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TRANSCRIPT: Q&A with Women March Seneca Falls organizer Sussan Scheuerman

This week on Inside the FLX, Susan Scheuerman was in-studio discussing the upcoming Women March in Seneca Falls. It’s a three-day event that will center around the region’s history and energy engaging women’s rights as a topic. While the single-day march has been successful in past years – this time will feature three days of activities, which have been planned by organizers for close to a year.

Listen and watch the podcast by following this link, or read the Q&A version of Episode #208 here.

Q: What do the last few days of preparation for this weekend’s event look like?

A: Sure. Well, it’s all in the details. As you know, ideas are only as good as they can be carried out. So we are now carrying out many, many ideas that over the last year actually, we have been forming and talking about. And so now we all have responsibilities for these last couple of days before the Saturday rally in March. So we’re busy, we find that we have a lot of support for the march and the rally this year. And of course, it is the celebration of our hundredth anniversary of our right to vote, although that is a national event. On New York State, however, granted women the right to vote in 1917. So New York State was a couple of years ahead of the game. But nationally, it is the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the right to vote for women. So it is an epic event this year. put that into perspective for us because I think it’s interesting. You’ve got that the hundred the hundredth anniversary.

Q: What about this year’s event coinciding with a presidential election?

A: You know, the mission of Women March Seneca Falls was and continues to be the spirit of uplifting the status of women. We are a nonpartisan group. We welcome everyone. And we certainly have held true to our principle and our mission. For the last four years, this is our fourth annual March. And so because it falls in the year 2020, which as you said, is a convergent year of several big events. We have called it an epic event here in Seneca Falls and what better place to start a national conversation about uplifting the status of women and United States, then to hold it where it all began in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. So we are really very fortunate that we live where we live. And I think that the three day event kind of touches on all of those activist and spiritual, I’ll say for want of a better word, but those kinds of things that women are looking for in 2020 in a candidate, we have a roster of candidates. We don’t know yet who will be running against our current president. We do know that we need to support a candidate regardless of party, who will reinforce all of those who are rights that women have fought hard to win.

Q: What was the process like for coming up with a theme for this year’s march?

A: Well, we are a core group of all women, approximately 15 of us who have banded together for the last four years. And once we are all convening again to talk about the next March and rally, the juices start flowing. And this year, it was pretty easy because we did designate Seneca Falls as the epic epicenter of all the national celebrations of the hundredth anniversary of our right to vote. So the theme came pretty easily voting and getting out and voting is really the theme of this rally and March. We think that everyone needs to be reminded that this right to vote is not something that we can kind of brush off and do or not do. We have a responsibility living in this country to exercise that, right. And for us, as women, we had to earn that right. It wasn’t given to us based on based on gender as it was to men. And so the conversation this year came pretty easily about what our focus would be, and who we would want to be at the March. And so with that in mind, we started last January and have worked for a whole year to get this ready.

Q: What has the process been like, as an evolution over the years preparing for multiple marches?

A: Well, I the first thing I have to say on behalf of our committee is that the Seneca Falls community has embraced us and our grassroots efforts to showcase women in Seneca Falls every January for the light Now for January’s it will be, and all of the partners we have in Seneca Falls have, including the police, community, people have all risen to the occasion to help us make sure that this is a not only a healthy atmosphere, but that it’s a safe atmosphere. So we are really truly appreciative of everything that the community has done for us so that we can are able to hold this event for the fourth year in a row. This year, we decided that we wanted to include a partner Auburn Public Theater, in Auburn, New York because we really live in Central New York. We really live in a corridor of human rights and of course, Auburn and Harriet Tubman and William Seward and all of those people who came before us should be announced during this weekend. So we partnered with Auburn Public Theater and also the Equal Rights Heritage Center, as our kickoff on Friday, the 17th of January to hold a reception at the Equal Rights Heritage Center from 530 till 730. And then to go walk to Auburn Public Theater to hear Holly near in concert at eight o’clock, Holly near course, being an activist and well known and in that community, and we are a sold out audience for that performance. So we knew the rally in March on Saturday would be held again in Seneca Falls, and we held it last year at Trinity Park and found that to be very successful in spite of some of the bad weather, and this year we’re holding it there again, we have shortened it. So that we begin at 1230. We have a couple of really good speakers to kick us off, so to speak, and then we march, we march approximately a mile through the community. And then when we disband, we will head up to this building where I am now and listen to a great concert by a group called Betty who are really an activist group from Canada who will be performing here at four o’clock on Sunday. We have a wonderful, wonderful opportunity by bringing seven women together who will hold an epic conversation that will be held at the First Presbyterian Church. And we will also be showcasing our sculptress who did a wonderful rendition of Alice Paul. We will be unveiling a bust that was commissioned for this event. And Alice Paul actually presented this idea of an equal rights amendment in 1923, at the First Presbyterian Church in Seneca Falls, so we actually have her podium in the church, so it’s appropriate that we would have an unveiling of her bust there. So and then we’ll hold an epic conversation talking about all several questions to do with what 2020 voting year does look like for us in the United States. So it’s a packed weekend.

Q: How do you keep the conversation going after this weekend?

A: Well, I think the people who come and participate in this event and you know, we’ve had years where we are highest attendance year, we had 15,000 people come to the march and rally. We We hope that they leave here and take back with them, all of the energy to encourage their community to get out the vote this year. That is the main focus of this year’s March and rally. And all of the events is to get out the vote in 2020. We cannot sit home. We have earned it and we need to promote it. And that’s really what we’re energy. We hope we are entering judging the people who attend to go back to their communities, and do this, get the vote out.

Q: What does that look like? What does the conversation starter look like after this weekend passes?

