By Lyna Bentahar
Special to The Sentinel
COLLEGE PARK – Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) held his 17th annual Women’s Equality Day Luncheon at the Hotel at the University of Maryland on Aug. 21.
Women’s Equality Day is a commemoration of the adoption of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26, 1920, which gave women the federal right to vote. In Maryland, the amendment wasn’t ratified until 1941, and wasn’t certified until 1958.
“It’s never too late to do the (right) thing,” said Hoyer, “but it’s a damn shame it took so long.”
Now in the amendment’s 99th year, the luncheon served as a testament to female leaders in history, women currently fighting to further their rights today and what women are still lacking compared to men in politics.
State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy served as the master of ceremony for the event, her opening speech seeking to empower women to become “iron” in the face of a political environment and administration that seeks to divide them.
“We are iron,” said Braveboy. “We are sharper together.”
According to State Delegate Kathleen Dumais (D-15th District), who spoke at the event in a call to action, women make up only 25% of legislators in the United States and less than 20% of business executives. Out of 50 states, only nine have female governors. More immediately, there have been no female governors in Maryland, and only two cities have female mayors.
“We have work to do,” said Dumais. “We can, and will, do better.”
Despite this, Hoyer went on to call 2019 “another year of the woman.”
This was well-reflected in the luncheon’s size. Braveboy’s chief of staff, Judy Danso, recalled that in previous years, there may have been about 200 women in attendance at the luncheons. This year, it was close to 1,000.
Dumais called to “use our power, our voices and our numbers to defeat Donald Trump” and to “elect a Democrat governor in 2022 – hopefully, a woman.”
With the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action in attendance, the luncheon turned attention to the ongoing struggle with gun control as it relates to domestic violence and women’s safety. Hoyer called to put an end to the “boyfriend loophole” in the Lautenberg Amendment, which exempts domestic abusers and stalkers from being barred from gun access so long as they have not been married to, lived with or had a child with their victim.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks stopped by and called the county “the crown jewel of Maryland” for its significant female leadership. Alsobrooks is the first female county executive in the county and applauded Chief Tiffany Green as the first female fire chief in the county among the many other women in office and in power.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) attended as the keynote speaker, uplifting the history of women in the United States while also calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment in the immediate present.
In her keynote speech, Waters recalled the history of women’s rights, beginning with Margaret Brent, a landowner in colonial Maryland, as one of the pioneers of women’s suffrage after demanding a vote in the provincial assembly in 1648. She related women’s rights to African American liberty and civil rights, from Harriet Tubman to Coretta Scott King, and her own work in the 20th century.
“Some people tried to undermine us and minimize the women’s movement,” said Waters. “But the 2016 election, again, it changed all of that. Enraged by the perpetrator and sickened by the president, women mobilized.”
“We’re still rising,” she said. “We rise despite the despicable, racist white supremacist, misogynist man occupying our White House.”
Waters reprimanded Republicans for ignoring legislation that Americans “demand and deserve” and the president for his policies that threaten women and people of color. She called on for his impeachment, met with a chant to “Impeach 45!”
“We know how to use (the gavel),” Waters said. “And not only are we not afraid to use it, sometimes we’re going to bang it just because we feel good and we got it and we know how to do it.”