Chronicle Op Ed: During Memorial Day week, we can't forget the women who served

Originally published in the Houston Chronicle on May 31, 2018:

When you celebrated veterans this past Monday as part of the Memorial Day weekend, who came to mind? A grandfather or great-grandfather who served in World War II? A father or uncle still conflicted about Vietnam? A currently serving career officer, maybe on his seventh or eighth deployment to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Korea ... ?


Did any of our more than 2 million women veterans come to mind? Women have served in every American war: saving lives, leading troops, pioneering medical treatments, fixing planes, breaking enemy codes and investing their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.

Since the 1800s, the last week of May has been set aside to remember Americans who've given their lives defending America. Today, this final day of May, is a fitting day to remember and honor veterans who are frequently forgotten: American women who have died in service to our country and the more than 2 million women veterans, the fastest growing demographic in our armed services. Yes: Women are volunteering and being accepted into the armed forces — including the officer cadet academies — at rates of enlistment that are outpacing men.

Seventy years ago, in 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the Women's Armed Service Integration Act. Women were an integral part of the allied forces prevailing in WWII, from the women code-breakers who deciphered Nazi messages to American WAVES and WACS to Rosie the Riveter and the women who served at home. President Truman, himself a decorated officer, knew the importance of women in our armed services.

These 70 years have been an imperfect integration. Women are still discriminated against, at home and abroad. Not only do women veterans face every challenge men face — reintegrating with families and civilian communities, job search and retraining, post traumatic stress, homelessness — our valiant women veterans face additional challenges.

Women veterans who wind up without a job, without a home, often are still the primary caregivers for children. Homeless, with children, after serving America. Women are sexually assaulted at service academies, assaulted in uniform when deployed at home and abroad and often face a chain of command that includes their abusers. Veterans' hospitals and other facilities still focus more on men, with women all too often an afterthought.

Do we see the faces of women today, on Memorial Day in America? Do we see the black, brown, white, Asian, straight, lesbian, tall and small veterans, some all in one piece, some fitted with prosthetics, missing arms or legs? Do we remember their sacrifices to defend our country, from enemies both foreign and domestic?

But there is so much more to the story! Our women veterans are proud and resilient. These women are strong. Women veterans have triumphed in circumstances many of us can barely imagine. They are running for elected office and winning. They are leading teams with a strong work ethic, loyalty and integrity.


For every reason a male veteran is a good hire, a female veteran can be a great one. A great team leader serving here at home with the fierce loyalty to America they demonstrated in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard.

MARCH
What: Women's Veterans March

Where: City Hall

When: June 9, 2018, 9 a.m.

Click here for more information

Today, on this historically observed Memorial Week in America, let's remember all our veterans, including the fastest growing demographic in the armed services: women. Join us downtown June 9, and help us thank women veterans for their service — not just when they proudly wore the uniform in active duty — but their service here, now, at home. Women veterans are going to help lead America forward.

Tana Plescher is a veteran and U.S. Navy Corpsman, and Robin Paoli is the wife of a veteran, a U.S. Navy Chief.

Follow @WomensMarchHou on Twitter.

Our Next March: June 9th Women's Veterans March

70 years ago, the Women's Armed Service Integration Act was signed by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, and this 70th anniversary will be observed in Austin and around America on Tuesday, June 12th. 

THE SATURDAY BEFORE... veterans from across the services and across the U.S. are joining us here in Houston, where we're marching for the rights and recognition of women veterans in Texas and in America on Saturday, June 9, 2018.

SIGN UP NOW: we will update you with opportunities to recognize these valiant women and join us in honoring the women who have served, CURRENT serving women from all the armed forces, and the young women still in school who will serve and defend our nation and our democratic values.

Are you a current or former service member who'd like to be involved? Email us at volunteer@HoustonWomensMarch.org

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Our Chronicle Op Ed: Why the Women's March Should Include Everyone

Originally published in the Houston Chronicle on April 30, 2018:

We live in a moment when fascist and anti-Semitic ideologies are vying for legitimacy, when hate-filled rhetoric is fueling a resurgence of historic evils including violence against black and brown women and men. Physical hate crimes and violence are rising in direct response to words of hatred and verbal attacks on race, ethnicity and gender.

At its best, the Women's March is an international movement of hope, resisting this hatred with repeated emphasis on loving our neighbors, and acting in that love to stand with our neighbors, particularly those most vulnerable or under attack. The Women's March started as a visceral response to the arrogance of power, to the ugliness of the 2016 election, to the misogyny and hate fed by a broken, corrupt, cynical patriarchy.

