The African-American population in Harlem, like so many other working-class communities, is in the throes of a deepening economic crisis, including massive unemployment, gentrification, police repression, and cuts in education and other social services. This crisis, rooted in capitalist greed for profit, has gripped the entire world — but especially hard-hit are women, who are considered the poorest of the poor.
It was with this political awareness that the International Working Women’s Committee organized a march and street meetings on March 26 in Harlem to show that all issues are women’s issues, and they all must receive our consideration. Women activists of diverse nationalities and ages along with male supporters gathered at the Harriet Tubman memorial statue to hear talks on many issues, including the attacks on immigrant rights, education and mass transit, along with Haiti, the Japan tsunami and domestic violence. Women garment workers who lost their lives in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire on March 25, 1911, in New York City — the majority of them teenage immigrants — were paid homage by the speakers.
Chanting, “The Harlems of the world are under attack; what do we do? Act up, fight back!” and “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!” the protesters then marched to the U.S. Armed Forces Center at 125th Street and Lenox Avenue, where they held a second street meeting to connect the wars at home with the wars abroad. Harlem passersby stopped to listen as activists spoke out against U.S. imperialist intervention in Libya, Honduras and Puerto Rico as well as the economic draft, homelessness and union busting.
Speakers at both street meetings assailed the anti-poor, anti-worker budgets spearheaded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on behalf of Wall Street.
Following the march, an indoor strategy meeting including breakout groups was held at a Harlem community center to discuss developing a strategy to unite the struggles.
Brenda Stokely, a leader of the IWWC, told the press: “Now more than ever activist women, their communities and organizations must join together to build the most powerful movement this country has seen. We must encourage and inspire more women of all ages to raise their voices and take their rightful place in providing leadership to this movement.”