Sunday, June 17, 2007

what a world!

yesterday afternoon, we were invited to a friend's home for a party celebrating their eldest daughter's graduation from college. the party was held in the garden of this really beautiful estate. their home is in bel air overlooking a golf course and with it's pool, terraces, boccie court and wine house it resembles nothing less than a mini ritz carlton. our hosts are warm and hospitable people and dear friends. their daughter is smart and beautiful and destined for great things. we all, well dressed, well heeled, white people, stood around, drinking margaritas, eating great food and enjoying the beautiful day.

that evening, i was invited to attend an event at the art museum downtown. in conjunction with "whack" an exhibit of feminist art that has been running at the museum for the last few months, 200 women were invited to a dinner. the premise of the dinner was that 40 women were invited to be "witnesses" to the rest of the group's stories. there were 40 tables, each seating one witness and four working women. we were to eat, drink and share our stories. i had no idea what to expect and, as usual, when i have no idea what to expect, it turned out to be an amazing evening.

throughout the entire night, women rose on platforms scattered among the tables to tell their stories. there we sat, under a blanket of los angeles stars, listening. listening to a woman who had risen from skid row to make a life for herself and her children. a woman who had walked across the brutal desert to find a better life and work in a foreign country. a young teacher, underpaid, overworked and on the verge of burning out. a young black woman who, despite her degrees still found job prejudice, in 2007, in beverly hills. there was a 55 year old woman who left her abusive marriage of 35 years and her mind numbing job of 30 years to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. the stories went on and on. not one of the women spoke of wanting riches or material things. they all just wanted one thing, dignity. the right to hold their heads up while working hard at honorable jobs.

at the end of the evening, after exchanging email addresses and promises to keep in touch with my table mates, the all women, african band played one last number. the music was infectious. two of my table mates and i rose and started swaying with the music. i reached out my hand to a woman at the next table who seemed to be dancing in her seat. she was an iranian who had fled her country years before. she in turn reached out to a mexican domestic worker and soon fifty or sixty of us, holding hands, were dancing, under the moon, among the tables.

yesterday was quite a day. i got to see the two faces of the city of angels. the haves and the have nots and it was very clear to me, perhaps for the first time, that we are not so very different. we all want the same thing. whether it is the fresh faced college graduate from bel air or the invisible domestic worker from downtown, we, as women just want that chance to be. to be, with dignity and honor.

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