By Rebecca Lenn, LoYL Board Member
All of us have a story to tell, but rarely are we asked to share it, especially when it’s a story about health, sickness, strength and resilience as women. And when it is told, too often does it fall on deaf ears. That’s why last Thursday’s LUNAFEST event was so unique.
Thanks to the NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation in partnership with the LUNAFEST campaign, forty-four women and men of all ages gathered in Arlington for an evening to celebrate women’s lives and stories – a powerful occasion considering how hard women’s health advocates have fought to keep women’s stories and voices at the fore of the debate on reproductive freedom in Virginia. This was NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation’s fourth annual LUNAFEST event benefiting not only the organization’s research, outreach and education work on reproductive rights, but also the critical work of the Breast Cancer Fund. In her welcoming address, Executive Director Tarina Keene reminded us that as pro-choice advocates we must lift up all women’s health concerns as equally important. Governor McDonnell and anti-choice leaders in Richmond are waging a war on women that isn’t just putting access to safe, legal abortion and birth control at risk. Their efforts are restricting and could shutter health care facilities that provide critical preventive services like breast cancer screenings. Threats to reproductive freedom and preventive care are undoubtedly threats to the whole of women’s freedom. Thursday night’s gathering fully embraced this reality.
Following Tarina’s address, the evening continued with a series of captivating short films by, for and about women. The series was commissioned by LUNAFEST (established in 2000 by LUNA) to simultaneously promote women filmmakers, raise awareness about women’s issues and support worthy organizations benefiting women throughout the U.S. and Canada, including NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation. From quirky animations about love to moving documentaries about illness and aging, the 10 selected films gave an exceptionally vivid glimpse into the lives of women throughout the world. The audience glimpsed into the life of a woman on the verge of suicide whose motives take a different turn when approached by a caring bystander, the first woman cable car operator in the U.S., a young table tennis champion, a South African teenager who struggles to live and love with AIDS and a ninety-two-year-old woman who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Each film was followed by loud rounds of applause, sighs of relief and/or spirited conversation. Whether it was the pain of loss, the thrill of victory or the struggle of overcoming obstacles, it was clear that the stories of these women resonated with each and everyone one of us.
In addition to the screening, the celebratory evening was abuzz with warm fellowship, laughter, new acquaintances and reflection. Advocates and supporters enjoyed a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception and the opportunity to contribute to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation and the Breast Cancer Fund in a silent auction featuring great finds from local artisans and businesses.
This was one of many great NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia events this year where pro-choice Virginians could celebrate women’s lives and fight to protect reproductive freedom in our state. I hope you will join NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and its League of Young Leaders (LoYL) for the next event on June 4th where the storytelling and movement-building will continue.
P.S. Be sure to check out pictures of the event.