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Ruth Bader Ginsburg 1933 – 2020

September 19, 2020

Maryland NOW members experienced a range of emotions Friday evening upon hearing the news that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died at age 87 from complications with pancreatic cancer — grief, sadness, immense pride, and outrage. . Her impact on women’s rights and social justice issues through her majority opinions and dissents will be felt for generations.

It would be difficult to be online today, or at any time in the future, and not find articles everywhere describing her life and accomplishments. Perhaps most importantly, she worked to establish a different interpretation of gender equality for all women rather than simply establishing case law involving individual instances of discrimination.

In 1971 Ginsburg wrote the brief for the landmark case, Reed v. Reed. This case was the very first time that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was used to prohibit differential treatment based on sex. She cited as co-authors Pauli Murray and Dorothy Kenyon, giving them credit even though they did not actually help, but because she wanted to acknowledge the debt she owed them for their feminist arguments that had created a basis for her brief. (1)

She argued her first case before the Supreme Court in 1973, and thirty years later was confirmed as the second woman in our history to be named as a Justice to the Court.

Ginsburg’s decisions on women’s rights have been instrumental in the evolution of the laws involving sex discrimination, but her advocacy for a range of issues affecting many civil rights decisions shows the enormous impact she had on issues of our day. Even in her dissents, she made a difference.

To name a few:

United States v. Virginia (VMI – open admissions to include women; majority opinion) 1996
Shelby County v. Holder (voting rights in jurisdictions with a history of discrimination; dissent)  2013
Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (gender discrimination involving lower pay for women; dissent) 2007
Hobby Lobby v. Burwell (allowing discrimination based on the employer’s religious beliefs; dissent) 2014
National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius (Obamacare’s contraception mandate; dissent) 2012 (2)
Bush v. Gore (reversal of a state’s decision on its own vote count; dissent) 2000

Ginsburg’s death makes an already horrible year and a very pivotal general election cycle even worse and all the more consequential. While it could be claimed that this helps Biden’s supporters, it also motivates Trump’s right-wing base.

RGB asked as her final wish, dictated to her granddaughter, that “. . . I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” From where we sit today that seems like an awfully tall order. But we cannot do less or work less diligently than she did all her life to try to win that outcome.

 

 

(1) Kerber, Linda K. (2013). No constitutional right to be ladies : women and the obligations of citizenship. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 199

(2) A case involving expansions for employers who have moral or religious objections to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate It will be heard after the general election on Nov. 10. We don’t know at this point if McConnell will push ahead to confirm a nomination prior to Nov.3 or simply move ahead with filling the seat with a Republican-controlled Senate with an 8 member court. While more than a few Republican senators’ re-election chances are in grave danger, Majority Leader  McConnell announced his decision to move ahead with the process less than an hour after Ginsburg’s death was announced. Mark your calendars!

 

 

 

NOW President Christian Nunes’ Letter to Activists

August 29, 2020

Dear Maryland NOW,

I wanted to take a minute to introduce myself – my name is Christian Nunes, and some of you may recognize me as NOW’s former vice president. This week I have stepped into the role of National NOW President. I want you to know how honored and excited I am to lead our organization at this critical time.

As the leading grassroots feminist force in the country, our members have been on the front lines of activism and advocacy for more than fifty years. NOW has a special part to play in these upcoming conversations and campaigns.

We are looking forward to electing Kamala Harris as the first woman vice-president – and as a Black and Asian American woman, she will also be the first woman of color to serve in this role. These are exciting history-making times, but we know there is a lot of work that lies ahead.

I know that having a Black president of NOW gives us more opportunity to genuinely amplify the experiences and voices of women of color. We are at a moment in our nation’s history when it’s clear that we need to do better. We must do more to adopt an intersectional lens when it comes to all aspects of our lives, and more to ensure that we are providing an inclusive safe space for one another.

It is also very clear that if we want to truly embrace an inclusive intersectional movement, it takes critical work, building and sustaining trust, safety, and true allyship. It takes a willingness to understand that despite our differences, our value is the same and all of our voices deserve to be heard. We must remember why we became activists in the first place, and od more to ensure we keep moving forward.

That is my personal mission – and my organizing principle for NOW.

I’ll have more to share with you in the weeks and months ahead and at our upcoming annual conference. I look forward to working with you towards a more inclusive feminist future.

Toni Van Pelt

In  Solidarity,

(signature)

Christian F. Nunes

 

Maryland NOW Welcomes Christian Nunes as NOW’s New President!

August 22, 2020

Maryland NOW is proud to welcome Christian F. Nunes as our new National NOW President!

