Bay Area League Day 2020
Speakers at 2020’s League of Women Voters Bay Area League Day were more diverse than in past years. Those in attendance were delighted to see and hear from elected officials, civil servants and distinguished community leaders from many different backgrounds—including immigrant, Spanish-speaking, African-American, and an Asian-American background. Most of the speakers, most of them women and people of color, talked about how they had, with determination and continuous self-improvement and education, made their way to become community and civic leaders–despite the barriers they faced as women, as blacks, as immigrants, or as part of the Latinx community. Their range of achievement was broad—a local mayor, a senior district attorney, a leader of bay area county health agencies, a manager and member of a worker-owner eco-friendly housecleaning cooperative, and an IT system administrator and consultant.
Leaguers were welcomed by Sister Rose Marie Hennessy, of the Dominican Order, Administrator of the beautiful Dominican Center in Fremont where the meeting was held. Susie and Steve Swatt, authors of “Paving the Way—Women’s Struggle for Political Equality,” gave a history of how women won the vote in California in 1911 and nationally in 1920 and how they have advanced in elected positions over the last 100 years. As an example, California Senate leaders of both parties are now women: President pro Tempore of the Senate Toni Atkins, and Minority Leader Shannon Grove.
Of the many enlightening speakers, we focus on three. Otis Bruce, senior district attorney in Marin County discussed the role of the prosecutors in the social justice system. He pointed out that the attorneys in California making prosecutorial decisions about our families are white men. Just 7% are Latinx, 13% Asian, 4% combined men and women are African American. Having a seat at the table is more than just being invited, it includes being in the decision-making position to set the course of a young persons life from cycling the prison system or getting a break in the social justice system to lead a productive life in the community.
Sister Elaine Marie Sanchez of the Sisters of the Holy Family, who works in poor communities of Spanish speaking and black families, spoke movingly about human trafficking for sex or labor. She pointed out that labor trafficking has a higher concentration than sex trafficking, and went on to say that trafficking does not exist in isolation, that it is a result of extreme inequality and affects people who are “considered disposable commodities.”
Melissa Jones, Executive Director BARHII, the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative, reported some shocking statistics about the health and mortality inequities even within each of the nine-bay area counties. In one neighborhood, for example, the difference in life expectancy between poor blacks and rich whites is 10 years, in another, 17 years. For a look at the meeting program http://lwvbayarea.org