Festival committee members, representatives of Link, Incorporated and Vision 2020 promote awareness of the women’s suffrage movement in history.
by Amy Brown
The recent VC Women’s Day Festival, held on International Women’s Day, was a celebration of women’s social, political and economic contributions in Ventura County and the world, according to Junemarie Justus, founder of The Acorn Project, a local organization working to effect social change. “Hopefully this event will continue to foster dialogue between generations, and help shape the future that we all envision,” said Justus. The festival drew a huge crowd, and was held at the Museum of Ventura County and Mission Park, and featured speakers, a VC Women in Business and Leadership Showcase, film, art, musical performances, food and local brews, and yoga—all set against the beautiful backdrop of downtown.
Some of the festival’s speakers were presented in breakout Power Sessions, scheduled throughout the day, on topics ranging from “Speaking Up for Change” “Breaking Barriers” and “Leading While Female”. Dr. Trudy Tuttle Arriaga presented on the latter, which is also the title of her latest book, to a large audience. Arriaga was Ventura Unified School District’s first female school superintendent, a role in which she served for 14 years, and currently is an Associate Dean at California Lutheran University. Arriaga spoke about her 40 years as an educator, and the inequities faced during her career, from being evaluated on the way she dressed to being told to ‘act more like a man’ in order to succeed.
2020 is the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the U.S., and the event featured exhibits sharing the diversity in the trajectory of women’s suffrage movement. VC Women’s Day Festival committee member Shanté Morgan and a team of representatives from the Channels Island Chapter of The Links, Incorporated had an exhibit table with literature about the history of African American suffragists and their important contributions and challenges in working to get women the right to vote. “What I hope came out of the festival was a sense of pride in what we have achieved and purpose in what we need to do next,” said Morgan. “I also hope we were able to exchange information and recognize the diversity of the women in the movement—when it started and today.”
Many of the presentations were interactive, including one put on by Girls On Board, a community of women empowering women of all ages through skateboarding. Mel McElhose shared that the organization tries to create a welcome space for girls and women in the mostly male dominated local skateboarding community. “If you are a beginner or a woman, it’s almost like you have two things working against you at the skate parks,” said McElhose. Members of Girls On Board gave a hands-on demonstration of skateboarding techniques, including an interactive class on the lawn so participants could try it themselves, on skateboard decks with no wheels.
Deya Terrafranca, Research Library & Archives Director at the museum also expressed appreciation for the inclusiveness and success of the event. “The most meaningful thing for me was the diversity of the crowd. It wasn’t just women, it was everyone,” said Terrafranca. “I was truly touched by a grandfather touring the galleries with his teenage granddaughter. Imagine that—a teenager going to a women’s day event with her grandpa on a Saturday. Everyone was there to celebrate the achievements and value of women in our society.”