At Pierson Panel, Abzug Sees Resurgence of Activism

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Panelists answer questions during a Feminism Now panel discussion at Pierson High School on Friday night. Michael Heller photo

By Christine Sampson

Just under four months into President Donald J. Trump’s presidency, the U.S. is seeing “a resurgence of something we have not seen in terms of a movement in this country in many, many years,” according to Liz Abzug.

Ms. Abzug, the daughter of Bella Abzug, the late congresswoman from New York, told a crowd of about 120 in the Pierson Middle-High School auditorium Friday that the U.S. was seeing a new wave of activism.

“You are seeing the people of all ages rise up, all colors, all ethnicities, all gender identities come together and say we must change the nature of the planet,” she said. “We must fight for gender equality. We must fight for social justice and the very existence of our planet.”

Ms. Abzug, who founded the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute to instill advocacy, confidence and other leadership skills in young women, was the keynote speaker at Friday’s panel, titled “Feminism Now: Issues, Ideas and Inspiration,” sponsored by the Pierson Women’s Issues Club.

VIDEO: Watch highlights from Liz Abzug’s keynote address at Pierson

The panel included Katie Lee, a celebrity chef and co-host on the Food Network show “The Kitchen,” the artist and activist April Gornik who calls North Haven home, Kathleen King, who built Tate’s Bake Shop from the ground up, and Minerva Perez, the executive director of Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island.

The conversation ranged from what it might take to elect a female U.S. president, to how social media and contemporary culture affect young women and the fight for gender equality, to how young women can take on leadership roles in business, arts, advocacy and other professions.

In one moment that drew particularly loud applause, Ms. Abzug asked the panelists if they thought it was important to get women elected to public government offices. Ms. Gornik replied, “I’d rather get a feminist elected than a woman elected — even if it were a male feminist.”

Helen Atkinson-Barnes, the education program manager of The Retreat domestic violence shelter, gave an impromptu briefing on the state of education on consent and sexual violence in response to an audience question.

Many of the Women’s Issues Club members in attendance were thrilled following the panel event.

“I thought it was really interesting to see a lot of different forms of feminism in the generation above ours in our community,” junior Hope Brindle said. “I left feeling inspired especially by Liz and by Minerva, but I also left feeling like a little glad that our community has been educated.”

Pierson junior Natalie Sepp, the club’s president, called the event “incredibly inspiring and moving.”

“Despite all the people there, it really felt intimate in a way, because we felt they were speaking to us,” she said. “We still can’t stop talking about it.”

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