A collaboration of artists, activists and organizations is celebrating the centennial of women securing the right to vote with more than two weeks of events in the City of Poughkeepsie, kicking off Thursday.
Artist Paola Bari is a co-organizer of We Rise Poughkeepsie. The porcelain painter co-owns Queen City 15 Gallery, where a number of the events over the next few weeks will be held.
“Poughkeepsie has a very big role during the movement time because we had the Vassar students actually during the suffragette time actually were key in building the New York City movement. And also we had a lot of interesting people that were behind the Black suffrage also,” says Bari. “So there are key people that rotated around the City of Poughkeepsie and that, so it makes very much sense to celebrate the past but also look at the future of the city from a women’s perspective, embracing the, what’s coming with this, what does it mean with this voting right and so forth.”
Other city art galleries are joining Queen City 15 Gallery, along with organizations, artists and activists, coming together as We Rise Poughkeepsie to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which allowed women in the United States to vote. Bari says the centennial offers an opportunity to commemorate a milestone in democracy and examine and celebrate the power of the vote, especially in this election year.
“One of the things I would like people to walk away and to discover is that there are so many women committed to the community in Poughkeepsie, from different minorities and so forth, and I would like to see them working together to build a better place to live,” Bari says. “So I really hope that this event will put all the community talking together and so that we can actually work side by side to make the City of Poughkeepsie a better place.”
Events begin September 3 and run through September 19. In addition to art exhibits, lectures, panel discussions and surprise events, there is “Reimagining Black Feminist Pasts and Futures: An Avant-Garde Film Night” curated by Vassar College Film Department students. Natasha Cherry, a city council member, will present a talk on the work of Black suffragists. Her presentation will set the stage for a dramatization of one of the iconic champions of human rights — Sojourner Truth. Angela Henry will portray Truth, in costume and drawing on speeches and correspondence. Just last week, local elected officials joined the New York state Parks Commissioner in unveiling a statue of Sojourner Truth on the Ulster County side of pedestrian bridge Walkway Over the Hudson, which connects with Poughkeepsie. Folk-influenced “The Herstorians” will deliver a musical celebration of the centennial of women's suffrage, and there’s a trivia night focused on women's history and suffrage. Bari says We Rise may evolve into something beyond these events.
“I think, for now, it is just a series of exhibitions in Poughkeepsie. We are discussing what is the future of this We Rise, and it’s possible there will be other form in the future but, right now, we are just focusing on this series of events,” says Bari.
She says most events also will be available online. Those attending in-person will have to register as there will be reduced capacity in this COVID time. Online registration is also required. All the events are free to the public. In response to evolving local health and business guidelines some in-person events may become virtual or hybrid.