By Nancy Bickel, LWVBAE Communications Team
Speakers at 2020’s Bay Area League Day were far more diverse than any previous League Day in the twenty or more years that I’ve been attending. I was so delighted to see and hear from elected officials, civil servants and distinguished community leaders from many different backgrounds—including immigrant, Spanish-speaking, African-American and a variety of Asian-American backgrounds. Most of the speakers, most of them women and people of color, talked about how they had, with determination and continuous self-improvement and education, made their way to become community and civic leaders–despite the barriers they faced as women, as blacks, as immigrants, or as Latinas. Their range of achievement was broad—a local mayor, a district attorney, a leader of bay area county health agencies, a manager and member of a worker-owner eco-friendly housecleaning cooperative, and an IT system administrator and consultant.
Leaguers were welcomed by Sister Rose Marie Hennessy, of the Dominican Order, Administrator of the beautiful Dominican Center in Fremont where the meeting was held. Susie and Steve Swatt, authors of “Paving the Way—Women’s Struggle for Political Equality,” gave a quick history of how women won the vote in California in 1911 and nationally in 1920 and how they have advanced in elected positions over the last 100 years. As an example, California Senate leaders of both parties are now women: President pro Tempore of the Senate Toni Atkins, and Minority Leader Shannon Grove.
Of the many enlightening speakers, I’ll single out just two. Sister Elaine Marie Sanchez of the Sisters of the Holy Family, who works in poor communities of Spanish speaking and black families, spoke movingly about human trafficking for sex or labor. She pointed out that trafficking does not exist in isolation, that it is a result of extreme inequality and affects people who are “considered disposable commodities.”
Melissa Jones, Executive Director BARHII, the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative, reported some shocking statistics about the health and mortality inequities even within each of the nine bay area counties. In one neighborhood, for example, the difference in life expectancy between poor blacks and rich whites is 10 years, in another, 17 years. BARHII, which includes the health departments of all 9 bay area counties, has developed analyses and proposals to correct these health inequities. BARHII’s approach has been adopted, Ms. Jones reported, by health departments all over the country.
For a look at the meeting program and eventually video of all the speakers, you should be able to find them soon at http://lwvbayarea.org
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