Rev. Marti Keller
It was during the millennial celebrations at Agnes Scott College, the small all women’s college near our home, that I purchased a bright red t-shirt with black Chinese lettering and underneath it that ancient proverb: “Women are Half the Sky,” made popular by Mao Tse-tung. I loved the sentiment: its bold simplicity. The president of the college then was a China scholar, in fact she returned to China after her time there. This t-shirt and this campaign to lift up women’s power and rights was a natural for her, and for this college that has so much diversity and quite a few international students and scholars.
Over the years of wearing it, often to the gym, I occasionally have been given withering looks for wearing a communist quote on my chest, or comments about how out of reach equality is for women in China, even today. It may not be great, admits Zhang Yue, host of a popular women’s talk show there for many years, but, she reminds us, of the five goals laid out for women a hundred years ago: “Abolish foot binding, educate girls, free marriage, a job, and equality with men, we got the first four. But not the last one.”
This is a good deal more than the women who are half the sky in so many other countries around the world.
A full page advertisement in our daily newspaper by a major Japanese car manufacturer features a young girl in the passenger seat. This girl, the ad predicts, will grow five inches, letter in volleyball, major in economics, marry a man with freckles, have a career she loves, have two girls “ she loves way, way more,” and smile more than frown.
A girl who is going places and who this automaker would like to help get there safely. Presumably because the car in which she is now belted securely in the back seat and someday may drive is well made and equipped to sustain any fender bender or even more serious collision that comes her way. Continue reading
The conversation I had with SisterSong Executive Director Monica Simpson recently was wide-ranging, focusing first on the intersection between the work of her organization in promoting reproductive justice, especially for women of color, and the Moral Monday movement. This was just before the Moral March in Raleigh last Saturday which attracted somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 participants, including around 1,000 UUs, many of them in the bright yellow Standing on the Side of Love colors. The policy agenda in that stat e— and now beyond — is multi-faceted, including access to healthcare for low income women and women’s rights in general. We agreed that the focus on these issues, in addition to dismantling highly discriminatory voter ID laws, enhances and augments our mutual work. Continue reading
I first met Monica Simpson a year ago for lunch at a Panera Bread Company café in Atlanta, over black bean soup and salads. I was excited to be with her as we planned for a Sunday morning sermon she would be delivering at my then congregation. Her appearance would be especially timely following the selection of Reproductive Justice as the Congregational Study/Action issue over the next several years and the role her organization Sistersong (based in Atlanta) had played and will play in redefining and expanding our work in this arena. She is the executive director, having come to work there following years of working in non- profit social change organizations.
The Sistersong Collective was formed in 1997 and initially funded by the Ford Foundation to educate women of color and policy makers on reproductive and sexual health and rights, and to work towards the access of health services, information and resources that are culturally and linguistically appropriate. Continue reading
January 15th is the actual birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., officially celebrated the third Monday of January in many communities and congregations in a variety of ways: some focusing on his legacy of work in securing civil rights for African Americans; others on his nonviolent approach to acts of disobedience; others on his opposition to unjust war, or his later life interest in economic justice issues. King was preparing for a Poor People’s March on Washington DC when he was gunned down in Memphis, the site of a sanitation worker’s march for better pay and other labor issues.
There was some critique during his living years of the lack of visible (or acknowledged) leadership of women in these initiatives. The particular concerns of women around human rights have been viewed as being overlooked then, and not particularly the focus of observances honoring his legacy in the years that have followed.
Not so in 2014.
A recent family visit to the National Archives in Washington DC included our first time seeing the new more expansive and nuanced permanent exhibit displaying the “Records of Rights”, highlighting the parallel and intersecting civil rights struggles of African Americans, women, and immigrants. Continue reading