By: Celia Garcia Perez
The countdown has begun! On September 28th and 29th, 2011 a group of 26 women from around the country will gather together in solidarity with immigrant women of color living working, and raising families in Atlanta, Georgia. Break the Chain Campaign will be participating in this historic event. It is crucial that we stop to think about how our laws are affecting women in society. In the best-case scenario, human rights standards are taken into consideration when laws are enacted. Yet this doesn’t mean that adequate (or any) attention is given to the impacts of such legislation on women, particularly women of color. Georgia’s immigration enforcement review board can’t even get a Latino on board, let alone a Latina.
During the “We Belong Together” delegation their voices will be heard. Women whose lives are disrupted by anti-immigrant legislation will give testimony to their real stories of fear, separation, and struggle. Concrete action steps will then be formulated to do something about this issue.
Although we have to wait until the delegation returns to learn first-hand how the passage of anti-immigrant laws like HB-87 adversely affect women living in Atlanta, GA, we can learn something about some of the advocates who will be joining them. I stand in solidarity with Karen, Ai-Jen, Kim, Maria Elena, and Linda, five of the powerful women leaders who have joined the delegation. Here is a brief glimpse into their lives- lives that have been dedicated to advancing the causes of women’s rights, immigrant rights, and social justice for the betterment of humanity.
Karen K. Narasaki
Heading one of the nation’s premiere civil rights advocacy organizations, Karen K. Narasaki is president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC). Ms. Narasaki, a nationally respected authority on immigration and civil rights, is vice chairwoman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation’s oldest and broadest civil rights coalition. Washingtonian Magazine named her one of the “100 most powerful women in Washington” in 2001, 2006 and 2009.
Ai-Jen Poo has been organizing immigrant women workers in New York since 1996. In 2000 she helped start Domestic Workers United, an organization of nannies, housekeepers and elderly caregivers in New York organizing for power, respect, fair labor standards and to help build the social justice movement. In 2010 she became Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. That same year she was recognized by Feminist Press for their "40 Under 40" awards. In honor of the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day, Ai-jen was also recognized by Women Deliver as one of 100 women internationally who are "delivering" for other women.
Kim Gandy is Vice President and General Counsel of the Feminist Majority Foundation. A long-time activist, Gandy led the National Organization for Women (NOW) for many years. She worked on initiatives to advance reproductive freedom, promote diversity and LGBT rights, stop violence against women, and achieve gender equality. In addition Ms. Gandy served on the drafting committees for two groundbreaking federal laws: the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which gave women the right to a jury trial and monetary damages in cases of sex discrimination and sexual harassment, and the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which has dramatically decreased the daily violence at abortion clinics.
Maria Elena Perez
Maria Elena Perez is the Interim Executive Director & Director of Community Mobilization for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. She is a national expert on the Latina experience at the community level, developing local leadership through the Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy (LOLA) Training Series and overseeing the Latina Advocacy Networks (LAN) located across the country. Maria Elena was recently selected as a New York University Lead the Way Fellow, a unique initiative for women of color leaders.
Linda Burnham is the National Research Coordinator for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She brings decades of experience as an activist, writer, strategist, and organizational consultant focused on women’s rights and anti-racism.
Burnham led delegations of women of color to the 1985 UN World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya and the 1995 UN World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. In 2001 she led a delegation of 25 women of color activists and scholars to the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. In 2005, Burnham was nominated as one of 1000 Peace Women for the Nobel Peace Prize.