I went to a talk yesterday evening sponsored by a social justice group, and given by a colleague I respect immensely. The talk was held in a newish space, one attached to a small shop associated with a local arts magazine, and was standing room only, which, in this space, probably means 40-50 people showed up (I counted chairs one one side of the room and used that to start my estimate).
The talk was great, as I expected.
What I really noticed, though, were the folks who set things up, the board of the sponsoring group. I recognized a few of them, and know one from a lot of interactions around. The thing is, I wouldn't have guessed she'd be a leader in a social justice group.
Her name is Mildred, and she's an older woman, probably in her 70s, white, always well-dressed in a classy way, who comes to community talks on Shakespeare and such, and who is also friends with another friend of mine, also a retired woman.
The other board members of this group seem also to be mostly women of, shall we say, a certain age.
Of course, these white women have all been active in social justice work for a long time, before the arts magazine started, before my colleague and I were hired here, they've been working, often quietly in the background (as last night), but working nonetheless.
The local arts magazine gets a lot of attention around here, along with related projects. And mostly, all that attention is about men. And they make all the right sounds about social justice.
But in the background, those same women come and go, working as they have for years, with little attention and little credit.
I'm feeling humbled by Mildred and the other women who've been working in my community all this time without my really noticing.