CCWP celebrates International Women’s Day


by Urszula Wislanka
Every year CCWP celebrates International Women’s Day by reminding the world about the wonderful, brave, spirited women inside prisons. On March 24 a packed audience of several hundred came to commemorate the many women who have needlessly died recently in California’s state prisons from medical neglect, to celebrate their lives and to vow not to let their deaths be in vain.

Ossie Chapman speaks about her daughter, Sherri Chapman, while Cassie Pierson holds her picture
Ossie Chapman (right) speaks about her daughter, Sherri Chapman, while Cassie Pierson holds her picture

We heard from a number of women prisoners and their families. Ossie Chapman, the mother of Sherri Chapman spoke about her daughter’s fight for medical care. (See December 2000 The Fire Inside for a story on Sherri Chapman’s victory over the state.)
Duran Ruiz spoke bitterly about the disappointment she and many other women feel about the lack of any means to integrate into society either while in prison or after release. She shared with us the frustration of not being able to obtain the most rudimentary assistance due her. In her fight not to give up, she showed a great deal of tenacity and human spirit, which challenges all of us to think deeper about the society we live in and what it would take to change it.

Duran Ruiz, telling it like it is
Duran Ruiz, telling it like it is

Recently released Rosanne Parker could not be with us in person, but she sent a wonderful taped message that was played at the meeting. Other former prisoners, including Linda Evans, also spoke.
To help us celebrate we heard wonderful performances from Gwen Avery, Copperwimin, Eileen Hazel and Heidi Harrison.
Dorsey Nunn of LSPC brought a wonderful display on the effect of incarceration on African Americans, and the Shattered Lives Project’s display provided a snapshot of the drug war and the very human faces of people caught in it.
It was an evening to reflect, to celebrate and to appreciate the women prisoners who continue to inspire us. We walked away sombered by the tasks ahead, but more determined than ever to continue to fight for human rights by changing the whole of society.