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Baltimore City

Dozens sing, march to Baltimore jail for International Women's Day

Dozens of people marched to the Baltimore City Detention Center to support gender equality on International Women's Day. The rally was organized by People's Power Assembly and Fight Imperialism, Stand Together.

Dozens stood singing Sunday in the shadow of the Baltimore City Detention Center, its stone walls and barbed wire fence representing a system the protesters said had oppressed them for too long.

"Well I walked down to that city jail, and I took back what they stole from me," they sang. "I took back my dignity. ... Now it's under my feet; ain't no system gonna walk all over me."

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The group, led by the People's Power Assembly and Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) marked International Women's Day by praying, chanting and marching to the East Baltimore jail holding signs protesting gender inequality.

Many of the roughly 25 people had participated in the organizations' earlier protests against police brutality, part of a national outcry after unarmed black men were killed by police officers in Ferguson, Mo., and New York last year. Members repurposed the same yellow "Black Lives Matter" picket signs they'd used in previous protests, along with new, neon green ones that read, "Free Our Sisters! Free Ourselves!"

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Lenora Knowles, 26, who led the march and the singing, said the movements, while striving for different goals, are united in their "fight for dignity and life."

"We're all fighting against this system of capitalism, racism and sexism," she said. "As an organizer, it's important to me because if we don't make these connections, we're always going to be divided."

Lynae Pindell, 23, added that women also face the issue of police brutality.

"We have only framed this as a black male problem," she said.

The multiracial mix of men and women turned heads with their chants of "No justice, no peace" and "We are the women, the mighty, mighty women," as they walked several blocks north on the Fallsway.

Speaking to the group, Colleen Davidson, 22, of FIST, traced the history of International Women's Day to the Industrial Revolution factories of the 1900s. She mentioned the march taking place Sunday in Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," a day of violence against civil rights activists that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Tiffany Beroid, 30, a former employee at a Wal-Mart in Laurel, told her story of becoming a feminist activist. She said she was forced to take unpaid leave when she got pregnant.

"I had to choose between my unborn child and my livelihood," she said.

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Beroid and others created "Respect the Bump," an organization of the major retailer's employees, to advocate on behalf of pregnant workers. Wal-Mart eventually overhauled its maternity leave policy.

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Sharon Black, of the People's Power Assembly, said the sight of the jail moved her to speak about the criminal justice system that incarcerates minorities at a disproportionate rate. Her comments were followed by a reading of Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise."

"Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise.

"Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear, I rise.

"Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

"I rise, I rise, I rise."

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cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6


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