“We are family, I’ve got all my sisters with me,” blasted out the speakers in the multipurpose room of Lovonya DeJean Middle School Saturday.
The popular ‘70s song by Sister Sledge got a crowd of more than 200 women up on their feet, a few dancing and others clapping and singing to the popular party tune at the 5th Annual International Women’s Day event titled “Sisters in Solidarity: Walking for our Beloved Community.”
Councilwoman and co-emcee for the day Jovanka Beckles welcomed public officials and members of more than 30 local organizations for the opportunity to network, share, and celebrate the accomplishments of women in the East Bay.
About a dozen men showed up as well, including former City Council candidate Eduardo Martinez. They took part in art projects, a Solidarity Walk from the event to the Civic Center on Macdonald Avenue, a group Oral History project and an energizing breakout Zumba dance workout.
In the room, women of all races gathered. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said the event was a wonderful representation of the diversity in Richmond and the power in having groups of women join together to improve their communities.
“We network with one another, we learn from each other and it helps us engage with the community in a very powerful way,” she said.
In a message to the crowd the mayor reminded women in the room that the fight for equality is still underway.
“We cannot afford to think we have accomplished everything,” she said. “We need to make sure women’s rights don’t roll back. Our strength is in our numbers.”
Kimberly Stewart, who sits on the board of the committee for the event said the power of the event is in the networking and coming together.
“Socializing is where problems get solved and ideas get exchanged,” she said pointing across the room to groups of women seated together.
“The area of Richmond has a lot of problems and areas that are not addressed,” she said. “But this is about moving out and letting people know we are here and we are in allegiance with women in different communities.”
Each organization at the event had a separate table decorated with pamphlets, brochures and items to identify their different causes. The Office of Neighborhood Safety was there, alongside the RYSE Center for youth, Reach Fellowship International and Black Women Organized for Political Action. Other associations promoting education, healthy lifestyles, and fighting against domestic violence were also in attendance.
Stewart said part of the goal is to let underserved women in the community know that there are organizations set up on their behalf.
“They want to see them grow and become the whole creative individuals they can be,” Stewart said.
During the course of the day there were also group performances by the Richmond High School Mexican Dancers and the Iron Triangle Urban Ballet. Young poets also recited their original works from Richmond Writes!, a program by The Richmond Arts and Culture Commission.
Attendee Angella Seesaran said the event is “phenomenal.” Seesaran moved to Richmond in 2009 and has attended the event every year since then.
“I have met some of the individuals who provide good leadership in our community and I’m deeply grateful for their vision,” she said.
Seesaran said International Women’s Day highlights the best of what Richmond has to offer.
“I love the coming together of the community,” she said. “I love Richmond and among the many reasons is for its diversity.”