Aztec dancers dressed in feathered headdresses blessed the crowd as they blew on conch shells and the air filled with incense. Hundreds of people of all ages swarmed in the center of Lake Merritt Amphitheater in Oakland and prepared their chants to march alongside the drumline in commemoration of International Working Women’s Day.
“Tell me what you want, what you really want,” the crowd shouted. “Justice. How we gonna get it? People power.” The marchers chanted several other mantras in various languages.
Feb. 8 marked the 105th anniversary of the first observed strike in New York in 1909 when women workers demanded better work environments, fair pay and to be part of the a union. Women today continue the fight for free preventative care, affordable education, good health care and equal salary jobs, according to 105th International Working Women’s Day Facebook event page.
“We came together trying to figure out how to commemorate the 105th anniversary of Working Women’s Day,” said Pyxie Castillo, chairperson of League of Filipino Students at SF State. “We decided that having a celebration event that includes a rally, a march and a cultural program would be the best way to engage people in Oakland and to have people learn about the issues.”
LFS began planning the event in January and worked closely with General Assembly Binding Women for Reform, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action.
The event reflected on the struggles that third-world women have endured but also celebrated the hard work that they have accomplished, according to Pia Cortez, co-chair person of GABRIELA San Francisco.
“You can really see the richness and diversity with all the endorsing organizations, mostly from third-world women,” Cortez said.
Gentrification, police brutality and U.S. imperialism were main topics of discussion at the event. The roots of violence and oppression have direct ties to U.S. imperialism, according to Cortez.
“We believe that the root of all the oppression and violence that women face goes back to U.S. imperialism,” Cortez said. “There are so many different wars of aggression and military occupation that have really put women and children in danger because of it it becomes collateral damage.”
The event was intended for both men and women to gather and show appreciation for the women in their lives, according to Jordan Ilagan, secretary general of LFS.
“It is important for not just women to come out to these mobilizations but also for men to show support as well because we came from women,” Ilagan said. “My mom is a working woman, all the women in my life are working women. This is all for them.”