From Houston to Hong Kong, from Austin to Argentina, all across the globe, women stood up with their allies and said, "Enough is enough!" This ugliness does not represent us. We are better than this.

The Houston Women's March rejects hate speech and ethnic discrimination of all kinds. Our first values statement as an organization was saying "No!" to the hate-filled menace of white nationalism erupting in America. Our recognition and support of the worth of all persons also led us to say "No!" to the actions earlier this year of national Women's March activist Tamika Mallory in conjunction with Louis Farrakhan, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as an anti-Semitic extremist who repeatedly appears on SPLC's "Hate Watch" alongside white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan.

We categorically stand against the anti-Semitism, racism, LGBTQIA attacks and misogyny Farrakhan promoted in the event Mallory attended and publicized.

Recent actions taken by Mallory have raised new concerns. The context? Mallory opposes the inclusion of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as one of the contributors to coffee giant Starbucks' emerging anti-bias training, describing ADL as "constantly attacking black and brown people" and calling for a boycott of Starbucks until ADL is removed.

We are appalled that two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks while sitting peacefully at a table yet not ordering. We agree that Starbucks must demonstrate that it values all persons of every ethnicity and must train managers and employees in recognizing bias and how to act without discrimination.

We do not agree with Mallory's description of the ADL which — similarly to the NAACP — has a long history of working for justice including designing anti-bias training. Like the SPLC, the League maps hate crimes, spearheads hate crime legislation and intensified a 50-state initiative after what ADL described as the "heinous" mass shooting at a church in Charleston. We wish that Mallory instead had used her voice to encourage Starbucks and its anti-bias advisors (including the NAACP, ADL, Equal Justice Initiative, Demos, former Attorney General Eric Holder) not only to design powerful anti-bias and anti-discrimination training, but to designate their materials as "open source," making them freely available for every other corporation and organization in the world to use and to improve. That is a call to action worthy of a leader with the Women's March movement.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time a figure with the National Women's March has prioritized personal activism over the generous and good-hearted international movement that millions of women and allies have built through personal sacrifices and volunteer sweat equity. The unifying work of the Women's March is too crucial to let the world wonder whether its national leaders are anti-Semitic and racist or whether they're unwilling to rise above personal agendas to serve all the women and allies of the March.

Together we rise, together we will overcome. To this end, the Houston Women's March calls upon national, state and local Women's March leaders for the following specific actions.

1) We call upon national Women's March leaders to refocus and articulate who we really are. We include the Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sufi, Native American, agnostic, atheist women of Houston, of Texas, and of America. When you stand with those who incite hatred against Jewish and LGBTQIA human beings, when you ally yourselves with racism and misogyny, you do not represent us. We need to hear and see your commitment.

2) We ask other city, state and international Women's March organizations to join us in our call to the national group: "If your definition of 'my people' does not include all of us and if you won't denounce hate speech and ethnic discrimination, you can't lead the Women's March."

3) We call upon Mallory and the national leaders to go beyond their initial statements in this matter of Farrakhan's hate-mongering and to name and reject Farrakhan's hate speech. Mallory has spoken of the commitment Farrakhan's organization shows to disenfranchised and incarcerated people and communities and of her personal connections and relationships. We say to Mallory: Yes, we can support community leaders while naming and rejecting anti-Semitism, racism, LGBTQIA attacks and misogyny. Join us and do just that.

4) We call upon the national Women's March to reorganize and better serve the grassroots leadership in American cities and states, re-aligning mission and values with the autonomous local organizations, who are separate legally and financially from the national group. Our city and state marches are connecting and empowering women and girls to take action for themselves and their communities, investing in diverse leadership teams, building progressive networks and registering and inspiring voters.

If you've marched with us in Texas, you've seen the signs held by women and men representing our values: health care, immigration, children, racial justice, gender equality, education, empowerment, voting, gun safety and more. Some signs use humor, some are intensely personal, and almost all capture an enormously significant component of the Women's March: us. We the people. We rebuke hate and hate speech, we stand with love. We stand with women of every race, every ethnicity, every faith orientation and gender description, those who have marched with us and those who haven't marched with us yet. We love our neighbors, and we're in this together.

Here in Houston, we are building a regional Women's March nonprofit led by volunteers who are black, white, Latina, Asian, Middle Eastern. In our faith we are Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other. Here in Houston, Muslim and Jewish women gather together as part of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, building relationships of trust and integrity. Here in Houston, women lead for equality, equity, dignity and justice for all, and the Houston Women's March is a part of this larger movement that empowers each individual woman while being bigger than the personal agendas of any individual leader.

