United State of Women 2018 Summit "Barriers Were Meant To Be Broken"
#USOW2018 occurred on May 5th - 6th at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles California. Day one events included center stage speakers for opening and closing, with breakout sessions throughout the day for discussions on social, economical and political issues in the United States.
Diving into the issue of caregivers in the health care environment, arose the topic of domestic caregiving workers. Ai-jen Pooof the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Caregiving Across Generations, brought the issues faced by these workers to the forefront. Emphasizing that domestic workers are often the unseen in caregiving, although they provide care to the most vulnerable populations in the U.S.
Los Angeles Major Eric Garcettia supported women’s health and reproductive rights stating “the right to control your own body and health, these aren’t partisan issues, these are human rights”.
Jane Fonda actress, author, activist, and fitness advocate brought to light specific health barriers, need for community investments, policy reform and the role of stigmatization among lower income and black communities. She stated “addiction in your community isn't considered a public health crisis or an existential community crisis. Oh no. No clinic is going to be built in your neighborhood and if one of your sons is convicted for his small stash of pot and imprisoned he's no longer eligible for food stamps, public housing or student loans”.
Patrisse Cullors, Author of “When They Call You a Terrorist” and Co Founder of Black Lives Matter shared the very personal story of her brother, the criminal justice system, police brutality and mental illness. “Monty had just turned 20 and was already displaying signs of mental illness when in August 1999 he took our mother's car on a joyride in the San Fernando Valley, teenage shit. After fleeing the police he was arrested on charges of abating an officer. The mistreatment he remembers took place while he was awaiting trial”. Continuing, she stated “Monty was in a precarious mental state, he was diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorder while in jail. And while he was being transported after a psychiatric evaluation he was beaten by four or five deputies. Monty was choked and he blacked out and he awoke in a pool of his own blood. Abusive treatment continued and when my brother was moved to Twin Towers jail he and many people would say “It was torture”. In closing “My brother was ultimately convicted of battery on an officer and the original charge of abating police and sentenced to forty months in state prison. By the time he told the story of his treatment in jail to a lawyer it was too late to sue”.
Lillibeth Navarro, from Communities Actively Independent and Free, uncovered the reality of legislation that gave way for mobility among those that are depending on mobile aides to explore their surroundings and environment. She stated “Finally the American with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990. So for the first the first time in our lives people with wheelchairs could go out with friends, on a date, they could work, travel. I just been to DC last week. People with visual and sensory disabilities could touch, feel and see their environment”. She continued “Those with mental and learning disabilities became part of this human experience of exploring what life is about. We rose from obscurity to visibility. And even started an international revolution, transforming other countries and inspiring them to create access for all people”.
Highlighting social determinants of health through the scope of homelessness in relation to poverty Renata Smiril President and CEO of LA84 Foundation spoke on behalf of Greater United Way of Greater Los Angeles pointing out “we have much to be proud of here in Los Angeles. We’re the most diverse city in the country. The most diverse city with boundless opportunities for success. The perfect place to pursue your dreams, but unfortunately not everyone in Los Angeles are sharing all the opportunities this great city has to offer. And far too many of our fellow Angelinos are homeless and living on the street”. She continued “Listen to this Close 60,000 men and women, families and children are without a place to call home. 60,000 And nearly 18,000 of our sisters, our daughters, our mothers are sleeping on the streets today and that's a 17% increase just one year. As we all know life on the street is more dangerous for women, children, in our families. But you know what, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles the lead on the challenge of ending homelessness 10 years ago. Continuing by listing ways in which United Way of LA has affected change she stated “We’ve made connections, took action. We’ve marched, tweeted , made calls, hosted events, lobbied our elected officials, testified, integrated new technology, shared stories and created a movement with our community partners to pass two valid initiatives that will provide over five billion dollars. Five billion dollars to build housing and provide homeless services for the L.A County over the next 10 years”.
As the afternoon progressed, with more speakers discussing health issues, Julie Miller-Phipps President of Kaiser Foundation began the discussion of mental health and women. With May being mental health awareness month, the timing couldn't of been more perfect! She began “what we can to create an environment in this century, in California, in Southern California where mental wellness is really what we talk about. We have conversations that started this morning about stigma and breaking down the stigmas of mental health and we need to continue those conversations this afternoon”. Speaking on the issue of depression, she stated “depression plus the complications that go along with that. Sleep disorders, anxiety, substance abuse, they're expecting sixteen million Americans today it's country. It chips away at our ability to work, to care for our loved ones, our relationships and our very sense of self-worth. Women experience depression and anxiety at twice the rate of men. Twice the rate and yet many women won’t seek help. If we do we think we're being selfish or we're going to take time away from our families, or we’re being weak. It’s not weak. Were often told tough it out, be resilient. Further elaborating on the issue stigma and mental health, “some well intention words cause us to become a prisoner of fear, of self-judgment and cause us to keep from reaching out. This is the very definition of stigma right. It’s negative that it can have and yet there is treatment. There is treatment and there is hope. 80% of people who seek treatment for depression see improvement, 80%. And so how do we bridge the gap? How do we get from here to there? Stigma drives silence and silence drives stigma. It's only like being vocal, by speaking up, by not being silent that we can open the doors for others so that they can come into the light and seek help. So I'm asking you today to find your words, find your words and help others find theirs”.
Vanessa Danniel from Groundswell Action Fund powerfully explained the importance of gender, racial equity and inclusion saying “As I look out on this crowd of every gender and every hue I know in my bones that the kind of America that I want to live in is one where all of us are free to be whole in our humanity.
Selena Vasquez, from Planned Parenthood LA one call to action pertaining to reproductive health. She requested “the one call to action is that we have right now we invest in our youth. We do that every day in Los Angeles by way of one of our programs called The Peer Advocates Program. These are the leaders in our communities that are making change every single day around reproductive health care and justice and all of the issues that we care so deeply about right now".
Jennifer Torez a former teen peer advocate spoke on having the outlet of Planned Parenthood LA. She expressed “growing-up there is no space to talk about sex, sex health, reproductive health. Reproductive justice was not---no one talked about that. So in my sophomore year I became involved with peer advocate program at my high school King Drew Magnet. I became a peer advocate and ever since then I’ve continued to advocate for my community, advocate for myself. She continued “obviously I love Planned Parenthood because they build a bridge between community and health care access for the fight for reproductive justice. As a peer advocate I’ve been taught and I’ve been trained to be an educator on giving comprehensive sex health, nonjudgmental information, reliable information which is very important. And in essence our duty is to empower those who don’t feel that they have a voice”.
Speaking on sexual violence Tarana Burke founder of #MeToo and Girlf for Gender Equity. She asserted “What will history say about us in this moment? I believe that we are entering a period of answers. 2017 asked -When will it be time for a reckoning around sexual violence?” 2018 said "Now". 2017 asked "Who will speak for the children?" and then 2018 the children said "We will". The fact is we have the answers right here, right now. We are the answers. Women from all walks of life across the gender spectrum, race, class spectrum, we have the answers.
The afternoon culminated with keynote speaker, and former first lady of the U.S Michelle Obama, who’s call to action was “we've got a lot of work to do before we're focused on the “Who”. Cause we're the “Who”. We are the answer. All of here in the room are the answer to our own problems, it is not finding the one right person that we think can save us from ourselves. It’s us. So we got to do that work internally”.