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Snapshots from an activist summer in DC:
Summer 1103 FMF Intern Weblog

Days in the life of interns...

Tatiana Diaz, Ryan Brenn, Jen Goldstein, Caroline Eshman, Erika Sabbath,
Allison Payne, Kate Grisard, Joy Welan (front), Carrie Tilton-Jones (below)

Blog Editor: Carrie Tilton-Jones, FMF Intern


Thursday, June 5 - Senate hearing on aid money for Afghanistan

Allison, Erika, Joy, Kate, Ryan, and Tatiana attended a Senate subcommittee hearing on the reconstruction of Afghanistan, at which USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios spoke. The FMF contingent, along with other human rights advocates, wore bright yellow stickers - "Afghanistan: where's the Marshall Plan?" or "Expand ISAF for Afghan Women" - to help raise awareness. They showed up in Ms. news! "It was amazing to actually have our work and our presence noted by the experts on the panel," said Joy. "I feel like our efforts to help Afghan women are really making an impact."

But lest we forget that women are still often an afterthought in politics..."The first committee hearing that I attended on the hill made me realize how easily women can be forgotten in the political process," said Allison. "Mr. Natsios did not mention how USAID's work in Afghanistan was beneficial to women - he did not mention them at all. Neither did anyone else, until Senator Mary Landrieu, the only woman committee member present, asked why women were being left out of the discussion.  I was shocked! I could not believe how our representatives could forget to inquire about the welfare of half of a population."


Friday, June 6 - ECOTC petitioning and a Washington Mystics game

All of us, except for Kate who hadn't arrived in DC yet, joined FMF volunteers as they petitioned for ECOTC at the Washington Mystics game opener festival where we gathered 400 signatures in just 2 hours! Most of us stayed afterward for the game, where at half-time four women in music were honored -- a DC music teacher, the executive director of the National Symphony Orchestra, Gloria Gaynor, and Jackie Sledge. We were thrilled with a half-time treat of Gloria Gaynor, accompanied by the whole stadium, singing, "I Will Survive," and after the game was over Jackie Sledge sang, "We Are Family." Great way to start the weekend!


Tuesday, June 10 - The press conference announcing the March for Freedom of Choice

All of us attended the press conference announcing the March for Freedom of Choice, which FMF is co-sponsoring with NARAL Pro-Choice America, NOW, and Planned Parenthood. What a way to start a day! Being in the same room as four of the most amazing feminist leaders of our time - Kate Michelman, Kim Gandy, Gloria Feldt, and our own president, Ellie Smeal - was pretty cool (left). All four women had great things to say, as usual. They were joined by leaders from many other organizations, including AFSCME, LLEGO, and Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

After the press conference, the interns joined other pro-choice activists in a short demonstration and symbolic bus tour around the mall, foreshadowing what we hope will be an amazing march. Shouting pro-choice slogans is a good way to get your blood moving in the morning! And yes, Erika, Ryan, Tatiana, Caroline, and Kate did make the lovely signs they're holding (right).


Wednesday, June 11 - An evening with global feminist leaders

All of us, along with many staff members, attended the first annual Perdita Huston Human Rights Award ceremony, where Dr. Sima Samar received the award, presented by Gloria Steinem. Dr. Samar was selected from an amazing pool of applicants for her outstanding work in her home country of Afghanistan, including founding and chairing the Shuhada Organization. FMF President Ellie Smeal also said a few words about FMF's work to improve conditions for women in Afghanistan.

Included in the evening was the viewing of a heartbreaking documentary about the lives of Afghan women. What a motivator! "I was sitting next to a senior staffer of the United States UN Organization, and even she was crying by the end of the film," said Carrie. "It really brought home to me how privileged we are here in the U.S., and how much work there is to do to fix the damage done to Afghanistan by the major powers." Interns working on the global team returned to work extra determined to make a difference for Afghan women and girls. Some of us helped sell beautiful crafts made by Afghan women, with all the proceeds going to help women and girls in Afghanistan. We raised more than $1,600 that night!

Some of us also got our pictures taken with Dr. Samar (left), and with Gloria Steinem and our own fearless leader, Ellie Smeal (right).