Wake up, National Women's March. Wake up and set aside personal agendas. We women will all rise together, or we won't rise at all.

Follow @WomensMarchHou on Twitter.

What we WON'T stand for.

The Houston Women’s March rejects all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, white supremacy, oppression, and discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, ability, and other characterizations of our common shared humanity. HWM is led by women who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and other faith and belief descriptions. We are united in our love for our neighbors and our commitment to empower women. The Houston Women’s March is an independent Texas organization.

The National Women’s March released a statement yesterday about anti-Semitism (below this paragraph). While we appreciate the challenge of living intersectional lives and engaging intersectional conversations noted in this statement, we ask the national organization to go beyond merely noting that “Farrakhan’s statements about Jewish, queer, and trans people are not aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principles” and make a clearer and stronger renunciation of anti-Semitism, hate speech and the destructive actions that spring from hate-filled language.


From the National Women’s March organization:

“Anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, racism and white supremacy are and always will be indefensible.


“Women’s March is committed to fighting all forms of oppression as outlined in our Unity Principles. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia and we condemn these expressions of hatred in all forms.


“Women’s March is an intersectional movement made up of organizers with different backgrounds, who work in different communities. Within the Women’s March movement, we are very conscious of the conversations that must be had across the intersections of race, religion and gender. We love and value our sister and co-President Tamika Mallory, who has played a key role in shaping these conversations. Neither we nor she shy away from the fact that intersectional movement building is difficult and often painful.


“Minister Farrakhan’s statements about Jewish, queer, and trans people are not aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principles, which were created by women of color leaders and are grounded in Kingian Nonviolence. Women’s March is holding conversations with queer, trans, Jewish and Black members of both our team and larger movement to create space for understanding and healing.


“Our external silence has been because we are holding these conversations and are trying to intentionally break the cycles that pit our communities against each other. We have work to do, as individuals, as an organization, as a movement, and as a nation.


“The world Women’s March seeks to build is one free from anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, and all forms of social violence. We are rooted in a vision of a world where all women—including Black women, Jewish women, lesbian, queer, bi and trans women, Muslim women, poor women, immigrant women, Indigenous women, and disabled women—are free and able to care for and nurture themselves and their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.


“Building this world will take a long time and will require patience and empathy for each other.


“We believe it is worth it.


“In community,


“Women’s March”

MARCH opportunities to VOTE, connect, support, learn, and keep making a difference!

Ready to continue marching? Here are some opportunities to VOTE, connect, support, learn, and keep making a difference in March!

The Houston Women's March is active all year long with voter engagement and support of actions and other marches that intersect our mission for women and allies.

 

Scroll down for more details on the March for Black Women.

 

Hidden Values and How to Talk About Politics

In this fast-paced hands-on workshop, we'll alternate between all-group feedback and small-group practice as we learn more about connecting the dots between values and actions, and why people we love or respect hold (or seem to hold) such radically different ideas.

  • Learn insights about the hidden motivations driving values-based decisions 

  • Connect the dots between values, expressed beliegs and actions 

  • Begin conversations with people who express different values 

  • Find common ground that begins to open up deeper conversations about the values we share 

We're offering "Hidden Values and How to Talk About Politics" twice in March:

This is part of our "one million women" initiative in 2018. Men are welcome to join us!

March for Black Women Houston - This Saturday, March 3

We are participating in the M4BWHou and invite you to join us. The M4BWHou organizers use their website to explain their purpose and how allies can support them: please visit their site to learn more. Here are details on how to connect with Houston Women's Marchers before and during M4BWHou.   

Dear Houston Women March friends, volunteers, and marchers: We will gather to walk to the Black Women's March to celebrate and honor black women. Houston Women's March as an organization will be there to respectfully support the event following the organizer's guidance for allies/accomplices. We will carry signs that express we believe, trust and support Black Women / Black Trans Women, as requested by the organizers. See suggestions below and at https://www.m4bwhou.com/allies/

WHERE

We will gather at Elizabeth Baldwin Park (corner of Elgin and Chenevert) and walk 4 blocks to Emancipation Park (corner of Elgin and Hutchins)

WHEN

The first group will walk at 8:10 AM to attend the Allies training at 8:30 AM

The section group will walk at 9:30 AM to join the celebration before it begins at 10:00AM

HOW

In keeping with the M4BWHou organizers' intent, we are not making a statement or creating attention for ourselves, so we do not plan to bring a banner or wear our t-shirts. Rather, please wear something showing solidarity, or no statements. We will have HWM logo stickers for you to wear to help Marchers locate each other.

