. It was a diverse crowd of women and men from many different backgrounds, Latinas, Romanians, Gypsies, African-Americans and Venetians. So many women and men came to hear stories and songs, speeches, to look at art and enjoy themselves. It was so good to see old friends and make new ones. Everyone was relaxed and very friendly.
Suzy Williams and Stephanie Valdez sang wonderful, funny songs together. Yolanda Miranda read the Sojourner Truth poem “Ain’t I A Woman?” Suzy Williams acted as an M.C., and honored various women around the room for their contributions to the Venice community. Hillary Kaye had made crowns of flowers and pipe cleaners, and Suzy used them to crown the women with. Hillary Kaye gave away magnets and matchbooks she had made, celebrating 100 years of Women’s Rights. Lisa Green helped with the cooking and also led a prayer for women and the planet. She had everyone hold hands while she prayed for bringing healing back to Gaia, Planet Earth. Mimi Bogale brought her beautiful oil paintings to grace the event.
Maria Montano announced her candidacy for Jane Harman’s seat in Congress. She is running as the Peace and Freedom Party candidate. She talked of growing up in Venice, and the effect of poverty and budget cuts on the young students she currently teaches in the L.A. Unified School District.
Alice Stek spoke of the challenges of being a doctor and working as an OB/GYN with HIV/AIDS mothers and children. She said in fourteen years she had never had to treat a baby born with HIV/AIDS, which is an amazing record.
Kathy Leonardo sang funny, sarcastic songs about men. Yvonne Guzman talked about feeding the homeless and helping people get into shelters. Carole Tantau talked about working as a domestic violence activist. She said she speaks three languages: English, Spanish and “Cop”. She has had many occasions of getting a phone call in the middle of the night, and having to go out and talk to an abused woman and convince her to go to a shelter. She also runs Just Tantau, her store on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
The event was conceived by Yolanda Miranda, who came from Utah to help organize it. She and her steering committee (Mimi Bogale, Greta Cobar, Lisa Green, Ivonne Guzman, Hillary Kaye, Peggy Lee Kennedy, Maria Montano, Alice Stek, Suzy Williams and Fabiola Wright) helped organize a wonderful night of celebration, songs and stories about important women in our community. All these women, with their many different gifts and talents, came together to know each other and to celebrate. We all acknowledged that there is a lot that could be changed and improved, but there is still a lot to celebrate.
Rebecca Frye ended the program by singing “We Shall Overcome”, and the whole room sang it with her.