MORAGA -- Sexism and racism took a hit at Saint Mary's College during its recent Wo/men's Conference 2014.

Presented March 8 by the Women's Resource Center, along with campus and community partners, the "We Can Do It" theme sought enlistments. Calling for an end to human trafficking and violence aimed at women, people of color and other vulnerable populations, the all-day conference featured breakout sessions covering a range of social justice issues.

Among the keynote speakers was 92-year-old National Park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest active in the world at her job. Soskin works six-hour days five days a week at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front Historical National Park in Richmond.

Soskin is devoted to ensuring that African American women who were part of Rosie the Riveter are recognized.

Scrolling through civil rights history to six years ago, when she sat in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial and witnessed the inauguration of the United States' first African American president, Soskin said, "I felt like I was fluorescent; like everyone knew who I was."

Acknowledging progress, she mentioned her great-grandmother -- born a slave, she parented 13 children and lived to 102.

"My great grandmother is my motivator. I know how my generation confronted the threat of its day. But the nature of Democracy is it's never going to stay fixed; part of its energy comes from the dynamism of change. You have to recreate democracy in your time, under a still-flawed social system."


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Also speaking were Wanda Johnson and Cephus Johnson. They are the mother and uncle, respectively, of the late Oscar Grant, the unarmed 22-year-old Hayward resident shot by BART officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year's Day 2009. Speaking about how violence against men of color impacts women of color, their personal stories of pain, dignity, honor among families and communities, sent a potent message. Single voices can't solve the problems, Oscar Grant's mother suggested. "We need each other to improve society and for laws to be changed. One person can have an idea, but it takes all of us to make change."

WRC Director Sharon Sobotta said it was important to have men at the conference because, "We know we can't tackle (gender) issues without men at the table."

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