 

Signs suggested for M4BWHou

Trust Black Women

Trust Black Trans Women

Support Black Women

Support Black Trans Women

Believe Black Women

Believe Black Trans Women

Ally/Accomplice for Black Women's Liberation 

 

Women's rights is not only an abstraction, a cause; it is also a personal affair. It is not only about us; it is also about me and you. Just the two of us.

- Toni Morrison

Thank You To Our 2018 Candidate Supporters!

Thank you to the candidates who signed the values statement and contributed to the March. Thank you for supporting women in Texas!

As a non-partisan non-profit organization, we do not endorse candidates. The 2018 March was a platform for everyday voices speaking about issues. Local elected officials joined the March and introduced grassroots constituents from their districts. Candidates were invited to March with Houston women, were given opportunities to sign our values statement, and some candidates even showed their support by donating to the March to help offset expenses.

  • Adrian Garcia,  County Commissioner Pct.2
  • Armen "Hammer" Merjanian, Judge, County Criminal Court-at-Law No.5
  • Dr. Jason Westin, U. S. Representative District 7
  • Julie Countiss, Justice, 1st Court of Appeals District, Place 7
  • Letitia Plummer, U. S. Representative District 22
  • Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, U. S. Representative District 7
  • Madeline K. Eden, U. S. Representative District 10
  • Rita Lucido, State Senator, District 17
  • Senfronia Thompson, State Representative District 141
  • Steve Brown, U. S. Representative District 22
  • Tahir Javed, U. S. Representative District 29
  • Tonya Jones, Judge, County Criminal Court-at-Law No.15
  • "DC" Caldwell, Justice of the Peace Pct.7 Place.2

MARCHER'S TOOLKIT FOR TODAY 1/20/18

Houston Women’s March TOOLKIT

Good morning! We're looking forward to a great March today in Houston to kick off a year of civic engagement leading to the 2018 elections.

By popular request, we have port-o-potties, a bigger sound system, peace officers, event marshals, and a first aid station. If you can, please contribute here to offset the March expenses. We are an all-volunteer, grassroots organization. Thank you!

Following is our Marcher's Toolkit including chants, t-shirts, parking, and safety information for today. Some top items -- other than marching in solidarity! -- are dress comfortably for the weather, remember to follow parking regulations including paid/metered parking, and bring a filled water bottle.  

Women’s March Tool Kit

WHAT: Houston Women’s March 2018

RISE UP • UNITE • VOTE

WHERE/WHEN:  Saturday, January 20, 2018

9:30 am Meet at The Water Works at Buffalo Bayou Park,

105 Sabine Street, HTX 77007

Feel free to meet us at City Hall if you are not able to march from The Water Works to City Hall.

10:00 am March to City Hall for Rally, 901 Bagby Street, HTX 77002

March will be approximately 1/2 mile

HPD & March Marshalls will lead our march to City Hall.

<City Hall> Singing of National Anthem: Kam Franklin from The Suffers

Music by DJ Gracie

Guest speakers

*We will have American Sign Language Interpreters.

CHANTS:

Rise Up! Unite! Vote!

Unity. Equality. Justice for All.

Love! Not hate! Makes America great!

Yes we can

Si Se Puede  

We are the dreamers, the mighty mighty dreamers.

Black Lives Matter.

Trans Rights are Human Rights.

Muslim Rights are Human Rights.

The people! United! Will never be defeated!

Say it loud! Say it clear!” / “Refugees are welcome here!”

Say it loud! Say it clear!” / “Immigrants are welcome here!”

My body, my choice!” / “Her body, her choice!”

Show me what democracy looks like!” / “This is what democracy looks like!”

Fired Up! / Ready to go!

Build bridges / not walls

Hey hey! Ho Ho! Gender violence has got to go.

We choose LOVE

I’m with HER

MERCHANDISE FOR SALE:

  • Order your official Houston Women’s March T-Shirts & Totes https://www.houstonwomensmarch.org/

  • T-Shirts & Totes will be available on January 20 for sale at the Houston Women’s March, or

  • at the HWM After Party at Axelrad Beer Garden

PARKING: *Do not leave valuables in your vehicle.

When parking along city streets, pay close attention to signage and meters. Please be neighborly!

We have a parking resource map on the HWM Website: https://www.houstonwomensmarch.org

City of Houston Lot H (corner of Memorial and Houston Avenue)

+400 spaces available for public parking on weekends (metered)

Parking on Allen Parkway Parking is available 9 am – 7 pm.