Tuesday, June 24 - Getting started organizing for the March for Freedom of Choice

Today we started work on our big group project for the summer! After we heard Alice Cohan, FMF Director of Policy and Research, speak at our orientation session about next year's national March for Freedom of Choice, we were all excited about the opportunity for our generation to get involved. We suggested that our group project focus on getting other interns fired up about the march so they will go back to their campuses and pull together big groups to come demonstrate with us. Alice and FMF Intern Coordinator Diane Greenhalgh agreed, so today we got started! We'll be doing a briefing on Wednesday, July 23, for progressive interns and young activists in the DC area. We're still working out other details - stay tuned!

 

June 28, 1103 - ECOTC Petitioning at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Several of us went to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to do Emergency Contraception Over the Counter petitioning. We got 465 signatures in just 2 hours! It was a very family-oriented event, and it was a pleasant surprise how many people who you wouldn't think would be into feminist causes signed the petition. Many times people who were around the age of most of our parents would pass us, stop, turn around, and come back to sign. One man, as he was signing the petition, was asked by his young son what it was about. The dad said, "It's so women can plan their families." The son then asked if he could sign the petition. His dad said that he thought it was only for grown-ups. What a gift to see the beginnings of feminist consciousness in a little boy. It was also a great opportunity to educate a wide range of people, to explain what emergency contraception is and isn't, and why it's so important. "If I saw a teenage girl, I practically ran after her to tell her about it," said Allison. "They need to know about it. Even if they have to go see a doctor to get it, they can't go unless they know it exists." Kate said, "Petitioning was a great chance to see how all kinds of people, in DC and from all over, support EC and women's rights. It was also a great opportunity to educate people about EC and the difference between EC and RU-486." This is what grassroots activism is about - making change, one person at a time.

 

Tuesday, July 1 - Dinner with Martha Burk

We attended a dinner at the home of Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations (NCWO). Dr. Burk spoke to us about her work on the Augusta National Golf Club controversy and showed the video of her being interviewed by Bryant Gumbel on HBO's Real Sports. "It was a great night," said Kate. "I learned a lot about what issues were involved and what feminist groups have been doing to combat the problems. Meeting Martha Burk and seeing all the work she has done on this issue was also really inspiring." Plus, we got to see Ryan and Erika be tough and help Dr. Burk carry her new air conditioner up several flights of stairs. Ah, the glamorous lives of interns.


July 14, 1103 - NOW Conference

NOW's annual conference took place over the weekend, and it was fantastic. We all took turns working the Ms. table, and when we weren't working, took advantage of all the great events going on.

Friday night's presidential candidates forum was the highlight. Getting to hear candidates Carol Moseley Braun, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, and Al Sharpton speak in person was cool enough. Add in amazing women journalists like Helen Thomas and Eleanor Clift, along with NOW President Kim Gandy and emcee Elayne Boosler, asking the candidates some tough questions (and getting sincere responses) and we were in policy wonk heaven.

The rest of the weekend was also fun and energizing. Joy was beside herself when she got to meet Congresswoman Barbara Lee, one of her heroes. Jen met Carol Moseley Braun (right). Allison spent time selling Afghan crafts to raise money for women and girls in Afghanistan. Erika, who worked on the Ms. team all summer, put in long hours tabling, but it gave her the opportunity to meet a wide variety of feminist activists from all over the country. "I met this one writer I really like, Ann Crittenden-- and she bought a Ms. membership from me!" In the end she sold a whopping 45 memberships!


July 23, 1103 - Organizing briefing for the March for Freedom of Choice

We pulled it off! After weeks of hard work and several last-minute crises, our major project for the summer, the briefing for interns and young activists about the March for Freedom of Choice, went off without a hitch. Over 150 people turned out to hear FMF President Ellie Smeal, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Kate Michelman, NOW President Kim Gandy, and Planned Parenthood of Metro Washington President and CEO Jatrice Martel Gaiter speak about the march and how important it is that young people get involved. Everyone especially enjoyed hearing Ms. Gaiter, who spoke passionately about the problems she faces as someone in the trenches of providing reproductive health care. "People came in not knowing anything about the march, and they left ready to go home and organize delegations to come," said Erika (left with the 4 presidents). The speakers were great, the energy was high, and overall the evening felt like a great success. Hopefully that energy will last till April, and motivate plenty of those folks to return to DC for the march!


If you have further questions about internship opportunities with the Arlington, VA office of the Feminist Majority Foundation, please contact Diane Greenhalgh, Grassroots Organizer, Web Team at dgreenhalgh@feminist.org or 703-522-2214.

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