By Joan Ryan, Women’s Wellness Manager, YWCA Alaska
It was Saturday, May 5th, at 6:30 in the morning when I joined the different YWCA delegates at the lobby of the Hotel Figueroa in Los Angeles. It was as great start because I was so glad to meet other YWCA leaders from around the country, including Debbie Johnson from YWCA New Hampshire, who I spent a lot of time with throughout the Summit.
We entered the main stage of the Shrine Auditorium around 8 a.m., and my heart was so happy when they kicked off the summit by honoring the land and our ancestors.
Throughout the day, all the messages women were delivering on stage were so powerful that you could feel electricity dancing throughout your body. All these women had decided to make a change, to call for justice, and to build a better society for young girls and boys. I will never forget the fire of many of the speeches, including Jane Fonda’s.
After the main stage session was over I volunteered at the YWCA table, where I had the opportunity to talk with Dolores Huerta, and took this picture with her.
In the afternoon, I attended panels, including one on reproductive justice, which was really interesting. It was really good to see that there are women fighting for our basic health and human rights, and it inspired me to join the movement here in Alaska! I also attended a panel “What Women Need To Keep Fighting For Change,” where I was able to learn about how perseverance in what you believe in does truly work to create changes.
By the time I joined the early evening plenary at 6:00 p.m., it was so crowded (I was grateful to Debbie for saving me a seat)! The speakers were short, to the point, and inspiring. One of the speakers that made a big impression on me was the woman that talked about the restaurant industry and the need for a living wage. I was SHOCKED! I thought it was illegal to pay less than minimum wage here in the U.S. It shows how much more work we have to do in our country when it comes to treating our workers in the service industry.
What better way to end the day than hearing Michelle Obama speak! I enjoyed her conversation a lot, and I loved how down to earth she is, how she advocates for women and girls, and how family is so important for her. I left the auditorium feeling amazing! You could feel the comradery between all the attendees at the end of the day.
Back at the hotel, I joined the reception YWCA USA hosted after the summit, and again, had the pleasure of talking to different YWCA advocates from around the country. It was such a great way to end the day!
I want to thank YWCA for this amazing opportunity, and it has inspired me to continue taking action. I now am talking with YWCA Alaska’s CEO, for our YWCA to be a place for people to register to vote, and to have our YWCA include register-to-vote information cards at all of our outreach events. Together, we can continue to encourage civic engagement and make a difference!