The independent film “The First Rainbow Coalition” was shown by WTVP. It was also screened at ICC, sponsored by Community Word, WTVP-TV, ICC’s Department of Diversity & Community Impact and the West Central Illinois Labor Council. It was a memorable event bringing together a panel of activists with an interesting audience. The film recalls how in 1969, working-class whites in Chicago joined with the Black community, Hispanics and others to work together on social issues, and the united front eventually improved neighborhoods, despite grave sacrifices. Times were different 50 years ago, but similar issues remain.
It was a history worth watching, but I especially noticed the absence of women in the film!
As a young professional in Chicago, I had a some contact with two of the groups over a period of several years. I observed that the men liked holding the press conferences, posing for the TV, making fiery public addresses and being the leaders in the long discussion sessions. The women were the ones doing the breakfast programs, running the free clinics, doing outreach, leafleting, making posters and cranking out information sheets on the duplicating machines, setting up mailing lists and stuffing envelopes. No computers in those days –– it was all done by hand. In their “spare time,” and they were also a big presence at the public marches and demonstrations.
As a nascent feminist I was annoyed at the way women’s opinions were disregarded or dismissed. I got fed up when Stokely Carmichael famously said that the only place for women in the Movement is on their backs! It was called a “Click Moment” in those days. And Click! I became a feminist!!!
Now, men and women working together advocating for equal rights have moved the pendulum of justice forward to a time when a woman won the popular vote for the president of the United States by three million votes and The New York Times has endorsed two female candidates for president in the 2020 election. The pendulum is moving faster!
Martha Willi, Peoria