Last night, in the politically fertile ground of Harlem, 100 domestic workers and over 100 supporters gathered at St. Philips Episcopal Church to celebrate and honor generations of women of color working as domestic workers who have fought tirelessly for justice while caring for not one but two families, and often times many more. The evening was a huge success, and spirits soared. There is a definite sense that Bill or no Bill, this movement for domestic workers rights is only just getting started!
Rev. Sekou kicked us off with some inspired words of prayer, harking back to the generations of domestic workers who have struggled for their rights. DWU leader Angelica Hernandez then took us back to the initiation of the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights Campaign, which, if you don't know already, is SO CLOSE victory that everyone in the room can finally begin to taste it.
Our own Barbara Young and Erica Gonzalez from El Diario co-emceed the evening that included speakers from Community Voices Heard and Picture the Homeless who gave touching accounts of family members and friends who were or are domestic workers, deploring the abusive treatment that they faced on a daily basis.
We were also honored and excited to be joined by special guest speakers Councilman Eric Joia, Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Federico, and most of all by our main Bill Sponsor, Senator Keith Wright of Harlem, whose support for this Bill has been unyielding since the beginning. The audience's energy swelled as each of these elected officials took the stage, making clear how important it is for constituents to feel not only like they have a voice, but that they are being heard, and that their elected officials represent their interests.
DWU Steering Committee member Lois Newland felt that it was "truly moving to see Assemblyman Keith Wright speaking from his own church to his own constituents about the history of the neighborhood and his church in the fight for civil rights, associating himself with his constituents and really showing his support for the Bill of Rights and expressing his admiration for our movement."
And of course, the evening would not have been complete without the musical stylings of the DWU Choir, and the moving participation of our crowd of 200 domestic workers and supporters! With steel pans, bells, hammers, singing and clapping, we raised the roof right off of that church to let the city know that domestic workers are still in this fight to win respect, recognition, and fair labor standards.
We ended the evening honoring all the domestic workers in the room with a rose, to celebrate their dedication to their families, the families of their employers, and to the movement for domestic worker rights. As our wonderful guests left the event, they each signed a Banner in support of the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, which will be delivered to Governor Paterson who unfortunately was not able to join us.
Overall, the evening demonstrated the tremendous support that there is out there for domestic workers, particularly in Harlem, which gave us a welcome to be remembered. So THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who came out in support! Special shout outs will be going out shortly.
But as usual, this fight ain't over yet!! We look forward to seeing all of your beautiful, energetic faces on MONDAY IN ALBANY for a last resounding push with the legislators. If you can't make that, we'll see you back in NYC on the steps of city hall on for a 24 hour vigil from 8am Friday to 8am Saturday - come whenever you can for as long as you can in solidarity with all domestic workers! Last but not least, we hope to see every single one of you in the streets on Sunday June 15th for a Children's March and Rally for Domestic Workers.
WE WON'T STOP NOW!
- Founded in 2000, Domestic Workers United [DWU] is an organization of Caribbean, Latina and African nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers in New York, organizing for power, respect, fair labor standards and to help build a movement to end exploitation and oppression for all. DWU is a proud founding member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. DWU and its partners brought their power to bear in 2010 when the nation's first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was passed in New York.