Suffragettes were out to change the world.
They fought for the vote; they fought for workers, for sexual and reproductive rights, for abolition. They said, “We declare these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” They said, “Deeds not words.” They organized.
On November 6, 1917, as a direct result of their advocacy, women won the right to vote in New York State, a full two years before Congress, on June 9, 1919, passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
And it is with this tradition in mind that WOOC and the Sanctuary for Independent Media has put together a free 8-week outdoor summer celebration, a Freedom Festival and Women’s Resource Fair—The Spirit of the Suffragettes—serving their North Central Troy community. Development Director Melissa Bromley says, “We…favor the radical activist history of the suffragettes.”
Inspired and funded by a New York State grant, the Sanctuary program considers the suffragette struggle through a racially and economically inclusive lens, taking on contemporary issues: the systemic neglect of low-income women, single mothers, women of color; discrimination against women and gender non-conforming individuals; the trials faced by children living below the poverty line.
Each concert features two performers, some of local renown, some of international fame, all from marginalized communities—female, non-binary, people of color—and each of distinct voice and tradition. Free locally-sourced food will be served; arts and crafts activities will be available for young attendees; a bicycle will be given away. Sojourner Truth (aka D. Colin, local poet, actor, artist, teacher) will MC. Launched on Saturday, June 8, events will be held every Tuesday from July 16 until August 20 and then culminate on Saturday, September 21.
By all accounts—just read the social media posts—their first concert was a tremendous success. Bromley says, “With the funding from this project, the level of artistry we were able to bring jumped up.” Sa-Roc arrived straight from a performance played to 40,000 people; and here, Bromley adds, in a city of about 40,000, “People got to see her up close for free. Fans were mouthing every word to every song.”
Supporting each of these festivities is a Women’s Resource Fair. Community organizations will provide free STI testing, offer options for those threatened by domestic violence, register voters, and advocate for the establishment of a civilian review board. Bromley says, “These events address the health and wellness of women and families, and violence is one [threat} we need to think about, including police violence.”
North Central Troy is one of the most economically distressed neighborhoods in New York State. Once a prosperous industrial city, now, Bromley says, “What we have is the legacy: vacant buildings, toxic soil, toxic water.” But, she adds, “We’re also in a unique and wonderful spot.” Situated at the northern tip of the Hudson River estuary and close to the start of the Erie Canal, just 10 minutes from Albany, the city has both ecological significance and the potential to serve once again as an informational center.
WOOC and social media platforms are helping to share the event and the message. WOOC is airing a series of interviews with activists and organizations, historians and scheduled artists, that connect local social justice work with suffragette history. Both the Sanctuary’s Facebook page and YouTube page will feature video of portions of the performances—some recorded live by those who attend and some professional quality video produced by the Sanctuary.
Founded in 2005, The Sanctuary for Independent Media is a unique and multi-faceted organization. Bromley explains, “We see the organization as a daisy, a core with all these different petals….The radio station is a petal, presentations are a petal, our community gardens are a petal, our environmental education is a petal, our kitchen is a petal, our youth program is a petal.”
100 years ago New York State was a center of suffragette activism; this summer, that tradition comes alive again in Troy’s Freedom Square.
The New York State grant awarded for this project required that The Sanctuary raise matching funds. When the series launched, the Sanctuary had still not met that requirement…but decided to go ahead nonetheless.
Make your own contribution to The Sanctuary.