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Tampa celebrates International Women’s Day

By Elizabeth Kramer

Steff Yorek speaking at Tampa International Women's Day celebration

Tampa, FL – Over 40 Tampa community members gathered March 6 to celebrate International Women’s Day. Hosted by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, with several other organizations being represented through their speakers, the event took place in the Marshall Student Center on the Campus of the University of South Florida (USF).

Jessica Schwartz, a member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), opened the event with a brief history on the origins of International Women's Day. She also read a statement from Rasmea Odeh on the holiday and its importance.

Danya Zituni, of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, and Rahma Elmohd, of Students for Justice in Palestine -USF, spoke about women leaders in the African American and Palestinian national liberation movements, as well as the anti-war movement. Focusing on Assata Shakur, Yuri Kochiyama and Rasmea Odeh, Zituni and Elmohd talked about the historic struggle against racism, war and political repression. They emphasized that this same oppression continues today and that their organizations fight in the community and on campus to oppose it.

Elmohd asserted that combating these reactionary forces in our communities is ultimately linked to our own liberation, and that “part of that struggle is defending Rasmea Odeh, because solidarity is not a crime – U.S. wars and occupation are.” To defend Rasmea Odeh, a present-day victim of the racist U.S. legal system, is to attack the larger systems which oppress all people.

Women and non-binary leaders have also had an integral role in the progress and development of the LGBTQIA+ movement, as discussed by Elizabeth Kramer and Tori Stratis (they/them), of the Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society. The two students stated that the work of women, such as Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Brenda Howard, pushed forward the demands of trans and bisexual people in a movement which largely excluded them. And while this is important to the current condition of the LGBTQIA+ movement today and the gains made by that struggle, that their work also sets a powerful example for women and non-binary folk in all movements: seize political power.

Stratis commented that this means not running from oppression, but building “a more militant LGBTQIA+ movement.” They continued, “It allows queer people to become more active within their communities, assume leadership positions and continue to struggle together with a concrete set of demands.” Similarly, the lesson of solidarity was extracted from the work of Leslie Feinberg (zie/hir), as zie aimed to unite all oppressed in the fight against our common enemies.

The event came to a close with a presentation by the guest of honor, Steff Yorek, from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. She spoke about her experience with political repression, as one of the 23 Anti-war activists whose homes were raided by the FBI and were subpoenaed to a grand jury in 2010. Yorek made clear that her freedom today is largely due to building a mass movement around the case and not giving into fear or crumbling under the weight of the government.

Yorek stated, “I think the state thought that because we are women with so many responsibilities we would crumble. They did not understand that because we are women, we are strong, we have already faced adversity,” and added that it was precisely because of this reason that both her and her partner would not give in. She urged the audience to continue their work in different areas, upholding women’s leadership and building a revolutionary movement.

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