[image-1] Each year, a group gathers in Columbia to remember one moment in history when a controversial federal judge was confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court despite sincere accounts of questionable sexual behavior in his past.

Of course, we’re talking about the annual “I Believe Anita Hill” gathering, set to take place on Oct. 15. Setting out to commemorate Hill’s rebuffed account before the Senate Judiciary Committee during Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing in 1991, has become an annual networking event geared toward South Carolina men and women.

In 1991, Hill, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, claimed that Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her when she worked for him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In Thomas’ confirmation hearings, Hill provided detailed accounts of Thomas telling her about pornography and his own sexual exploits on several occasions.

Thomas denied the accounts and called the hearing a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.” The Senate confirmed him to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 vote on Oct. 15 1991.

Hill currently is a law professor at Brandeis University. Thomas is now the most-senior associate justice sitting on the Supreme Court.

“I believe Anita Hill” became a slogan in the ’90s to represent support for Hill and other women who have experienced sexual harassment and assault. Sound familiar?

The Anita Hill Party began in response to the results of the hearing that the same year.

“The first gatherings were an informal expression of dismay and that evolved over time into a group that is non-partisan, interested in women’s rights, and eager to provide women with the ability to network with each other,” says Claudia Smith Brinson, one of the event’s organizers.

The event also acts as an opportunity to discuss civil rights in a group setting. Hill has attended the event in the past, but will not be at this year’s event.

Interest in the Hill-Thomas debate was renewed in 2018, during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Two women, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when he was a teenager.

Ford gave a harrowing account of a young Kavanaugh and his friend attempting to rape her at a high school party.

Sen. Lindsey Graham called the confirmation hearing an “unethical sham,” after listening to Ford’s testimony. Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate in a 50-48 vote.

Now in its 28th year, the Anita Hill Party is the longest running event to memorialize Hill. For 2019, the theme of the party will be “forward — not back.”

“We don’t want women to lose rights that they’ve gained,” Brinson explains about the theme. “We’re going to be talking about what we can do to retain the rights we have, and the basic answer there is ‘vote.'”

The celebration will begin at 5:30 p.m. and is free to attend. It will take place at 2030 Gregg Street, Columbia, S.C.

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