Christian is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Consultant, and a Woman-Minority Business Owner since 2006.  Ms. Nunes received her BSW degree from Northern Arizona University, Master of Science from Columbia University, and Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.

She is an active community organizer and has spoken at events such as the March for Black Women in 2018. She has chaired NOW’s Racial Justice Task Force and most recently served as NOW’s Executive Vice President. Along with her activism for mental health, Nunes also has over 20 years of experience advocating for children’s and women’s issues.

In 2006, Nunes founded a behavioral health and consulting practice where she assists social service and behavioral health companies, as well as provide direct mental health services to individuals and families. As an advocate for social justice and mental health policy, she took up the role as Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues and co-authored a community survey on police response to crisis. Additionally, she has worked tirelessly to elect progressive candidates to school boards and local office positions. She is often featured in media outlets including Ebony, Black Enterprise magazine, AZ News Channel 3, Yahoo News, and many more.

Maryland NOW is looking forward to having her speak to us about what’s ahead for NOW and getting to know her better. We also want her to know that we are looking forward to supporting her in every way we can during this next year.

NOW has a National Conference, to be held virtually, coming up in September although plans are not complete at this time. Please watch our website for information about how you can attend and, among other agenda items, participate in elections for our Eastern District’s new National Board Members. NOW’s National Conference next year in Chicago will be an Elections Conference for national officers. Every national conference is the annual opportunity for the grassroots to voice and support our direction and policies for the coming year. Be a voice!!!!

 

(Thanks to Victoria Steele for this great photo of Christian!)

 

Maryland NOW’s Statement on the Resignation of NOW President Toni Van Pelt

August 21, 2020

The State Presidents of National Organization for Women received an email last Sunday evening, August 16th from Toni VanPelt informing us that she had decided to step down from her position as NOW’s national president and retire. Her resignation will take effect on August 21th. Our national executive vice-president, Christian Nunes, will become President at that time.

While the State Presidents were not given any more details, we all assume that this was worked out with the advice and consent of the NOW National Board of Directors. A new national executive vice-president has either already been chosen or will be officially named soon.

NOW has unfortunately been making the news lately in ways we’d prefer not to. Charges of poor management and governance at our national headquarters along with a toxic work environment and gross insensitivity regarding issues of race have been made by departing staff and by state and local chapter leaders who have resigned their positions and/or given up their memberships. Various media outlets have published stories about these charges.

But looking ahead, we in Maryland are very excited about the opportunity to move ahead toward the November 3rd elections. But we also are firm in our commitment to take the time and freedom to discuss the issues that have been raised internally in NOW, and institute ways to begin to heal from this experience. In much the same way as our national consciousness in the United States has been stained by an unwillingness to address racism in every aspect of our lives throughout our history, NOW has also not done a good job of addressing this issue during our own organization’s past. We plan to do better, and we plan to succeed.

We are very excited about the amazing steps that have been taken by NOW state and chapter leaders across the country over this past year to address these issues and to try to have honest and open discussions about them. Meeting regularly online and working in small groups, amazing progress is already starting to show. By speaking up and saying “No more!” these leadership groups are charting a new direction for our organization.  Maryland NOW is proud to be an active part of these efforts.

 

Maryland NOW Calls for National NOW President’s Resignation

June 28, 2020

Maryland NOW’s state officers and state council members are very concerned about articles outlining charges of racism that have been circulating about our National NOW President, Toni Van Pelt, during this past month. These involve alleged repeated racist treatment of NOW’s officers, staff, national board members, and state and chapter leaders.

These alleged charges have been supported by documents including letters from former staff and interns to the National Board of Directors, letters and press releases from members of our National Board calling for Van Pelt’s resignation, and a lawsuit that has been filed by a former officer. The charges, which include creating a hostile work environment and ill-treatment of NOW staff and interns, along with other violations of NOW policies, have appeared in several national publications and continue to spread in the press.

Maryland NOW’s State President, Sandy Bell, has joined with 23 of 36 other state leaders and state councils, along with a majority of members of our National Board of Directors, and dozens of current and former chapter leaders calling for her to resign. As this discussion has dragged on without Van Pelt’s resignation amid growing press coverage of the situation, we have lost confidence in Van Pelt’s ability to effectively lead NOW, and we stand in support of all those who have raised these questions and also called for her resignation.

This situation represents a very serious time in NOW’s history. Maryland NOW believes unequivocally that racism in any form has no place in NOW. As members and supporters may hear about these allegations, we wanted to send you information about this matter and let you know of our actions.

