By Sana Mamtaney

This past Thursday, I pulled down my tiny suitcase from the overhead compartment, and wheeled it down the air bridge into George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas. It’s not exactly where I imagined I’d be for one of the largest social justice conventions in the country – especially after Texas started an abortion ban movement that eventually led to the reversal of Roe v. Wade with its six week abortion ban in September 2021. 

According to the Women’s Convention, the organization chose Texas as its location because:

“We cannot fear our opposition or their strongholds. We will not leave the women of Texas behind in our struggle, or the women in any other red state.” 

The Women’s Convention lived up to its word– while I wo-manned the ERA Coalition’s booth, I met women from all over Texas, expressing their frustrations, anger and yes, hope. It’s important that as an intersectional movement for women, people of all genders, abilities, races and sexualities, that we don’t neglect the people who need support most, and allow their voices to be heard when they are so used to being forced into silence in the states they live in. 

Working at the ERA Coalition booth.

In the Social Justice City exhibition hall where the ERA Coalition booth stood, we told visitors about the Equal Rights Amendment, and more specifically, what we need to do now to move it forward. We are the closest we have ever been to publishing the Equal Rights Amendment. 

The amendment has been ratified both in Congress and the 38 states required in Article V of the Constitution– however, there was a time limit added to the amendment which has since expired. Now, we need the Senate to vote to get rid of the time limit (the House has already done so). We have 52 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate, so SJ Resolution 1, which would remove the time limit, just needs to make it past a filibuster vote. We asked folks to sign up for our email list to receive action items and put pressure on their legislators to get it to the Senate floor. 

We also helped people discover Elect Equality, our all-in-one tool to see candidates running in your state and where they stand on the ERA. ERA Certified candidates receive our highest designation, meaning they go above and beyond for the ERA, and all kinds of equality, whether that’s gender equality, racial equality, LGBTQ+ equality and more. 

Showing off some ERA Coalition tattoos!

Visitors enjoyed taking pictures at our step-and-repeat background and rocking stickers and temporary tattoos. 

In Social Justice City, I also had the chance to meet other exhibitors who are working for women’s rights, human rights, and equality for all. Into Action Lab distributed posters and tote bags with friendly faces, Black Feminist Future provided a welcoming space for Black women and girls, and Colorado for Human Rights gave out cherry themed swag for feminism and sexuality. 

Another enlightening and intersectional feature of the convention were its sessions. Groups from all over the country held sessions on topics important to their causes, ranging from transgender rights and inclusivity to activism through art. 

I attended a session called #FreeBritney: The Battle for Disability Reproductive Freedom by the Center for American Progress. There, Mia Ives-Rublee, Director of Disability Justice Initiative at CAP, and Emily DiMatteo, a policy analyst at CAP, discussed Britney Spears’s conservatorship plight bringing disability justice to a forefront. I learned about the intersection between disability justice and reproductive justice, and some of the societal concepts that created ableism, including eugenics, colonialism, imperialism, racism and capitalism. This intersectional session gave a voice to an often overlooked group in the gender equality movement, and made me rethink my thoughts on ableism and disability. 

Our Senior Policy Consultant, Jennifer Tucker attended Loretta Ross’s "Calling In the Women's Movement" session, where she says, “we saw her genius on display. This session was clearly related to her college teaching and courses about our call-in culture and call-out culture and white supremacy.”

Former state delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy and former state senator Pat Spearman - two of the champions who helped Nevada and Virginia ratify the ERA - joined our Elect Equality panel on Sunday.

On the last day of the convention, the ERA Coalition had our own session called “Getting Out the Vote for Equality: The ERA in 2022.”  We had the honor of having Senator Pat Spearman and Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy on our panel to discuss the Equal Rights Amendment and our Elect Equality program. Attendees learned about the history of the ERA and where it is now, the importance of voting with equality in mind, and using the Elect Equality program as a tool before heading to the polls. 

Tucker, who moderated the session, said that “the success of the session was demonstrated by the need to move the discussion to the hallway so the next session could start on time.”

The Women’s Convention was an experience that I will never forget– though I didn’t expect to end up in Texas, I learned and met wonderful activists more than I could have ever imagined in just three days. 

“Seeing first-hand the amazing work going on across the country to uplift equality was the perfect antidote to the daily barrage of attacks on our communities,” said ERA Coalition CEO and President Zakiya Thomas. 

Abi met Jeannie Mai Jenkins!

Here at the ERA Coalition, we will continue to uplift those striving for action and reform, and fight for all types of equality in our work. While the fight for justice of all sorts is nowhere near over, being in a room full of people who want to create change filled me with hope for the future. Though the fight can be disheartening and disappointing, we will never stop fighting for equality, and we will win. 

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