Community gathers on Green for International Women's Day
As the rain dissipated, a rainbow appeared, arching over the Green and the demonstrators.
Around 60 community members gathered on the Green at 5 p.m. on Wednesday to participate in an International Women’s Day demonstration and reflection organized by history professor Annelise Orleck and Liz Blum, a resident of Norwich. The event was publicized on Facebook Tuesday night.
International Women’s Day, an annual celebration started in the early 1900s, recognizes the strides women have made in economic, political and social achievements, as well as pushes women’s struggle for equality into the spotlight. According to Orleck, International Women’s Day is an event that has been emphasized more in other nations than the U.S. since the early 20th century. She said in an interview that there are often “massive demonstrations” in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, while women in the U.S. have been less active. She said she believes the current administration’s attacks on reproductive rights and threats to defund programs such as the Violence Against Women Act for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, as well as the language that President Donald Trump has used in regard to women, has “mobilized women again.” Orleck added that the mobilization of people demanding higher wages builds on this year’s event, as teachers, nurses and domestic workers go on strike.
Orleck began the event by speaking about the worldwide reach of International Women’s Day, saying that there are hundreds of thousands of women protesting in the streets of Poland, Kenya, Portugal and Cambodia, as well as in the U.S.
“We’re just a part of it,” she said.
The group then sang “Bread and Roses,” a song composed in the early 1900s and popular in the 1960s during the women’s movement. They went on to sing other songs including “This Land is Your Land” and “This Little Light of Mine,” replacing some lyrics with the words “immigrants” and “healthcare” to reflect the myriad of issues represented at the event beyond women’s issues.
Robert Baum, professor of religion and African and African American studies, said he participated because he is concerned about the direction of the country and divisions engendered by the current administration.
“We forget we’re a place that’s supposed to welcome people from all over the world, and that’s a source of our strength, not a weakness ... I feel that people are trying to divide us based on immigrant status — when we came here, how long we’ve been here, whether we’re men or women, whether we’re of intermediate gender, whether we’re of different races — and we have to stand up and emphasize that we’re one country, one people, one community, that also reflects the world,” he said.
Sophie Neuhaus ’20 said she participated in the event to show solidarity and hopes that more people will get involved with activism and political resistance on campus.