West Kentucky's local chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW) presents two new programs aimed to engage and educate the community and encourage difficult but meaningful conversations. Catie Bates-Robertson and Debi Henry-Danielson, president and vice president of West KY NOW, respectively, speak with Tracy Ross about their upcoming discussion series and youth contest.
Next month marks the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment on August 18th, 1920. This amendment granted white women the right to vote after generations of writing, marching, lobbying, and civil disobedience. Black women were still denied this right until the passing of the Voting Rights Act almost 45 years later to the day on August 8th, 1965.
To celebrate this hard-fought movement, and to acknowledge and honor those excluded by its shortfalls in regards to racial inequality, the West KY Now chapter is presenting a Suffragette Video Contest for grades 6 through 12. Students are encouraged to submit a video highlighting a famous female from the suffrage movement or an event that happened during that time.
In standardized history, "we learn basic information about a woman's right to vote," Henry-Danielson explains. "It all centers around this one date. But we also know that there was a lot of work that went up to that, a lot of different events. We also know that not all women were granted the right to vote at the same time. There's a lot of history with women getting the right to vote, and we want to try to hear all the different stories. Not just the story you might hear in school, but to have the opportunity to focus in on some of those understories."
"If you go to westkynow.org, we have a separate video contest page," Bates-Robertson adds. "Videos are 3-5 minutes long. We would love for you to dress up. You can use costumes, props, that sort of thing - that's encouraged, but not required. One video per household. We would like the information to be sourced, cited. It's very much like a school project, but like Debi said, there are so many things to learn around this movement. At the surface, it's a celebration, but there's a lot more going on during that time."
The deadline for the Suffragette Video Contest is in August. Entries will be juried by some of the officers in the West KY NOW organization, and cash prizes will be offered to first, second, and third place submissions. The contest is not limited to Murray and Calloway County. All students from Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Livingston, Lyon, McCracken, Trigg, and Marshall counties are invited to participate as well.
More information on the contest and how to enter can be digitally downloaded on West KY NOW's website.
Another socially distanced summer program West KY NOW is offering is a series of Zoom lunch-and-learn seminars. "It's organized around some of the dialogue that's opened up in the community about racial issues. [We're] starting to explore interpersonal, business, [and] government relationships. Each month we'll address a different topic," Henry-Danielson says. "There are people from Murray State who are involved, people from the community. We hope that this series has both an educational approach to it, but also a personal approach. Our goal is to engage the community in conversation and open that dialogue."
The first discussion of the series, titled "Now is the Time," will be held midday on Wednesday, July 15th. The organization's initial goal was to have four seminars over the next several months, but the series is essentially open-ended. "This is a great way to engage in this big, public conversation," Henry-Danielson says. "We'll keep it going as long as it's needed and appropriate."
"We would love to have group discussions," Bates-Robertson adds. "We'd love to use [Zoom] and have several guest speakers and Q&A dialogues. That's always been our goal - presenting this and inviting guests and trying to be able to engage via Zoom. We really want to find a way to maintain it and continue to have these difficult conversations."
"I suspect in some way that one thing may lead to another. Starting to have that dialogue about race in our community or anti-racism, how to fight that, how to support each other as we learn through that - that conversation may very well lead to the next one, although we have topics lined up. The information will be out there on our Facebook and our website. We'll get the link to the Zoom [conference] in the paper. The whole community is invited to join in. There will be a series presented, a conversation between the guests, and time for question-and-answer," Henry-Danielson concludes.