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October 22, 2008

Farai Chideya, Gloria Steineim & Marion Wright Edelman at the Women's Conference

100_3789 I'm in a ginormous conference room and it is packed to the rafters with women!  We're all here with one purpose:  We want to see Marion Wright Edelman and Gloria Steineim! 

Gloria just got introduced and everybody gave her a standing ovation!  Now it's Marian Wright Edelman's turn to get the standing O from the crowd!  Amazing to see these two trailblazers on the same stage.  NPR's Farai Chideya is moderating their conversation.  This is going to be GOOD!  Why oh why does my laptop battery only say 37 minutes remaining???  Well, I'll get as much of it as I can for you all! 

Farai starts off by asking Gloria where she came from today.  Gloria says we all come here from some universe in the world.  We could all ask each other that question.  Wow, she just came from Vegas where she was interviewing women in sex trafficking brothels.  She's writing a book about it and how historically, woman have been pressured off welfare and into prostitution.  She says the women are in brothels in the deserts outside of Vegas so there's no way for them to get away because of the harsh conditions.  Ages?  11-17 years old. 

Farai asks Gloria about the Women's Media Center that she's founded and how that fits into it.  Great that they're serving as an alert system and watchdog for sexism in the media but knows they also have to do more than that.  The government has to get involved!

Farai says she has a copy of Marion's new book and wonders where she spends her work time.  Marion says she traveled all over Mississippi, Arkansas, etc., 

She shares that according to the Children's Defense Fund measures, Obama's got an 87% score on children's issues.  John McCain has a cumulative score of 28% last year.  The worst voting record in the senate.  (Eek, McCain!)  She says we've got to change our priorities of our nation that told us last year they could not find $7 billion last year for funding for healthcare for women and children but look how quickly they found $700 billion for the bailout.  Massive cheering but the two ladies next to me are annoyed because they say, "I'm sick of hearing about politics at this thing."  Moms, do you feel the same?

Marion goes on to talk about incarceration rates and how more and more are being incarcerated.  She encouages everybody to vote No on Prop 6 here in California. 

Farai says that the alarm is always going off nowadays.  Alot of people feel like the alarm has been going off for a long time so how can you tune into it? 

Marion says that people need to know that none of what is going on is an act of God but instead these are social choices.  But, that what's going on is going to pale in comparison to our failure to invest in our human capital.

Gloria says the problem with prisons is that they are profit centers.  The government has sold off prisons to corporations and you can't operate a prison on profit.  They tell state legislatures that the prisons will bring a certain number of jobs, etc.  And then on a neighborhood level, why can't we each go visit people in prison or start a writing group for women in prisons.  She says they aren't different from us, they are us. 

Hmm... I've visited people in prison and I'm not too sure I'm really keen to go back for any reason.  I get what she's saying theoretically, but...

Farai says she's going to switch gears and so she asks Gloria who's going to take care of her if she becomes ill because she doesn't have any kids.  Now you know, even folks who have kids sometimes don't have that kind of relationship with them.  Some folks have no desire to even visit their parents in an old folks home. 

Anyway, Gloria says she has her own "chosen family" and that it's important to get along and love people we don't really like and don't share values with.  You may not share values with your birth family but you may share them with your chosen family.

Marion says she feels the erosion of moral and community values is a huge problem.  When she grew up the whole community was her parents.  The older women sitting around me are going, "That's right!"  The younger ladies are eating those tasty Safeway brownies. 

She shares that her mom took in 12 foster children after she grew up.  That's fabulous!

Farai asks us to raise our hands if we've moved within the last three years.  Wow, over half the room raised their hands.  So Farai wants to know what you do when you don't even know the neighbor kids?  Women around me are all, "Yeah, and if they're parents will cuss you out if you say something to them about their kids!" LOL!

Gloria says that even if nothing happens that child will remember that somebody stood up and said that there is a problem. 

Marion is talking about the importance of speaking to kids in the street.  "Smile at them." She says how important it is to compliment them and affirm them.  Lots of "testifying" going on in the audience to this. 

About teachers she says, "If you don't love children, go do something else!"  This gets a lot of applause.  She says you need high expectations too, but love is really needed.

Farai says that one of the dilemmas we all face is when do we derive satisfaction from what exists and when do we try to change it? 

Gloria says what keeps her going is that people tell her how their lives have changed.  Marion talks about how the message growing up in the South was that she was not as good as white kids and yet there was never a time when she didn't know she was doing everything she could to change that.  She cites school desegregation as an example of miracles that can happen.  You can channel the rage, not lose it.

They switch gears and Farai says she's 39, no kids and, "The baby store will be closing soon with or without her going shopping!"  The crowd erupts into laughter!  That is a great way to put it!  Anyway, she says she has friends getting pregnant for the first time and she wonders how do you balance it all and notes that there is a lot of anger in the younger generation toward feminism. 

Steinem says she's been trying to kill off Superwoman, you can't do it all.  She starts to talk about how we're the only nation without a national system of childcare.  There are big cheers and even BIGGER cheers when Steinem says, the "Point is not to change women to fit society," but that society has to change to fit women.

Oh, wait, the two ladies next to me who say they're sick of this session and they leave. Alright then.  They must be cranky or something.   No worries, their seats are instantaneously filled by folks who have been standing in the back. 

Farai wants to know what it is that they do other than the "big" things they do.  Marion says that she loves silence, walking, convents and wandering without any agenda.  Gosh, busy moms, I love those stolen moments without any agenda.

Gloria says she's working on meditation and then she laughs and says she's been working on it for years.  she talks about how she's gotten really interested in original cultures from around the world.  Both talk about how we have to keep what we're getting at this conference going. 

Farai asks if it's possible for people to really be friends across racial and gender lines.  Both say yes and I love how Gloria notes that she learned from one of her colleagues that you don't always have to prove oppression with facts and figures. (Totally different approach from the way much of our society approaches these things!)

To close out, Farai asks their "little girls" to talk to each other as if they were eight years old.  What would they say to each other?  Marion's eight year-old girl says to Gloria, "The whole world is mine!" 

Gloria says she thinks that who you are at nine or ten is probably who you are after 60. 

What's your answer, ladies?  I'd say to eight year-old Liz, trust your gut and exercise every day! 

So that's the end of this session.  People are cheering wildly and rushing the stage to take photos with them!  I think I'll join them! 

Update: On behalf of my fellow NPR addicts, I got my photo with the absolutely fabulous Farai Chideya!!!  My goal in life is to be invited to her show!

This is an original Los Angeles Moms Blog Post.  Liz D. thinks this was an AMAZING session.  She also writes at Los Angelista.


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