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First Women’s Equality Day Festival to be thrown by Women’s Museum of California in San Diego

Artists Ines Nefzi, Karla Burner and poet Kelsey O. Daniels (right) pose for a photo
Artists Ines Nefzi, Karla Burner and poet Kelsey O. Daniels (right) pose for a photo with “Las Soldaderas” mannequin honoring the women who traveled with the male soldiers during the Mexican Revolution.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Women’s Equality Day Festival is on Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Women’s Museum of California in southeastern San Diego

For the first Women’s Equality Day Festival to be held in its new space in the Joe and Vi Jacobs Center in southeastern San Diego, the Women’s Museum of California is going big.

During Saturday’s inaugural bash, there will be big multicultural energy from the dancers, musicians and poets who will be performing throughout the day. There will be big-time activism through the League of Women Voters San Diego, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest and other community organizations who will be on hand to share information and offer volunteer opportunities.

There will also be big fun at the hands-on art workshops, big entrepreneurship at the Women Makers Market, and big-name wisdom from a lineup of speakers that includes California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, Rep. Sara Jacobs and former Congresswoman Susan Davis.

The big party is in honor of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote when it was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920. And while the Women’s Equality Day Festival is paying tribute to that momentous step on the road to gender equality, it also wants to fire everyone up for the immense challenges ahead.

“We have always acknowledged the 19th Amendment. It was a huge milestone that broke down a significant barrier, but that wasn’t the end of the fight,” said Melissa Jones, director of marketing for the Women’s Museum of California.

“Even today, there are still barriers in place that prevent people from voting easily. We wanted to take this historical moment and get people excited about voting and make them feel a part of this special day. We also wanted to remind people to still stay active and honor the work that the suffragists did. Not just to vote, but to ensure your friends and your family members are registered to vote, too.”

In the past, the Women’s Museum of California celebrated the right to vote with an annual suffrage-inspired parade and rally in Balboa Park. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 parade was virtual. In 2021, the museum partnered with Women’s March San Diego for an in-person and livestreamed panel discussion on gender equality. The museum closed its Liberty Station space in 2020 and opened at the Joe and Vi Jacobs Center in June of 2022.

This year, the museum is handing the parade to the next generation.

At the festival’s youth suffrage parade, budding feminists can make signs, learn some consciousness-raising songs and hear all about what makes voting so vital. Participants will include 50 Girl Scouts, so enthusiasm will be on the march, too.

And while it is gearing up for the future, the festival will be honoring the groundbreaking women who got us to where we are now.

Admission to the museum will be free on festival day, giving attendees the chance to check out the “Crafting Feminism: Textiles of the Women’s Movement” exhibit, which includes many decades of sartorial statements, from suffragist sashes to knitted pink pussyhats.

The festival will also mark the debut of “The Mannequin Project,” a display of mannequins that have been reimagined as art installations inspired by women who made history, even if their achievements remained unrecognized.

For their contribution to the project, local artists (and cousins) Ines Nefzi and Karla Burner dressed their mannequin to represent Las Soldaderas, the women who traveled with the male soldiers during the Mexican Revolution. Las Soldaderas cooked battlefield meals, washed soldiers’ uniforms and stitched up their wounds, and Burner and Nefzi thought it was time these unsung heroines got their due.

“In warfare, it is usually about what the men did and the fighting part, but there were other people existing at the same time. They deserve their own page in the history books and their own museum. I don’t think this war could have been won without the women supporting the men and holding down the fort with the families at home,” Nefzi said.

Nefzi and Burner dressed their mannequin in historically accurate 1900s clothes, but with a distinctly modern twist.

The sombrero, which Burner designed, is accented with photos of some real soldaderas. Nefzi designed the bandolera cartridge belt, which includes vials of kitchen spices where some of the bullets would be. It’s an artistic statement with a human message.

“I want the women and the men to look at our mannequin and be inspired by a relatable woman,” said Burner, who is also an arts educator. “These women were not orators. Many of them didn’t have any education. They were average women from average towns and average families, but they were still extraordinary in what they did.”

Whether it is creating a piece of activist art, finding ways to make the community better, or getting the lowdown on the coming midterm elections, the Women’s Equality Day Festival will make sure attendees leave feeling entertained, educated and ready to fight the good fight for as long as it takes.

“I’m really hoping that there is an opportunity for folks to engage beyond the event,” said artist, organizer and Black Dream Experiment founder Kelsey O. Daniels, who will be doing a spoken-word performance on the festival stage.

“I hope they leave with something they can grow with. I hope they are inspired to take action that is sustainable for themselves. That is what I would love to see.”

The Women’s Equality Day Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Women’s Museum of California in the Joe and Vi Jacobs Center at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, 404 Euclid Ave., southeastern San Diego. Admission is free. Go to womensmuseumca.org for information.


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