By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Last month the White House convened the first-ever United State of Women Summit to mark the progress made by and for women and girls domestically and internationally during the Obama Administration.
Hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, female icons Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Tina Fey and Jessica Williams were in attendance.
The summit featured remarks by President Obama and Vice President Biden; Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President; and others who educated and inspired women to take action during the summit and beyond.
Other notable guests included Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood; Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder of MuslimGirl.net; and Laverne Cox, Emmy-winning actress and transgender advocate.
The summit focused on economic empowerment, health and wellness, educational opportunity, violence against women, entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic engagement.
Two Oklahoma sisters, Amy Wheeler and Marlo Nash also attended the inaugural event.
“Both our daughters, Amy and Marlo, were invited to participate in this event,” said Oklahoma City resident Jim Wheeler, a retired Methodist minister. “Our love and gratitude to all family, friends and colleagues who influenced, mentored and have been role-models shaping who they have become.”
Powerful forces in their own right, Wheeler is a playwright and the executive director of Hedgebrook, a writer’s retreat on Whidbey Island, WA. Nash is the Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Mobilization for the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities in Washington D.C.
“I got to be in the room to hear President Obama give a most soul-stirring speech about equality for women and girls and LGBTQ folks, about gun control and ending violence against women and equal pay,” Wheeler said. “I’m looking forward to the good work he and Michelle will continue to do together.
“Vice President Biden got everyone fired up about ending violence against women, saying ‘When a country keeps half their population, half their brainpower, on the sidelines, it holds back entire societies.’ Wheeler recalled.
The First Lady and Ms. Winfrey sat down during a livestream event to discuss the topic, “Trailblazing the Path for the Next Generation of Women,”
“It was amazing to be in the room with this dynamic duo!” Wheeler exclaimed.
“The First Lady opened by talking about the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooting, She said one takeaway from the tragedy should be the need to support each other and not tear each other down.”
Wheeler continued, “She gave advice on balancing work and children and raising daughters saying, ‘So many men don’t have to do it all.’ These two powerhouses were inspiring and real, while talking about being grounded in yourself, trying to have it all.
Wheeler stated, “Michelle’s proudest achievements over the past 8 years — her mentorship program, healthy meals in schools and raising two daughters ‘in the midst of all this crazy’ in the White House.”
Cierra Fields, a 17-year-old Cherokee feminist and activist against sexual assault from Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, was one of eight women nominated to attend the special summit.
While in D.C., Field was interviewed by Victor Schilling of the Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN).
“I wanted to share my story to be a voice for the voiceless,” Fields told Schilling. “I want American women to know that we (Native women) experience rape at the highest rate of all demographics and that this violence must stop.”
Fields added. “We need to unite to demand rapists are held accountable. We need courts to be transparent and we need judges to hand down sentences that fit the crime.”
Schilling reported that Fields would speak at the “Moving Forward to End Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Stalking” meeting at Georgetown University. There Fields addressed the topics Violence Against Women Act in Indian Country, Sexual Assault among Native youth, and the Native youth/Justice System regarding sexual assault.
A former Center for Native American Youth Champion for Change, Fields serves as a National Congress of American Indian Youth Cabinet member and a board member for the Urban Indian Youth Alliance in Washington, D.C. She is currently applying to a number of universities to study journalism and political science.
The summit included a performance of “Sliver of a Full Moon”, written by Mary Kathryn Nagle, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. The play is a reenactment of the historic congressional reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013.
“We are the United State of Women,” the First Lady declared. “We stand stronger when we stand together.”
For more information, visit www.theunitedstateofwomen.org.