A: Well, that’s a good question. I don’t know if there’s one answer that would fit that question. I think it has to do with how people view politics in our country and how they understand the process. You know it’s sort of like making sausage, you don’t really want to know all the details, but the product is pretty good. And in some ways politics is like that it’s very different. It’s a very different species from running the country is this issue of politics. So I think that people need to understand that the way the society is now, in order to run for office, you have to have support monetarily. And I think that may discourage people from jumping in. But what I would say to that is find a candidate, learn about that candidate who you think you have an interest in, find out what makes them tick, find out what their record is, have a conversation with them, and then jump in and help them get elected if you really believe that that person is the right candidate for the job.

Q: What does this year’s march mean to you personally?

A: Well, I recently ran for office. Where I live, and I lost. I lost to a woman. There were two women running, which was great. Still, a loss is a loss. I didn’t like losing. And I learned a lot though by running for office, and the kinds of skills you need to engage your voters. And so to me, the 2020 election has some personal meaning in the sense of I so delighted that there are women who have put themselves out there to hopefully be chosen as a candidate to run for office. I’m personally delighted to see that I think 2020 can be a pivotal year. We’ve had for years that at times aren’t are not particularly encouraging to women. And I hoping that 2020 will not discourage all of the women who have the right to vote now to come forward and vote. I think our schools need to make sure that 16 and 17 year olds in New York state can now be registered to vote at 18. I hope that our schools will jump in and make sure that that happens. And so I think it has to be a national crusade to make sure that we’ve done everything we can to help get elected the person or persons we think who are qualified to do the job. And that’s an important responsibility. I don’t think we can turn away from it. And I hope we don’t turn away from it.

Q: How do we get more women in elected office and supported to run?

A: Yeah, it’s a fairly new phenomenon actually in our society. It has taken on you know, a deeper meaning as of the last probably 10 or 15 years. I still think women struggle with the idea that they can be leaders that they have other things pulling at them. I think the message we give to our our boys and then our men is that it’s a clear path for them to go from A to Z and run for office, there’s nothing in between. For women, there are a lot of opportunities to not run for office. There are other things that can get in the way because we are not and have not been conditioned to think that we are leaders. That is changing. I see that that’s changing. There are opportunities now for women to learn about running for office, that there weren’t 10 years ago. There are courses you can take. There’s curriculums being designed and developed to be used in our schools that allow girls think about themselves in leadership positions early on in life and that later on in life. So all of these things will take a little bit of time. But I see where they are being encouraged, women are being encouraged and girls to think of themselves in leadership roles. And for me it It took a longer time for me to come forward and be able to do that. But once I did, I understood that that was something that gender should never have been an issue about. It just never should be. So I think it’s a very hopeful society in that sense right now, where we are encouraging both genders almost equally. To run we’re still you know, very low in our numbers, as you say, of elected females. And so that will change as we get more girls and then women into the pipeline to run for office. So those are all good things.

Q: What was exploring that process like for you as a person?

A: Well, I think that I realized that if you are able to assess yourself and what you’re good at, it looked to me like once I sat down and did that, that it looked to me like, Oh, I had the skills that you need to run for office and then be elected and do the job. But I knew enough and I think that mentoring, having somebody who I could turn to, and ask questions about a female who had run for office and been elected was very important for me and I had that connection, I was able to do that. And I think now that I’ve run for office, I would like to act as a mentor to somebody else thinking about running for office and other woman. Because all of the things I learned when I was running, I’d like to be able to transfer to some to somebody else. So I’m not so sure there was a point in time, it just seemed to me that I had the qualifications without anybody really telling me that. Whereas I think boys are told repeatedly that they’re, by virtue of the fact that they’re men, that they’re male, that they have the qualifications but girls aren’t given that message when you look at community like Seneca Falls, which will host this for the fourth fourth consecutive year.

Q: What does an event like this in expanded form mean for the community and what kind of impact that can have?

A: What Seneca Falls has done, I grew up here I was born here. My home I went to St. Patrick’s school. I was graduated from minders Academy. My mother was graduated from this building we’re in. So my roots go back deep to this community. And when I was growing up the corner where the Wesleyan chapel replication now sits was a laundromat. And there would be women in there using it. And I can remember even having a discussion with my mother about that, that that seemed kind of interesting since there was a big commemorative New York State sign that said it was the birthplace of women’s rights. So there was irony even at that point for me to see, I think I’ve watched this community actually embrace women’s rights, embrace the history that it’s always had, that it has expanded it on a national level with our wonderful women’s rights Park. And the Elizabeth Cady Stanton home. I was here when Alan Alda came to town in the 70s with my mom we went down and heard him speak. And he gave the first $10,000 to restore the Elizabeth Cady Stanton house. So since 1976, and now our 2020 the town certainly has become known for what its history was all about. And I think they will continue to expand and the Hall of Fame Women’s Hall of Fame now down at the old knitting mill and the idea of using that as a conference center for women, I think we’re really going to make the map so to speak.

Q: What do you hope the biggest takeaway is from this weekend to get more voices heard and engaged?

A: I think to revisit our first amendment rights, every opportunity we have is very important, and that’s what we’re doing this weekend. We have those rights from birth. We are very fortunate to have first amendment rights. And so the idea that we can come out and we can speak without fear of reprisal that we can organize, that we can send a message that we are looking out for each other, that we are trying to make a difference pays off. That’s a hard message not to expand upon in your own life. I think this idea of paying back for what we’ve been given in this country, that this voting rights thing should not be taken for granted. And I know I’ve said that several times in this interview, but you cannot take it for granted. It is a wonderful place to live this country of ours. And we take these freedoms sometimes for granted which we should not so a reminder is a good is a good thing and this weekend is that reminder of all that we are capable of all that we’ve done. We have a legacy to carry on. And that’s what we need to do.

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