Celebrating She the People’s Success: The First-Ever National Women of Color and Politics Summit
This week a dream of mine came true, and it wasn’t just my dream, it was the dream of all of our godmothers. On September 20, 2018, I launched the first-ever national summit of women of color in politics. The sold-out inaugural She the People Summit, held in the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco, drew nearly 600 attendees, mostly women of color, from 36 states.
Throughout that day I heard from young and old that, for most of us, it was the first time being in such a warm, loving, inclusive and powerful room. Our speakers spoke truth — and we met and embraced each other. I have been re-watching the brilliance from the stage and my heart is full anew.
Elected officials, activists, organizers, campaign professionals, journalists, and others from across the country came together to drive a new conversation that centers women of color as the most important voters, advocates, strategists, and leaders who are dedicated to creating a deeply inclusive and just society, one that centers on love, justice, belonging and democracy.
I heard from young and old that, for most of us, it was the first time being in such a warm, loving, inclusive and powerful room.
Together we heard from an all-star line-up of powerful speakers, and their videos are now online on Facebook including Rep. Barbara Lee; Rep. Pramila Jayapal; activists Linda Sarsour, Dolores Huerta and Alicia Garza, and candidates Deb Haaland and Rashida Tlaib, among many others. My personal favorite — 10-year-old Lyric from Sacramento, California sharing her words of inspiration and representing her generation.
Together, we pledged to turn the summit into a lasting movement for women of color in politics. We’re telling a new story to the nation — and I need your help to reach all corners of our country. To quote Rashida Tlaib, who is set to become one of the nation’s first Muslim congresswomen, in her speech yesterday, forget the Blue Wave. We are the ocean.
Love, Justice, Belonging and Democracy
The summit marked the She the People initiative’s start of a three-year campaign to highlight and organize women of color who are driving a new progressive political and cultural era.
Changemakers from across the movement fired up the crowd: from Our Revolution’s Nina Turner to the Women’s March founder Linda Sarsour and National Domestic Workers Alliance founder Ai-Jen Poo; from Representative Barbara Lee and Representative Pramila Jayapal to candidates like Deb Haaland and Rashida Tlaib, to local elected officials like Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo and Crisanta Duran.
As I told the crowd: Women of color are ushering in a new era of politics. This won’t just be the year of women, it will be the year of women of color. Democrats can’t win without us — and that’s why we are launching She the People as a national campaign to build the power of women of color and to lift up the incredible work women of color in politics are already doing to usher in a new progressive political and cultural era.
Linda Sarsour called on women to continue fighting for justice in her speech: “If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of color because we know where justice is. We are closest to the pain, which makes us closest to the solutions. We are the boldest and the bravest in this movement. Just know, that women of color, you are enough and this country needs all of you right now. We are the majority, we’re organizing and winning races across this country.”
“The energy today was electric. It is rare to see such a large, diverse group of women come together to uplift each other, but we need more of it if we want to win,” said Rashida Tlaib, candidate for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. “We are fighting to ensure women of color have a seat at the table.”
This is the year
Although this gathering has been a dream of mine for years, the timing of when it came to fruition couldn’t have been better. This year marked a year of unprecedented wins for women of color running for office. This year also set records for the number of women of color nominated in House races. More than a third of all nominees for House heading into the general election are women of color.
In swing states such as Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Arizona, women of color are forging a new democratic majority and are in a position to turn those states blue and help win elections up and down the ballot this year.
A new movement
A movement has begun. Change will happen as a result of this summit and initiative. We will make this country stop taking women of color for granted as leaders and voters. Black women are among the demographic groups with the highest rates of turnout at the polls. And while women of color make up 20 percent of the U.S. population, we account for only 4 percent of all elected offices, and about 7 percent of members of Congress.
We also need to keep pushing the Democratic Party to do better by women of color, because too many, if not most, do not understand that we are the base and the most loyal Democrats. “Not all Democrats are created equal,” as California Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo put it yesterday.