Charlottesville White Supremacists Are On the Wrong Side of History | National Organization for Women

Source: Charlottesville White Supremacists Are On the Wrong Side of History | National Organization for Women

Statement of NOW President Toni Van Pelt

08.12.2017
Picture of Toni Van Pelt.

Toni Van Pelt, President of the National Organization for Women

The white supremacists who launched a brutal protest against the city of Charlottesville, Virginia’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee must be held to account for their violence and hate speech, says Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

“Robert E. Lee was on the wrong side of history and so are the Charlottesville racists,” says Toni Van Pelt. “The majority of Virginia voters—like the majority of voters across the U.S., voted for the presidential candidate who defended inclusion over intolerance, healing over division and fairness over bigotry. NOW stands with our courageous sisters and brothers in Charlottesville, who are standing strong against hate and violence.”

NOW has always been committed to eradicating racism. In NOW’s original Statement of Purpose, the group’s founders wrote, “We realize that women’s problems are linked to many broader questions of social justice; their solution will require concerted action by many groups. Therefore, convinced that human rights for all are indivisible, we expect to give active support to the common cause of equal rights for all those who suffer discrimination and deprivation.”

Today’s violent march follows an evening “Unite the Right” rally at the University of Virginia where hate-filled rhetoric from Ku Klux Klan members and other alt-right activists was directed at African Americans, immigrants, and Jewish people.

Charlotte Gibson, president of Charlottesville NOW, said, “The white nationalists, neo-Nazis, armed militias and alt-right extremists who came to Charlottesville and tried to hijack democracy today will not succeed. Their rhetoric is never acceptable in a civilized society, and their embrace of violence must never be tolerated.”

“Donald Trump’s personal reliance on the language of confrontation, combat, and intolerance has alarmed us all in recent days,” says Toni Van Pelt. “Trump may be sending signals and cues to those who would harm peaceful protesters, but the people of Charlottesville are standing up to Trump-inspired bullying and inspiring us all.”

Contact

M.E. Ficarra, press@now.org, 951-547-1241
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What does Lady Liberty stand for?

Lady Liberty. A symbol of freedom and welcoming. We so need to have a government that stands up for these welcoming ideals as expressed by Emma Lazarus in her poem “The New Colossus.”

For those that are interested, The New Colossus is a bit longer than the “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,…” part that is oft quoted. These words occur at the end of the poem. The bronze plaque titled “The New Colossus” is attached to the base of Lady Liberty states and says, in full:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

 

For a fuller history of immigration’s connection to Lady Liberty, check out my blog post from earlier this year: “The Statue of Liberty is an Egyptian Woman.

Political Vibes

Bronze Plaque of New Colossus Image Credit National Park Service

This week at a briefing, CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta stated to Senior White House aide Stephen Miller that the new GOP immigration plan did not seem like it was in accordance with American tradition. Then, Acosta mentioned the poem found on the Statue of Liberty called ‘The New Colossus’.

Miller responded, “The poem you were referring to was added later … It’s not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.”

Yes, Emma Lazarus’ ‘The New Colossus’ was added to The Statue of Liberty seventeen years after the monument arrived in New York Harbor. But, who cares?

Millions of people arrived in The United States over the past 100+ years through New York Harbor and were welcomed by The Statue of Liberty. As a result, this statue has become a symbol of freedom and the American Dream. It is an sign of…

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Congress, DDT Leaving Washington, DC with Little to Show

This blog from Nel’s New Day is a good source for what has (not) happened to 45’s and the GOP’s agenda as they head home for recess.  When they come back in September, Congress will need to pass the budget and 45 will need to sign it before the October 1 fiscal year deadline. They will also need to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a shutdown of the federal government and a potential financial crisis.

But the number of days of session work in September is insufficient. The US House of Representative will be in session for just 12 days in September — on September 5-8. 11-14, and 25-28. The Senate will be a little more active; they’ll be in session for 17 days — September 5-8, 11-14, 18-20, and 25-29. Note that there is one week — September 18-22 —  where the House is glaringly absent from work. Why?

As Nel questions,

“[What will happen] if the House [and Senate don’t] get around to passing the budget and increasing the debt ceiling?”

Surging interest rates? A return to recession?  Another international financial crisis?  Let’s hope not!

Source: Congress, DDT Leaving D.C. with Little to Show

Colina L. Fischer Jordan Seeley – My Feminist Activist Partner 1928-2017

Picture of Colina Jordan Seeley sitting on her back porch.

Colina L Jordan Seeley. Photo courtesy of the family as posted at http://www.rouppfuneralhome.com/notices/Colina-Seeley

On Sunday, July 30 I received an email that my close friend Colina Jordan Seeley had died in Wilkes-Barre, PA from complications of a stroke.  She was an 89-year old fireball.  An activist, a fighter for social justice, a social worker, mother, wife, and a life-long fighter for the rights and safety of all. A real feminist.

She was born in Utrecht, The Netherlands a year after my mother was born.  By the time she was 12, she had become a fighter for the underdog; one of her first acts was becoming a part of the Nazi Resistance in the Netherlands.  Her family told this story in her obituary that came out today – a story she often said to me.  The only part she left out in her storytelling to me was that she was the one that convinced her father to go into hiding. Here’s a clip from the obituary:

She was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands on 7 May 1928.  She grew up in an academic household where her father was [a] professor of anthropology at [the] University of Utrecht, and her mother was a history and geography teacher. 

