An impromptu “Feminist Open Mic” filled Sonoma’s Grinstead Amphitheater on Wednesday afternoon – International Women’s Day — with over 100 women, quite a few men, and a large contingent of teens, mostly girls.
The gathering, pulled together in a few days’ time by high school junior Lauren Smith with the help of a few others, was held in conjunction with “A Day Without A Woman,” a national event organized by the Washington Women’s March founders to commemorate the importance of women and the need for gender equity.
In addition to the Open Mic, many people held signs along Broadway, at the Plaza, that elicited non-stop supportive honks and waves. People at the event and all around town wore red in solidarity.
Dozens of people took to the stage to read poems, sing, and share their experiences as women. Many described what feminism meant to them, and discussed progress and setbacks they had witnessed in gender discrimination. Several men spoke in support of women’s rights, including a teen who read a moving tribute to his mother and the struggles she had faced as a Latina woman.
The group of teens really energized the crowd, as they did at the Women’s March. Many of the older attendees expressed appreciation and admiration for the youths’ passion and awareness, and one man expressed his hope that they would be running for local, state, and national political office in the future.
High school senior Julia Hart expressed her realization that Sonoma was a relatively safe town for women and that college would be an adjustment. Ernest Moore from the high school spoke about transgender rights and explained that trans people “just want to go to the bathroom.”
Teen Kimberly Uzzo spoke about the generations of strong women in her family—her mother and grandmother were also in attendance. Hannah Sendaydiego, a senior, spoke about intersectional feminism, which takes into account women’s multiple identities through gender, race, and other factors. High school student Christina Golubovich pointed out the many ways in which millions of girls around the world are still oppressed and abused.
An adult speaker asked the audience to imagine a world without women, which he pointed out was scientifically impossible, and furthermore, frightening, much to the audience’s amusement.
Artist Wendy Westerbeke, who has helped organize a Facebook page called Peaceful Resistance Network, led the crowd in a rendition of “America,” replacing brotherhood with sisterhood. Somebody pointed out that statues symbolizing Liberty and Justice were both women. Josette Brose-Eichar stressed the importance of writing letters to the papers, and Julie Jay announced a post-card writing get-together at Peet’s, of which there will be more in the future.
Among the many others who spoke were Mayor Rachel Hundley; councilmember Madolyn Agrimonti and former mayor Laurie Gallian, pictured; and Gina Cuclis of the County Board of Education, whose T-shirt read “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”