They were active, loud and yet silent. Known to the world as the Silent Sentinels, these were the suffragists back in 1917 who stood outside the White House for over two years in what was the most effective action in the women’s movement ever! The ridicule, arrests, and beatings were worth it as the ladies won the fight. They were offered up the only right guaranteed to women in the constitution — the right to vote. Actress, Director and political activist Kamala Lopez asks the question– one hundred years what has changed for women?
Lopez is known for her on-screen roles in the hit TV show “Medium” and films such as “Any Day Now,” “I Heart Huckabees” “Born in East L.A.” “Deep Cover” and “The Burning Season.” Lopez directed “Equal Means Equal” but she didn’t just make a documentary about the status of women in America, she lives and breathes the movement that is “Equal Means Equal” that looks into the issues that stop women in the U.S. from obtaining the same rights as men.
“96% of Americans have no clue that women don’t have equal rights. Government and corporations (who are working together on this) don’t want to have to pay women equal pay for work of equal value. Unfortunately, those two things together have made it extremely difficult to get the word out that there is an urgent need to ratify the final two states needed and include women in the Constitution.” Says Lopez.
“Equal Means Equal” uncovers how outdated and discriminatory attitudes inform and influence seemingly unrelated issues; from workplace harassment to domestic violence; rape and sexual assault to the foster care system; and from the healthcare conglomerate to the judicial system. Along the way, Lopez reveals the inadequacy of present laws that claim to protect women, ultimately presenting a compelling and persuasive argument for the urgency of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment.
Natalie White, Lopez’s partner in the new Equal Means Equal initiative, marched from New York to Washington to raise awareness for the ERA and when Lopez heard about it, she knew that they needed to join forces.
“Natalie and I are determined to see the ERA voted on this year,” Lopez says. “It’s our mission and the mission of “Equal Means Equal” to make sure people understand that the issues and the law are inextricably linked and that we will never have equality without being explicitly stated in the Constitution.”
“Right now women are aware that their rights are being rolled back on campuses (with Betsy DeVos’ illegal order to disregard Title IX’s Civil Rights protections for women and girls), in the areas of reproductive rights, pregnancy discrimination, pay discrimination, etc. What is so crucially missing in the public discourse is understanding the connection between ALL these social ills and the lack of ERA.”
White says “Until the U.S. Constitution recognizes us as equal citizens, women need to protest — like the brave women a hundred years ago. We need to do whatever it takes — until we get these basic civil rights. We at Equal Means Equal are prepared to stand outside the White House every day and demand equality for women and know that other women will too.”
Lopez, White, and their “Equal Means Equal” team will host the closing ceremony of Catharsis on The Mall on Sunday, November 12th at 11 am to announce this new challenge. The show will honor and remember the original Silent Sentinels who took action back in 1917 and call the New Silent Sentinels to take a stand in 2017. This event will launch the 2017 Silent Sentinel Challenge, a ten-week vigil from November 13th, January 21st, 2018 outside the White House.
Lopez adds, “Every day starting Monday, November 13th; we will stand outside the White House like the Silent Sentinels of 1917. Same place, same problem, different century. We will be there protesting the fact that 100 years later, we still don’t have equal rights!” White mentions that the team will be “joined by celebrity guests, performers, and other social justice icons as we build national awareness over this ten-week struggle.”
Lopez and White hope the Silent Sentinel Challenge will bring both education and positive change for women today. As for her next on-screen role, Lopez will be filming a feature film in Texas when she returns from India in January and White is working on a billboard art installation across the United States as well as doing a feminist comedy tour.
For more information and to sign up to participate in this historic movement, you can check outhttps://equalmeansequal.org/silentsentinelcalendar