We will continue to keep you informed and welcome your comments. If you have questions or concerns, please write to us: president@marylandnow.org

If you wish to write to National NOW President Toni Van Pelt, please do so at this address: president@now.org

________________________________________

Articles, Press Releases and Other Background Information

Here are links to articles that have appeared online about calls for Toni Van Pelt’s resignation. The story is being covered primarily by Emily Shugerman of the “Daily Beast.” The matter has been commented on by FOX News and MSNBC and is circulating in many feminist blogs online.

 June 6th “Don’t Forget the White Women!” : Members Say Racism Ran Rampant at NOW

June 7th “NOW Board Members Demand President Toni Van Pelt Resign Amid Racism Claims”

June 11th “Push to Oust NOW President Grows Amid New Racism Complaints”

June 26trh “NOW Board Members: We’re Being Punished for Blowing the Whistle on Racism”

State Presidents’ Letter to the National NOW Board of Directors, June 12, 2020

National Board Members’ Press Release, June 26, 2020

________________________________________

Here is a link to a Sign-On Letter from activists and former leaders to the National NOW Board calling for Toni Van Pelt’s resignation  

This letter was written and circulated to National NOW members and former leaders of chapters and states in NOW, calling for Toni Van Pelt to resign. Using this link you can add your name and contact information. Names are still being added and are forwarded to the National Board regularly.

________________________________________

If you want to support Toni’s decision to remain in office, you may write to her at president@now.org. She is asking for individual letters of support that may be circulated to various lists of leaders.

June 19 – 155 Years Later

June 19, 2020

What Juneteenth Means This Year

It is a small victory that this Juneteenth, the racism that poisons our culture is finally getting some of the attention it deserves from people of all races and in all walks of life. To some this feels like “Groundhog Day” with only the hope and perhaps little confidence that we will actually see change. As Will Smith said several years ago, “It’s not getting worse. It’s getting filmed.”

“Black Lives Matter” every day. People of color face racism every minute of every day in their lives in a way white people cannot understand. We must focus attention on Black Lives now until Black Lives are valued and the systemic problems – especially around police brutality — are addressed.

NOW’s response to inequality has always been about action. So it is very frustrating that today the pandemic makes participation in visible actions on Juneteenth impossible for many. We hope if there a Juneteenth event near you in the next few days, and you can do so, that you will join.

But none of this stops what we must do on this day – to reflect and commit to doing more to stand up and say “No More.”  Perhaps the action that each white person can take is to pledge this Juneteenth that we will never ever again witness an act of racism and not step in as an advocate. It’s not hard, and in NOW we understand what this means, and what it accomplishes. We can start there, and then there’s more.

We all have a great deal to learn and white people can start by listening to our sisters and brothers of color. Together we can accomplish what needs to happen to truly demonstrate that Black Lives are valued all the time, every day – to all of us.

Sandy Bell,
President, Maryland NOW

Maryland NOW Holds First Virtual Annual State Conference

May 20, 2020

Maryland NOW held our first-ever online or virtual Annual State Conference on May 16th using Zoom Video Conferencing Software. We had almost 50 people join us, including a few NOW state presidents from around the country who are looking at this medium to hold meetings.

We were able to welcome our own Congressional Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8) to discuss “Looking Ahead in Uncertain Times – Can We Win?” (please see the link on this post) with Maryland NOW members having the opportunity to ask questions following his remarks.

Maryland NOW’s Annual Conference is our supreme governing body that meets annually to elect state officers and to discuss policy and programs members see as helping move us forward.

Since we have no bylaws process at this time for online voting, our Nominations and Elections Chair, Jennierose D’Elia-Dufour prepared and mailed ballots to all members in attendance and eligible to vote following the conference. The last day to return ballots is May 29th. The results will be published in this space following the announcement of the election outcome.

The Maryland NOW State Council will consider the positions for Action VP and Secretary at their next state meeting, probably held via Zoom Video Conferencing Software. Council members (representing our executive committee and member chapters) will also discuss moving forward with plans for the coming general election cycle and efforts we will want to undertake to elect new national leadership for our country.

If you are interested in joining us in a leadership role (your interest in activism makes you a leader!) please contact Jennierose D’Elia-Dufour at elections2020@marylandnow.org or our president, Sandy Bell (president@marylandnow.org) for more information.

 

Listen to Rep. Raskin’s remarks at the conference  

The recording begins with Rep Raskin’s introduction to the group by MD NOW President Sandy Bell.

 

Actions You Can Take to Help Victims of Domestic Violence and Depression

April 16, 2020

Maryland NOW is very concerned about the spike in incidents of domestic violence and the increase in suicides over the last month. Directives to stay-at-home and the isolation it brings don’t help either of these situations.

Here are two small posters you can download which contain hotline/crisis line numbers for people struggling with these issues.

Please download them. You may be able to take them to your grocery or pharmacy, your apartment building or condo community, or even around your neighborhood.