There are 140 parking spots between Sabine and Taft streets. $1/hour – 3-hour Max

Parking City Hall area:

*Parking garages & lots are privately managed and set their own fees.

http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/Neighborhood/docs_pdfs/cityannex_parkingmap.pdf

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: https://ridemetro.org/Pages/index.aspx

APPS: UBER & LYFT

AFTER MARCH PARTY: at Axelrad Beer Garden, 1517 Alabama St., HTX 77004

Music, marchers & extraordinary female artisans.

Register to Vote.

HWM T-shirts & Totes for sale.

FIRST AID: Set up at City Hall

LOST & FOUND: For belongings go to Houston Women’s March voter registration table. For lost parents contact nearest HPD officer.

VOTER REGISTRATION: Volunteer Deputy Voter Registrar’s will be at the march.


TIPS FOR MARCHERS:

Be respectful.

Allow sufficient time to travel & park. Plan to arrive to The Water Works at Buffalo Bayou Park by 9:30 am.

Dress comfortably & appropriately for the weather.

Wear appropriate clothing and the most comfortable shoes you own for both standing and walking.  Pack a poncho/raincoat just in case, or bring a big empty trash bag. https://weather.com/

Eat before you arrive. Bring water, snacks/lunch, sunscreen. Stay hydrated!

Signs & Posters. Poles/sticks are NOT allowed.

In case of rain, cover your signs in clear plastic (a dry-cleaning bag with clear packing tape will work).

Set up a meeting place---just in case you cannot get through to friends/family on your mobile phone.

Obey police directions, even if you think you are right. (But you are not required to answer police questions) ACLU observers will be present.

Not all marchers will want to be photographed/filmed.  If someone asks that you stop, it is best to comply immediately. Legally you can take photos in public places, but antagonizing a fellow marcher is not worth the hassle.

Anywhere there are crowds, be aware of your surroundings and if something doesn’t look right, move away and call 911.

Leave no trace. Throw away/Take away your trash. Thank you!

Share your Houston Women’s March 2018 memories!

#HWM2018 #HoustonWomensMarch

#WomensMarch2018 #HouNews

FB: @houstonwomensmarch Twitter: @WomensMarchHOU

Parking for the March

Wondering about where to park for the march? 

There are plenty of parking spaces at the following locations:

  • Accessible parking spaces are available in public surface lots downtown and there are several meters designated for accessible parking on nearby blocks surrounding City Hall.  These are always free without a time limit.  Vehicles with disability placards can also park at standard meter spaces for up to 3 hours free.
  • Theater District Garage (Tranquility 1) - 511 Rusk
  • 1100 Smith Parking Garage has 13 levels of paid parking accessible from Smith Street.
  • Municipal lots H and C off Memorial drive and Houston Avenue also has plenty of parking (see map below)
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WE WILL DO BETTER

For many of us, organizing the Houston Women’s March last year was the first time we ever took to the streets in protest and we did so because that is what this moment in history demands of all of us. And admittedly, we still have a lot to learn from those who have been sounding the alarm long before Trump rode a wave of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and bigotry all the way to the White House. A healthy functioning democracy that respects the dignity and rights of all people would not have elected Trump. It’s clear that our system was already broken before Trump took office and many have been fighting these injustices for a long time.

 

Our steering committee members have attended SURJ workshops on racial justice, and we have invited other groups and individuals to participate in planning this year’s march. Some have accepted the invitation, while others have declined. Our steering committee consists of 24 women from diverse backgrounds and over 40% are women of color. We are committed to inclusion and centering marginalized voices, but realize that we still fall short of that goal.

 

We’re saddened to hear that some people feel as though the Women’s March is not for them, because it is for all people. And we apologize to anyone who felt excluded, it was never our intention.  We realize it is up to all of us to act in solidarity with vulnerable and marginalized communities, which means that we need to listen to what people are saying and reflect on why some still feel excluded despite our sincere past efforts. And we also need to do better moving forward. It is our sincere hope that we can continue a dialogue with those that felt excluded and identify concrete steps that we can take to support and lift up all people and communities.

#HWM2018 Speaker: Manju Bagalore

Manju Bangalore is a senior at the University of Oregon where she is double majoring in physics and math. Manju is also an intern at NASA Johnson Space Center and the Education Coordinator for a Houston-based nonprofit. She previously worked at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. In February 2015, she founded ROSIE, a youth volunteer-run, menstrual health nonprofit servicing the U.S. and India. She served as Executive Director until June 2017. In her free time, she enjoys reading and acting.

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