By Frances Clause
Chants of, “And still we rise!” echoed in front of the Mahoning County Courthouse at the Sisterhood Uprising-Flexing Our Power rally Nov. 3.
The Salon, a women-led nonprofit organization, the Youngstown Chapter of The Links and local congregations organized the rally to demonstrate the individual and collective power of women in the Youngstown community for the midterm elections.
Youngstown community members marched from East Wood Street to the courthouse at noon, wearing white in honor of the original suffragettes.
Speakers who encouraged the rally-goers to vote on the courthouse steps said the hardships the suffragettes endured to win this right is why it is important for women to vote. Other topics discussed by the speakers included the renewal of the Federal Violence Against Women Act and Equal Pay legislation.
Attorney Kim Akins, the host of the rally, said The Salon sponsored the rally because it’s time women’s voices were heard on a local, state and national level.
“We’re at a crucial time in our history,” she said. “It’s vital that women, who are the backbone of the community, be the ones that send this message.”
Marge Staples, co-host of the rally and president of the Youngstown Chapter of the Links, a nonprofit entity of professional women committed to enriching and sustaining the culture of African-Americans, welcomed and thanked the crowd for being there.
“There’s no more excuses to say why we’re not voting,” Staples said.
Other speakers at the rally included Mayor Tito Brown, Michele Lepore-Hagan, state representative of Ohio’s 58th district, Carol Righetti, councilwoman of Youngstown’s 4th Ward, Janice Bernard, recording secretary for the Mahoning Trumbull CLC, Evelyn Burnett, co-founder and partner of the ThirdSpace Action Lab, Rev. Monica Beasley-Martin, Rev. Robin Woodberry and Rev. Kristina Spaude.
Along with the speeches that stressed the importance of why women’s votes matter, the rally provided an opportunity for diverse groups to meet and strategize for future involvement with local and state officials.
Anita Davis, councilwoman for Youngstown’s 6th Ward, invited the rally-goers and community members to Flambeau Dinner Club on Dec. 8 to sit down and discuss major happenings in the neighborhood.
“I do a thing once a month called coffee and conversation, and I put out a press release to The Vindicator,” she said. “Still, we only get about 20 to 25 people.”
Davis said this number is not good enough, and just because the community votes on candidates to represent them does not mean the participation ends there.
“There should be more people than that coming from the 6th Ward of Youngstown because we have a lot of problems there,” she said. “Every single one of you have a responsibility as a citizen to participate because without your voices, nothing will get done,” she said.
Davis will provide complimentary coffee and breakfast at the Dec. 8 coffee and conversation meeting as she answers questions concerning topics affecting the 6th Ward and community.