Last night, I attended the 8th annual Bella Abzug Leadership Institute awards ceremony. And there she was, my old friend, Judy Blue Eyes, looking as gorgeous as ever with cheek bones to die for and white hair piled graciously high. We hugged and asked each other: "How are you, really?"
And then the Awardee sang, a Capella, as I have heard her do before. Her voice is still high and sweet and retains its' magical bell-like sound. She said: "Let's get this over with" and launched into a rendition of "Both Sides Now," a Joni Mitchell song but one that has become identified as Judy's. We gave her an amazed, standing ovation. She was funny, and forthright, painfully so, and brought us all back to the 1970s and to a particular fundraising event for the Equal Rights Amendment.
One of the young BALI speakers said: "We can't wait for fifty years to obtain our equal rights." And I thought: "My God! Alice Paul first launched that Amendment in 1923. We are closing in on a one hundred year wait. Outrageous, unacceptable.
The Bella Fella Award went to the most amazing man: Marcus Vinicius Ribeiro, the Principal of Americas PRISA, the leading Spanish and Portuguese language business and media enterprise, a group which has enormous global reach. Ribeiro spoke with love about his mother and his grandmother who raised him--with love but with high expectations so that he would be able to compete and succeed.
Our Second Wave feminist crowd, is thinning--those of us who knew and worked with Bella. I sat with my dear friend Merle Hoffman, the founder of Choices Women's Medical Center and we greeted all the other feminists who constituted Bella's circle: philanthropist Judy Lerner, professor and author Blanche Wiesen Cook, playwright Claire Coss, and filmmaker Lily Rivlin; eminent politicians such as Rebecca Seawright, CUNY academics such as Senior Vice Chancellor, Jay Hershenson and Hunter College President Jennifer Raab; publicist extraordinaire, Ken Sunshine.
Liz Abzug, one of Bella's two daughters, has been teaching leadership skills to inner city High School girls whose speaking skills, optimism, dynamism, considerable charm, and commitment to feminism was on display in the opening video. Abzug's work is commendable, even brilliant, and constitutes a fitting legacy to her beloved mother.
And a very good time was had by all.