POSTPONED: ACLU at 100: The Women Who Shaped and Continue to Shape Civil Liberties

When: Tuesday, April 14, 2020, 6:30pm
Susan Herman, Ria Tabacco Mar, Sasheer Zamata, Laura Bassett head shots
Susan Herman, Ria Tabacco Mar, Sasheer Zamata, Laura Bassett

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Since its founding 100 years ago in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Association (ACLU) has famously stood at the forefront of defending freedom of speech, immigrants’ rights, and justice and equality in many intersecting areas. Less well known is the extraordinary story of Crystal Eastman, co-founder of the ACLU and a lawyer, journalist, radical activist, and feminist, whose many accomplishments included co-writing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Eastman’s story is key in understanding the ACLU’s historical and ongoing work, especially in the context of women’s rights. In this conversation, activists, scholars, and ACLU leaders consider Eastman and the organization’s legacy of promoting women’s rights, and weigh in on the ERA’s place both historically and in the current and future fight against gender inequality, discrimination, violence, and institutional barriers. With ACLU President Susan Herman, Director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project Ria Tabacco Mar, and actress, comedian, and ACLU Artist Ambassador on Women's Rights Sasheer Zamata. Moderated by journalist Laura Bassett.

This program is co-presented by the ACLU.

About the Speakers:
Susan N. Herman was elected President of the American Civil Liberties Union in October 2008 after having served on the ACLU Board of Directors and as General Counsel.  As Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, she teaches courses in Criminal Law and Procedure and Constitutional Law, and seminars on Law and Literature, and Terrorism and Civil Liberties. Her most recent book, Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy (2011), won the Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize. She has also participated in Supreme Court litigation, collaborating on amicus curiae briefs for the ACLU on a range of constitutional criminal procedure issues, most recently in the case of Riley v. California (cell phone privacy).

Ria Tabacco Mar is the Director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. Prior to taking on this position in late 2019, Tabacco Mar was a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project, where she fought gender stereotypes, sex segregation, and attempts to use religion to discriminate against LGBTQ people at school, at work, and in public places. She was part of the ACLU’s litigation team in two cases before the Supreme Court in which the Trump administration has argued it should be legal to fire someone because they are LGBTQ. She also led the ACLU’s team in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case in which a same-sex couple was refused a wedding cake because they are gay. Tabacco Mar has been recognized on The Root 100 annual list of the most influential African Americans ages 25 to 45 and as one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association.

Sasheer Zamata is the ACLU Artist Ambassador for Women’s Rights and is well known for spending four seasons on SNL. She will next be seen as the lead opposite Joe Keery in Eugene Kotlyarenko's independent feature Spree, premiering at Sundance this year. On the small screen, Zamata is one of the leads opposite Rory Scovell and Beau Bridges in the upcoming Comedy Central series, Robbie, and is currently shooting major recurring arcs on the Hulu series, Woke, starring Lamorne Morris, and TBS’ The Last OG opposite Tracy Morgan.  Recently, Zamata also starred in Stella Meghie's The Weekend opposite Dewanda Wise, which went to TIFF, SXSW and Tribeca before its theatrical release. Zamata is also a well-known and widely respected stand-up comedian and can be heard hosting her podcast on the Earwolf network, “Best Friends,” with best friend, Nicole.

Laura Bassett (moderator) is an award-winning freelance journalist covering politics, gender and culture.
She was previously a senior politics reporter at HuffPost, where she covered women’s rights and health for nine years. In 2015, she won a grant from the Pulitzer Center to cover unsafe abortion in Kenya, for which she won the Population Institute’s Global Media Award. She has also twice won Planned Parenthood’s Media Excellence Award for feature writing and commentary, and she consulted on Netflix’s Emmy-nominated docuseries “The Keepers.”  Bassett writes a weekly political column for GQ Magazine and frequently appears as a guest on CNN and MSNBC.

This program is inspired by our ongoing Activist New York exhibition. To view all the programs in the series, click here


Activist New York and its associated programs are made possible by The Puffin Foundation, Ltd

Activist New York is the inaugural exhibition in The Puffin Foundation Gallery, which is dedicated to the ways in which ordinary New Yorkers have exercised their power to shape the city's and the nation's future.


This program is co-presented with the ACLU

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