Minnesota NOW has lost a sister

It is with a heavy heart that I write to tell you of the death of long time member Cindy Mark.  Cindy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this fall and she died from complications of the disease on Sunday, December 13, 2009.  Cindy has been a feminist activist with the Minnesota Valley chapter of NOW for years and has contributed to our chapter in so many ways.  I would like to share with you just a few of her accomplishments and contributions.

In March 2001, Cindy coordinated a Women’s History Month program with a local Girl Scout troop.  The troop and chapter together presented a drama entitled: American Women Making History, to an audience of family members and the community.  This production proved so popular that in 2002, the chapter and Girl Scout Troop collaborated again on another dramatic interpretation.

Cindy was also a talented artist.  She was president of the Prior Lake Arts Society for many years.  Cindy brought her artistic talent to the aid of Minnesota NOW in June of 2002, when she organized an art show that was part of the National NOW conference held in St. Paul that year.  This was the first time an adjudicated art show was displayed during a National NOW Conference.  It was a great success; both the artists and the conference goers enjoyed this opportunity to bring activism and art together.

Cindy lived in rural Prior Lake.  She raised chickens and sold organic eggs.  Cindy was eco-friendly in her lifestyle and shared her knowledge of home remedies with any who were interested.   Over the years, Cindy opened her home to our members for annual gatherings such as holiday parties, pool parties, and retreats.  In 2004 she hosted a January retreat featuring Ruth Nested speaking on staying healthy and centered in a diverse world.  In 2005 we had a second January retreat at her home that featured belly-dancing lessons for all participants.

Cindy attended many of our informational pickets and marches.  She was part of the Minnesota Valley NOW contingent that went to Washington D.C. in April 2004 to March for Choice.  She often staffed our table at the International Women’s Day event at the University of Minnesota and she was a frequent speaker at the Women and Spirituality Conference in Mankato.

In 2007, Cindy graduated from the University of Minnesota – Mankato with a master’s degree in Women’s Studies.  While attending school she used her education and experiences to the benefit of our membership.  In October 2006, Cindy presented a program entitled: Disposable Women. This program discussed her research on the Maquiladoras in the Mexico borderlands and the Juarez Murders.

In March 2007, Cindy led a Feminist Forum produced by our members.  The Forum consisted of members presenting topics of personal feminist interest to the rest of the chapter.  Topics ranged from health freedom, to women’s suffrage, to reproductive choice.  Cindy explored the topic of feminist pornography that she had been researching for one of her classes.  During her time studying at Mankato she brought many new feminist books to our Minnesota Valley NOW book club – with lively discussions that followed!

In 2008, Cindy performed in a production of The Vagina Monologues that was put on by Minnesota Valley NOW and The Chameleon Theatre Circle.  Her delivery of My Angry Vagina was heartfelt and powerful.  That production raised over $4,000.00 for the Southern Valley Alliance for Battered Women.

After graduating from college, Cindy used her education to teach Women’s Studies classes at Rasmussen College and at the Minnesota Women’s Correctional Facility in Shakopee.  She found her work with the women prisoners very rewarding.  She often said that she enjoyed bringing feminist ideas and teachings into places where you weren’t “preaching to the choir.”  She cherished her opportunity to foster change in individual lives   The women prisoners received college credit for their course work through Augsburg College.  Cindy taught the class as a volunteer due to funding cuts for the program.

At the time of her death, Cindy was studying with the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.  She was pursuing a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies with an emphasis on spirituality.   In 2009, Cindy hosted a Full Moon Ritual group that met monthly at her home and was made up of mostly Minnesota Valley NOW members.  Cindy was generous with her time and resources.  She served as an inspiration to many of us in the Minnesota Valley Chapter and I personally will miss her greatly.

Cindy is survived by her husband Stephen Mark and her daughter Katie Mark.  Cards can be sent to them at 3191 220th Street East, Prior Lake, MN 55372.

Beth Anderson, Minnesota Valley NOW President

Powerful words from MN NOW’s Vice President

By popular demand, we’re reprinting the remarks made by Minnesota NOW’s Vice President at the Rally Stop the Abortion Ban at the Minnesota State Capitol on December 2, 2009.  That’s Barbra in the back row, holding the “OMG DEMS WTF?” sign!
My name is Barbra Peterson, Vice-President of MN NOW, a Mother, Aunt, GrandMother, proud Clinic Escort, and a Pro-Choice activist for 33 years. This button I wear today, “NO WOMB FOR COMPROMISE”, is from 1979, my 1st lobbying visit to DC as a NOW member. So I guess that makes me what’s called “The Menopausal Militia”!

I stand with you all today, to protest the Stupak is the Pitts Amendment, an act that will send thousands of Women back–back to wire hangers and knitting needles, back to back-alley abortions. Yes my friends, we’re moving backwards, and we’re here to say NO MORE!

They’re calling this a Health Care Reform Bill, but the very fact that it excludes Women’s reproductive health, that it discriminates against 52% of the population, well, I call it Health Care Deform, and we’re here to say  NO!

We’re being fed the main talking points, that in opposing the Stupak is the Pitts amendment, that it can’t be a line in the sand, and guess what? I agree. Taking a stand for Women’s lives should never be a line in the sand, it should be a line in CONCRETE, unmoving, unwavering, unequivocally, a NO WOMB FOR COMPROMISE line in concrete.

To those elected officials who give us this “line in the sand” jargon, I ask you these 3 questions:

Are you implying that Women’s health isn’t a good enough reason to take a strong stand?

Are you suggesting that Women’s rights aren’t important enough to take a strong stand?

Then am I to assume, by your unwillingness to draw that line, that Women’s lives aren’t important enough to take that strong stand?

Make no mistake, Stupak and his anti-Choice cohorts know that for now, they can’t make abortion illegal, so they’ve set their sights on making it inaccessible with their draconian, insulting restrictions. And now with this amendment, they’ll be making it unaffordable as well. We’re here to say NO!

So, I ask all of you here today, Raise your Voice for Choice, say NO to the Stupak is the Pitts amendment, say NO to any language in the bill that would discriminate against Women, say NO more wire hangers. Then, and only then, will we say yes to the Health Care Bill.

Schedule for Minnesota’s STOP STUPAK Rally Day!

The rally starts at NOON, TODAY, WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 2, in the toasty warm rotunda of the State Capitol in St. Paul.  Look for your MN NOW friends with our round blue signs!

Welcome (5 min)
Linnea House, Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Foundation

Minnesota Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (5 min)
Rev. T. Michael Scott

Pro-Choice Resources (5 min)
Karen Law/Melissa Winship

Minnesota NOW (5 min)
Shannon Drury/Barb Peterson

Betty Folliard of Rep. Keith Ellison’s office (5 min)

Wrap Up (2 min)