Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

FRSO hosts International Women’s Day panel in Utah

By Chris Manor

Participants at the Salt Lake City International Women's Day event

Salt Lake City, UT – Four women leaders spoke to a room full of activists, March 8, at an International Women’s Day event hosted by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. Across the country, FRSO joined the Committee to Stop FBI Repression in demanding justice for Rasmea Odeh and is circulating a petition to drop the charges against Rasmea Odeh.

Summer Smith, a member of Worker’s World Party and Women for a Change, talked about the importance of recognizing “women’s rights are workers’ rights.” She stressed that while reproductive rights are important to women, women are also at the forefront of other struggles such as the immigration rights, education and anti-war movements.

Alicia Cervantes gave an emotional account of her service with Border Angels, “There are 700 bricks in a cemetery representing unidentified men and women who died crossing the border.” Border Angels looks after Mexican and Central American immigrants who cross the border by leaving supplies, such as water and blankets, in the desert. The U.S. Border Patrol often harasses these human rights heroes. Cervantes said, “We wrote messages on bottles of water such as ‘Don’t lose faith,’ ‘You are not alone’ and ‘We are with you.’”

Sarah Simmons, the president of the Salt Lake Community College Revolutionary Students Union, gave an account of the history of International Women’s Day and affirmed its socialist roots. Simmons described women’s organizing for equality and against discrimination since the early 1900s. For example, women textile workers in Saint Petersburg went on strike on March 8, 1917, calling for “Bread and Peace,” to end World War I and food shortages. This initiated the February revolution in Russia. Simmons emphasized that unlike other holidays, International Women’s Day, “encourages women to stand in solidarity with other women.”

Next the room was awestruck when Victoria Sethunya, with the accompaniment of David Owens, sang a rendition of Lascia ch'io pianga by George Frederic Handel. This describes the feelings of being a hostage, a sentiment Sethunya relates to. Sethunya left an abusive spouse in the Kingdom of Lesotho in South Africa and came to the U.S. She then struggled to correct a clerical error jeopardizing her immigration status and tried every legal means possible. She even wrote to President Barack Obama pleading her case and received no response. However she did gain the attention of local church authorities. Instead of helping her, they barred her from participating in church activities, groups and the church buildings, under threat of being charged with trespassing. Through it all, Victoria Sethunya was able to achieve victory, to maintain her life here, and she continues to protest against injustice.

Andrea Canedo, a member of the Revolutionary Students Union, said, “I thought the turnout was great. I’m glad so many people came to hear about different people’s everyday struggles along with, like Sarah said, the real history of International Women’s Day.”

#SaltLakeCityUT #InternationalWomensDay #FreedomRoadSocialistOrganization #RasmeaOdeh