International Women's Day in Charlottesville

Mar 9, 2017

Yesterday, in honor of International Women’s Day, some women stayed home from work, others wore red and hit the streets to protest, and still others got together to celebrate.  WMRA's Emily Richardson-Lorente went to one such celebration in Charlottesville.

(SINGING) “This body ain’t nobody’s body, ain’t nobody’s body but my own …”

That’s the Charlottesville Women’s Choir — all decked out in red — performing to an audience of about 100 inside the warehouse at the IX Art Park.

(SINGING) “It ain’t the government, it ain’t the president, it ain’t the preacher man …”

JUDY MARIE JOHNSON: Let's remember, we do hold up more than half the sky and no one comes into this earth without coming through a woman. 

Seventy-four-year old Judy Marie Johnson is one of the women on stage. She’s sporting a sparkly red sweater, pink pussy cat ears and a beauty queen’s sash. But she’s not just here to perform.

JOHNSON: There’s a lot of issues for women today, always has been, probably always will be, but we have the power. (singing) We’ve got the power, hallelujah! We're going to be singing that song later. 

Emily: Too bad you're so shy. 

JOHNSON: Right. I'm so shy, I know.

(SINGING) “Nanna was a suffragette …”

This 5 hour event was pulled together by a local advocacy group called Together Cville. 21-year old Sophie Webb is a member.

SOPHIE WEBB: It's really just an opportunity for women with similar values and interests and hopes to get together, relate to one another and see that the community of Charlottesville supports them and supports, you know, their endeavors and their goals and their existence.

When Together Cville began making plans for International Women’s Day, they specifically decided NOT to promote the strike that was part of Day Without a Woman.

WEBB: We ultimately decided that we felt striking for a day was really exclusionary and inaccessible towards low income women, women of color, a lot of people who are wage workers don't have paid vacations or needed every cent they earn throughout the week to support their families. And so we decided instead of making life harder for women for a day, we would throw a celebration and make life easier for them for the evening.

So, in addition to music and a host of poets, writers and other speakers,  there’s a free potluck dinner here, free childcare, and crafts for kids in the lobby. The craft supplies were provided by a local woman-owned moving company run by Rachael Roberts.

RACHAEL ROBERTS: We brought all the supplies in for the kids to make diversity trees and tampon flowers.

Emily: What is a tampon flower?

ROBERTS: It's -- we take the tampon and you can break them apart, and they kind of fall apart like petals, and the kids are painting them and gluing little beads on them and making them pretty.

“Do you want a paintbrush?”

Emily: So did you take the day off of work today?

ROBERTS:  I didn't take the day off I guess. But I work for myself so I feel like that's acceptable. Is it? 

Rachel is certainly not the only woman here who worked today. Toya Trager spent the day working at her family’s coffee company, then brought her 12 year old daughter Olivia to this event.

TOYA TRAGER: Every chance I get, I try to go to a meeting and get involved and do something because I think that's important and that's what I want to show my daughter -- we have to do something and we can do something and doing something makes a difference. 

Back in the main room, poet Patsy Asuncion is performing to an appreciative crowd.  


Asuncion is biracial, and the daughter of an immigrant. Like many of the folks here, she sees a lot of crossover between gender, race and other social issues.

PATSY ASUNCION: We've come a long way but so far to go yet. So far. 


ASUNCION: This movement is very important to me because I've always felt that I was in the minority and did not have a voice.