Friday, November 14, 2008

One Voice

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

One month ago I planned a luncheon where Mavis Leno was the guest speaker. Mavis is the Chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Help Afghan Women and Girls. She has been an outspoken critic of the Taliban's horrific treatment of women. Mavis speaks against gender apartheid to restore women's human rights in Afghanistan. Her involvement in the Feminist Majority's Campaign was also instrumental in defeating the energy company UNOCAL's efforts to construct an oil pipeline across Afghanistan that would have supplied the Taliban with over $100 million and dramatically increased their control in the region. The message of Mavis' presentation that day was one voice can make a difference.

A year ago I started on this journey to live a more eco-friendly, simple, sustainable way of life. For the longest time I felt alone. My family did not understand the changes I was making, my friends were not doing it, and there was no one I could talk to without being ridiculed. I felt like I was screaming at the top of my lungs with no one listening. Maybe some of you have had or are having similar experiences?

Like Mavis, who first learned about the horrific treatment of Afghan women felt as though a hand was shoving her out of her chair, forcing her to stand up; I knew in my heart what I was doing was right for me, so I pressed on. Many months later while delving into plastic leaching toxins into our food I discovered Fake Plastic Fish. Finally, I heard another voice. I am sure many of you feel like you are talking to yourselves. Just keep talking! Beth has campaigned against plastic for quite some time now. By continuing to make her voice heard, others have joined her cause, becoming a collective voice communicating towards the same goal.

One voice can make a difference.

Erin Brockovich, a twice divorced single mother of three, while organizing papers in a pro bono real estate case, found medical records in the file that caught her eye. After getting permission from one of the firm's principals, Ed Masry, began to research the matter. Her investigation eventually established that the health of countless people who lived in and around Hinkley, California, in the 1960's, 70's and 80's had been severely compromised by exposure to toxic Chromium 6. The Chromium 6 had leaked into the groundwater from the nearby Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Compressor Station. In 1996, as a result of the largest direct action lawsuit of its kind, spearheaded by Erin and Ed Masry, the giant utility paid the largest toxic tort injury settlement in U.S. history: $333 million in damages to more than 600 Hinkley residents.

stick-to-it-ive-ness n. Informal - Unwavering pertinacity; perseverance.

One voice can make a difference.

After a day of work in December of 1955 Rosa Parks paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved for blacks in the "colored" section. As the bus traveled along its route the white-only seats began to fill up. At the third stop several more white passengers boarded with no reserved seats remaining. Following standard practice the bus driver noted that the front of the bus was filled with two or three white men still standing, and thus moved the "colored" section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit. Refusing to give up her seat, Parks was arrested and found guilty of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. The day of Parks' trial the Women's Political Council distributed 35,000 leaflets asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott. The boycott lasted 381 days until the law requiring segregation on public buses was lifted.

"People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."

One voice can make a difference.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a social activist and leading figure of the early women's movement. Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the first women's rights convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, is often credited with initiating the first organized woman's rights and woman's suffrage movements in the United States. Stanton's declaration proclaimed that men and women are created equal. She proposed, among other things, a then-controversial resolution demanding voting rights for women. In May of 1869 Stanton joined by Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman's Suffrage Association(NWSA), which Stanton served as its president for 21 years. While always recognized as movement leaders, Stanton and Anthony's voices were soon joined by others who began assuming leadership positions within the movement. The American Woman's Suffrage Association(AWSA) was founded the following November by Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe. In 1890 the organizations merged, creating the National American Woman Suffrage Association(NAWSA) with Stanton as its first president. On January 18, 1892, together with Anthony, Stone, and Isabella Beecher Hooker — Stanton addressed the issue of suffrage before the United States House Committee on the Judiciary. She spoke of the central value of the individual, noting that value was not based on gender. As with the Declaration of Sentiments she had penned some 45 years earlier, Stanton's statement expressed not only the need for women's voting rights in particular, but the need for a revamped understanding of women's position in society and even of women in general:

"The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings. The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, her forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear — is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself [...]."

So if you are rambling on to complete silence or receiving defiant replies just keep talking.

One voice can make a difference!


Melinda said...

Beautiful thoughts & a beautiful post. Sometimes I wonder, sometimes I feel I am alone and talking to an echo...

One thing, though, I would add: these woman did more than talk. They acted on their beliefs. That action is essential, I believe.

Thank you for the inspiring post.

Green Me said...

Definitely a timely post for me! I almost ditched the blogosphere this week, but I still feel like I've got something to say. I think the key though, as Melinda said so well, is the action. Unfortunately it is a lot easier to write a blog than it is to take concrete action!

Alline Anderson said...

Thanks for this post! I too believe that one person CAN make a difference! And adding to your list: Rachel Carson, Dorothy Day, Amy Goodman, Marian Wright Edelman, Winona La Duke, Terry Tempest Williams, Mary "Mother" Jones, Rachel Corrie...for more inspiration, please see Robert Shetterly's portraits of Americans Who Tell the Truth:

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! Thank you for the inspiration. And, oh my god, I can't believe you included me among those awesome women. On the other hand, I can. Because I doubt any of them thought of themselves as awesome. They were just doing what they were called to do... following a power greater than themselves.

Guess what! In a few days, I am going to be able to make an announcement about the success of the Take Back The Filter campaign. Stay tuned. The lesson? ANY of us can make a difference!!!

Anonymous said...

Okay, and now I have Barry Friggin' Manilow in my head from the title of your post! And that cheesy song always makes me cry!

Green Bean said...

Beautiful post, Sheeep. It is hard to live differently than those around us, to speak up, to take a stand. Thank you for the reminders of just how powerful our one voice can be.

JessTrev said...

Beautiful reflections on inspirational women. I am so inspired by Beth as well; it's amazing her singleminded focus and purposeful action. Love the post.

greeen sheeep said...

melinda & green me - You are absolutely right, action is essential for change. Don't give up green me! It's because of women like you simply writing blogs that I have come some far. Thank you!

allie - I love the quotes on the portraits. Thanks for the link.

Beth - You certainly do belong in the list. I heard the good news about the Take Back the Filter campaign. Congratulations!!!


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