When the Nazis took over the Netherlands, her father was called in to explain why he no longer taught.  He said that the Dutch students had mostly evaporated and all that was left was Nazi sympathizers.  When Colina heard this story that evening, at age 12 she instantly saw that the Nazis would be coming to pick him up, and made such a scene that her father reluctantly went into hiding that night.  The next morning the Nazis were at the door to pick him up.  Colina became the mainstay of the family consisting of the other 5 children and her not very functional mother.  Colina was the person who scrounged for tidbits of food and coal.  She cooked in the back yard over a tin can.  As a small girl with long blonde braids, she was able to hoodwink the Nazis and lead off men out of the groups being marched to Germany to work in the factories there.

Here’s a bit more to that story.  Colina told me that she helped lead these men away from the Nazis after they crawled through a hidden hole at the back end of the Gymnasium (school) into a safe house that abutted the back of the school. She would go each day and walk the escapee away from the area pretending to the Nazi’s that her “uncle” was so drunk he couldn’t talk and tell them she was taking him home to his wife and kids.

Another story she told was about her food scrounging adventures.  Apparently, the Nazis had food and milk trucks that rumbled through town on a regular basis.  As a young teenage girl she was able to get near these trucks, and when the Nazis backs were turned, she’d grab milk off of the trucks and run.  A dangerous activity, but she got away with this too.

BTW, she didn’t see or hear or know where her father was throughout the war because the family feared that if the children knew of his whereabouts they might have been tortured to tell.  He came home safely at the end of the war.

After the war, Colina came to the US and obtained a Master’s degree in Social Work.  She married Joseph Jordan whom she met at the University of Minnesota. The moved to State College where they raised their four children – Saskia, Sharon, Naomi, and Adlai.  Joseph died in August 1992, and she married Ralph Seeley in April 2004.  ,

She continued her activism here in the states. Among the things I know that she accomplished were:

  • Successfully advocating for low-income people with mental health issues.
  • Providing mental health care as the sole practitioner in the Penns Valley area of Centre County. For those that don’t know the area, it’s a rural farming community with a large Amish population. I believe her work in Penns Valley also helped foster her love of nature and the work of the Clearwater Conservancy.
  • Forcing the local Elks Club in Boalsburg to open up membership to people of color. She did this by contacting John W. Oswald in 1970 right after Penn State University announced that he was going to be the new University President.  She pointed out to him that his welcoming party was planned at the racially segregated Elks Club in Boalsburg.  He agreed with her that this was wrong and notified the University that he wouldn’t step inside the club as long as this policy continued.  The venue changed, and soon the policy was too.
  • Starting the first NOW (National Organization for Women) chapter and the local women’s domestic violence and sexual assault center in Centre County in the early 1970s.  The Women’s Resource Center is still going strong today. And Colina remained a member of NOW until her death.
  • Using her love of storytelling, she also became active in the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association towards the end of her life.  She thought up and helped create our Out Loud program. This program highlights local poets, poetry, and local storytelling.

I moved to Centre County in 1981.  She was one of the very first people I met. That was at a NOW meeting. We crossed paths on an irregular basis until 1991 when I, along with Colina and a couple of other women founded Ni-Ta-Nee NOW, the current local chapter of the National Organization for Women.  She became my activist, feminist partner in crime.  We spent time listening to each other, traveling to rallies and protests, and organizing actions to improve the lives of women, LGBTQIA, and people of color here in Happy Valley and at Penn State University.

My favorite memory was setting up a protest ladder on Old Main Lawn with her in September of 1992. The day before President George Bush came to campus to speak for his second run for office, she and I brought in a ladder and a banner and laid them on the ground about halfway up the lawn near the area where the general public was going to be admitted.  Our plan was to set up the ladder and put some broken dolls on the ladder with a sign saying something about his lack of support for early childhood care.

The next day we got there, picked up the banner and the ladder. We then set up the ladder with the baby dolls. Almost immediately, a Secret Service agent came up and confiscated the ladder saying it was a “safety hazard.”

So throughout the rest of the rally, we held up our eight foot-wide “Four More Months!” banner along with the baby dolls.  It was the ONLY sign in the rally protesting Bush’s policies; every other protest sign, including our childcare sign, had been confiscated by the gatekeepers on the way onto the Lawn.

We returned the next day and picked up the banner and the ladder. We then set up the ladder with the baby dolls. Almost immediately, a Secret Service agent came up and confiscated the ladder saying it was a “safety hazard.”  So throughout the rest of the rally, we held up our eight foot-wide “Four More Months!” banner along with the baby dolls.  It was the ONLY sign in the rally protesting Bush’s policies; every other protest sign, including our childcare sign, had been confiscated by the gatekeepers on the way onto the Lawn.

So throughout the rest of the rally, we held up our eight foot-wide “Four More Months!” banner along with the baby dolls.  It was the ONLY sign in the rally protesting Bush’s policies. Every other protest sign, including our childcare sign, had been confiscated by the gatekeepers on the way onto the Lawn.

The press soon found out about this confiscation and broadcast the news as a violation of Free Speech – courtesy of Colina and myself.

Afterward, we went up to the Secret Service agent and asked him what they had done with Colina’s ladder.  The Secret Service agent looked shocked and said to Colina, “It’s your ladder!? I can’t believe an old lady would bring a ladder here!”  He obviously didn’t know Colina!  At that time she would have been 64 years old. He then smiled, told us where they had put it, and we picked it up.

Colina, you’ll be missed.  My condolences to your entire family.  And for those wanting to hear more about Colina and her life, the family is holding a memorial service sometime in September at the Unitarian Fellowship in State College.  Instead of flowers, donations can be made in Colina’s name to any organization of which she would approve, many of which are listed here in this blog.

Farewell, my dear friend.