Monday, October 22, 2012

Gloria Steinem rallies crowd of more than 400 against Amendment 6

The feminist icon headlined Saturday's I Am Choice rally in St. Petersburg.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Gloria Steinem speaking Saturday at the I Am Choice rally in St. Petersburg.
  • R. MonaLeza
  • Gloria Steinem speaking at the I Am Choice rally in St. Petersburg.
When Mona Leza was 15, she was living in Germany and heard about a woman who was fighting for the rights of other women.

"There was no abortion, nothing, we didn't have any rights," Leza said Saturday in front of Jannus Live in St. Petersburg. "That woman was Gloria Steinem."

On Saturday, feminist, journalist and writer Gloria Steinem spoke against Amendment 6 — read more about the amendment here — at the I Am Choice rally at Jannus Live. More than 15 people spoke at the rally, which was attended by 400 plus people. The crowd was primarily composed of young women, with older women and men of all ages also in attendance.

"We certainly think women's issues are family issues because women primarily run their households," said Barbara Zdravecky, president of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.

Zdravecky has been with Planned Parenthood for 19 years. She said she isn't surprised by a piece of legislation like Amendment 6.

"I've watched the Florida Legislature and we've become much more conservative with the legislators that were sent to Tallahassee," she said. "Hopefully this push against Amendment 6 will send a clear message to Gov. Scott and legislators that women's health issues need to be left alone, and to not do things to take away access for women in America."

But it wasn't just about women's issues. I Am Choice has joined with dozens of other organizations in a down-the-ballot effort for November's election.

"It is important to vote because the movement in the country on the part of the right is to eliminate, suppress and intimidate the vote," said Reverend Manuel Sykes, president of the NAACP in St. Petersburg. "It's a model that suggests that we don't have the right to speak up and have representation in our government."

Sykes, who also works as a pastor at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, said some of his community members are having trouble with the state amendments on the ballot.

"A lot of senior citizens are being affected," Sykes said. "In our State Legislature, 12 amendments were proposed in such legalese that the average person can't understand."

Laila Abdelaziz, regional director for Emerge USA, hit the streets in March with a mission to register and educate voters in Tampa Bay area's Arab, Muslim, and Southeast Asian community. A lot of the people she communicates with don't understand the importance of voting, a sentiment also shared by many non-immigrant Americans.

"We did candidate forums and went to mosques to register voters," Abdelaziz said. "It was rough because this is a young immigrant community that isn't that familiar with civic duties. It's a very new thing that came with the Arab Spring."

When Gloria Steinem took the stage, she spoke about the importance of voting. During the 2000 election between Bush and Gore, Steinem said she found herself (coincidentally) speaking at Palm Beach College the morning after the election.

"In a room of 706 people, 100 had been unable to vote at all in the election," Steinem said. "Voting is important because it is the one way the least powerful are equal to the most powerful."

Steinem said in recent years, she's seen an extremist swing in terms of the evolution of the Republican Party.

"The Republican Party has become the party of extremists," Steinem said. "Even Nixon supported the equal rights amendment. He could not get nominated by this party now."

During the third presidential debate between President Obama and Gov. Romney, a question was asked about equal pay for women. Steinem touched on the importance of that issue.

"Equal pay for women would be a $200 billion stimulus for the economy," Steinem said. "That would be $137 more for every white woman's paycheck and $300 more for every woman of color. And you'd better believe they are going to spend it."

Ash Parris, 22, is volunteering with I Am Choice as part of her education at Eckerd College. Parris phone-banks twice a week for several hours, contacting voters about Amendment 6.

"I don't like Amendment 6," Parris said. "I want to make my own choices."

As for seeing Gloria Steinem speak, Parris is encouraged about the vote in November.

"She was great, I've never seen her speak before," she said. "Being here, I can see there is a lot of support for I Am Choice, despite what the media says."

For Leza, now 54, seeing Steinem was emotional.

"I am reminded that this is generational," she said. "We are going to keep going until it is fixed."

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