It was my privilege last year to learn about the work Women’s Voices Raised has been doing in Missouri and I was pleased when they responded to my email about an update after everything that’s happened in 2017. Just like for all of us, it’s been a year of both challenges and victories. I appreciate the Women’s Voices team, in particular Mary Clemons, for providing this update. Please join me in contributing to and thanking the folks involved in this organization.
What has been your organization’s biggest challenge(s) in 2017?
The biggest challenge for Women’s Voices is the Missouri legislature. Our legislators implemented a restrictive voter ID law in 2017, created additional barriers to getting abortions, overturned a bill passed by the City of St. Louis to increase the minimum wage, passed a right to work bill, made it more difficult for employees to win workplace discrimination lawsuits, and eliminated aid for in-home and nursing home care for 8,000 elderly and disabled Missourians.
What was your organization’s biggest win(s) in 2017?
Perhaps because of the challenges posed by our state legislature and the presidential election, Women’s Voices had a banner year with an increase in membership and attendance at our monthly education programs. The call to action in May 2017 from Rev. Traci Blackmon (Executive Director of the UCC Justice Ministry) set the tone for our 2017-2018 year.
As part of our focus on gun violence as a public health issue we work to protect children from preventable gun deaths and injuries. Our Lock It for Love initiative takes our volunteers to community fairs and events to discuss gun safety and to distribute free cable gun locks. In 2015 we gave away 500 locks; in 2016, 950, and so far in 2017, 1,500. We are the go to organization for reporters when there is a shooting involving children. We are proud that we have expanded our program from the St. Louis area and now have groups in Kansas City and Cape Girardeau distributing locks. Our December 14 program this year will be on the 5th anniversary of the Newtown massacre and we will read the names of the children killed in Missouri during 2017. There are 32 as of November 29.
Please share a story about one individual in your state who has truly made an impact this year who you’d like the rest of the world to know about.
St. Louis is the home of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson and recently the not-guilty verdict in the shooting by police officer Jason Shockley. The racial unrest continues and the calls to action in the Ferguson Commission Report are not being implemented in a timely manner. Women’s Voices commends Thomas Harvey, the co-founder and executive director of ArchCity Defenders for their work advocating for homeless people in St. Louis who face fines and imprisonment because they are unable to pay traffic tickets and court fees. The ArchCity white paper on the practice of our many municipalities to imprison those who could not pay their fines received national attention. Harvey believes that since some post-Ferguson reforms have taken effect, judges have been less eager to impose fines and prison time for violations resulting from a lack of money but that unfair legal issues still plague St. Louis. Thomas Harvey will leave St Louis at the end of the year to become the national director of a new non-profit, The Bail Project. Harvey says the mission of the project is “to reduce the unacceptable human suffering caused by unaffordable cash bail, and build on ongoing community efforts to end the coercive and discriminatory impact of these systemic abuses.”
Women’s Voices looks forward to 2018 when we will roll out our new racial justice initiative, Overcoming Obstacles to Create Community: Ways to Fight Ignorance, Hate and Fear. The program will provide concrete ideas and suggestions we can undertake locally. We look forward to reporting on the project in the December 2018 Advent Activism Blog.