JUSTICE IS #GIRLPOLITICS: SO WHAT IF THE GUYS (STILL) WANT TO TELL US WHAT TO DO; WE’RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION.
Yesterday morning, my friend and former student, Sol Flores, a second-generation Chicagoan by way of Puerto Rico, jumped in to the Democratic primary race to replace Luis Gutierrez in the U.S. Congress. The previous day Gutierrez had suggested this race ought to go down differently. At his press conference announcing his retirement, he stood by his friend and erstwhile ally, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, (a first-generation Chicagoan by way of Mexico), and anointed Chuy as his successor. After all, Luis pointed-out, thirty-five years ago Chuy and I came up together in the campaign to elect Harold Washington, Chicago’s first progressive (and African-American) mayor. What better credentials could a progressive Congressional candidate have than those, Luis suggested.
No one takes a back seat to me in loyalty to Harold Washington and the justice he championed for all Chicagoans. I was proud to co-chair Women for Washington in 1982, (the Washington mayoral campaign that really mattered); I was proud to be the sole woman member of his finance committee when his race was nascent on the streets of the south side (for those counting, that would be November 1982, not four years later when a bunch of paid guy-operatives came in and ran his re-election campaign and worked to tell the rest of us what to do). Nope: loyal, loyal, loyal — from glorious beginning to sad end — thousands of women, black, brown, white, and Asian progressives− were instrumental in electing Harold Washington. We held the first big rally for him; we championed (I wrote) the pro-choice platform he ran on; indeed, we stood beside our brothers who shared Harold’s vision of justice for all, including Chuy and Luis.
So, why aren’t some among us standing by them now? Because times have changed. We no longer stand by our men, waiting for them to tell us how we can help. Today, we are the bosses our own selves. Today, we are the candidate deciders our own selves. Today, we are the power brokers and deal makers making sure women get what they need, no longer waiting on men to make deals that might benefit us or, then again, might not.
Harold Washington made history choosing women for high political and governmental office. He opened the doors to those rooms for many of us.Today, as he would expect we would; indeed, he would expect no less, we are walking through those doors, sitting down at the decision making tables inside those rooms, and advancing our sisters coming up behind us, so they don’t have to wait (likely decades, when it comes to Congressional seats) to be the women deciders our nation so desperately needs. (Think #MeToo, if you need a reason.)
I don’t know whether Luis and Chuy really believed− when they planned their Tuesday press strategy− that the rest of us would just lay down and take it. If they did, they were badly mistaken. Apparently, some other guys besides Chuy might file petitions and run. And, Sol Flores is now all-in.
That happened because a group of women got together after that misplayed press conference and said to each other: we are the masters of our fate. We have had close to two centuries of men purporting to represent us in Congress while, in every elevator it seems, men are waiting to harass us. Enough already.
Chuy Garcia is a good guy. If elected, he will serve Chicago well. But, it’s our turn now. So, overnight, Sol’s girlfriends launched her campaign. Early the morning after the Luis-Chuy press conference, I had a volunteer sign-up sheet to distribute. By noon, many of Sol’s sister students in my University of Chicago class on women in leadership had signed up to work for her. By 2pm, Sol’s campaign was in the national news and all over Facebook and other social media. Watch out world!
Now we will rise, paraphrasing Maya Angelou. We will rise on our own; no more waiting in line or seeking permission. So what, if some guy says on behalf of some other guy: it’s still our (guys’) turn. To paraphrase Sojourner Truth: It ain’t (and ain’t I a woman).
Sol’s campaign women’s army is a rainbow coalition of women from all over Chicago. I have no doubt the women who will vote for her will compose another beautiful rainbow. And Chicago will be the better for it.
Sisterhood is powerful; sisterhood is everywhere; sisterhood is asserting women’s power to get things done that matter to women. Sisterhood begets justice. Thank you, Sol’s women’s army.