Sunday, October 19, 2003

Leaders speak in Northside

Women in local politics have roundtable discussion at meeting

By Perry Schaible
Enquirer contributor

NORTHSIDE - When first seeking office for Cincinnati City Council, Alicia Reece figured she had three things against her - she was young, female, and black.

But none of those factors held her back, she said at a political roundtable discussion held by SWANS - Savvy Women (and men) Active in the North Side.

It's a cross-cultural, interracial group that meets on the fourth Monday of each month.

Today, she said, female political clout is growing.

"We have more women in (leadership) positions in Cincinnati now than we've ever had," Reece said.

Last week's session focused on women and politics, but since the group's start in June, it has focused on other Cincinnati and neighborhood issues.

"It's a way to get women connected so we can help each other, the neighborhood, and the world," said Winifred Beam Kessler, SWANS coordinator. "And it's working."

Kessler wants to get rid of what she calls the "triple-headed pit guard dog of racism-sexism-elitism."

She said Northside is a microcosm of Cincinnati - the residents are compartmentalized by neighborhoods.

SWANS is open to both men and women who want women to have a greater voice.

A "mentor-model," a woman of leadership in the community, is invited to each meeting. Other mentor-models have ranged from a nun to a judge.

Member Jan Holland and Cincinnati City Council candidate Marilyn Hyland organized the event for members to meet women in politics. Reece, Hyland, Laketa Cole and state Rep. Catherine Barrett were on hand.

"We wanted to see what each of the women stood for and how they got where they are," Holland said.

La Vern Johnson took her 12-year-old granddaughter.

"I think it's very important because women need to support each other. If we get behind it and support each other, we'll have a unity that men wish they had," Johnson said.

SWANS was developed and sponsored by WoManways: The Partnership Center, a women's resource center now located in Northside. It has an advisory board of 21, including five men. WoManways was founded in 1977.

SWANS membership has grown quickly. The group that started with 10 people now has a mailing list of 400 and has had attendance numbers up to 200.

SWANS is open to men and women in Greater Cincinnati. For information, e-mail or call Kessler at 751-7003.

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