5 Reasons Why a Presidential Forum for Women of Color is Vital

by Arianna Genis, Deputy Communications Director

“[Women of color] is a solidarity definition, a commitment to work in collaboration with other oppressed women of color who have been “minoritized.”

— Loretta Ross, nationally recognized human and women’s rights leader

On April 24, re:power staff will represent at She The People’s historic Presidential Forum, focused exclusively on women of color.

We believe that women of color are crucial in our electoral process — and for the first time ever, a candidates’ forum will be dedicated to intersectional issues like climate change, police brutality and criminal justice, education, immigration, and more.

#SheThePeople2020 aligns with our vision of inclusive politics — a framework that makes space and creates structures for the leadership, needs, and victories of who we’ve identified to be the communities we lead with: primarily people of color, and specifically, women of color.

Women of color organizing and defying the status quo to gain political power is part of our nation’s history.

In 1971, women organized and sent a record number of women as delegates to the Democratic National Convention and won, for the the first-time ever, the creation of a women’s rights platform. It included pledges to eliminate discrimination against women in the workforce; promotion and higher wages; maternity benefits for working women and higher access for women to positions of power in all branches of government.

In 1977, more than 20,000 women took part in the National Women’s Conference in Houston. At the conference, a group of black women introduced the Black Women’s agenda in response to the lack of representation of the specific issues they faced. When they did, other women of color followed their lead and asked to be included in the agenda. The result was the creation of the political identity of women of color.

Photo via Tia Oso.

In 2015 (almost 40 years later) a group of Black women activists ( Patrisse Cullors, Angela Peoples, and Tia Oso, to name a few) from the Black Lives Matter Movement led an action directed at then presidential candidates at Netroots Nation, a national progressive conference. They demanded that candidates speak directly to issues impacting the black community like police brutality, anti-blackness and racial inequality. They spoke on the recent death of Sandra Bland at the hands of the police. This action forced the candidates to acknowledge the calls of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2016 and beyond.

The Freshman Class of 2018.

And three years later, the 2018 midterms ushered in the most diverse Congress in history. The women of color of this class of representatives are making waves and turning the political establishment on its head. Reps. Sharice Davids, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Deb Haaland, Ayanna Pressley, Veronica Escobar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are showing America what political hope can look like. Their governance is driven by organizing everyday people to demand their rights, to assert their vision, and to accept nothing less.

There are countless historical examples of women of color and indigenous women forcing their views, issues and leadership into mainstream politics and the political consciousness.

Jennicet Gutiérrez

There’s Jennicet Gutiérrez, an undocumented, Latinx immigrant trans woman, who challenged then President Obama at a White House PRIDE event, by repeating over and over again, “President Obama, release all L.G.B.T.Q. immigrants from detention and stop all deportations!” Jennicet raised her voice to shine light on the devastating ways L.G.B.T.Q. and transgender immigrants are treated in this country.

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard

There’s also LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a Lakota historian and activist, whose establishment of Sacred Stone Camp helped set the stage for Standing Rock. LaDonna was there when the very first tipis went up at Standing Rock — and when they came down. She did so to protect our planet and to fight for environmental justice and indigenous rights. I’ll stop there, but I encourage you to revisit the the progress we’ve made as a country towards becoming a more just society — chances are, you’ll find women of color showing up and showing out for change.

Each of these examples — of women of color organizing and defying the status quo— is what makes She The People’s Presidential Forum powerful. It’s another moment in history where women of color are creating their own platforms to be seen, heard and respected — all in the city where “women of color” became a community term in 1977.

As we prepare for the forum with more than 1,700 women of color from across the country attending, we’re thinking about this forum’s significance not only for women of color, but for the country.

Here are five reasons why you should pay attention to this forum:

“When the groups most affected by these issues insist on acknowledgment of their intrinsic difference, it should not be viewed as divisive. Embracing the distinct histories and identities of groups in a democracy enhances the complexity and capacity of the whole.” — Stacey Abrams

1. This forum is dedicated to the issues that matter the most to so many of us — intersectional issues like criminal justice reform, policing, immigration, climate change, equal pay, and more.

We know women of color are crucial when it comes to deciding who will be the Democratic nominee for president.

The majority of the 2020 Democratic field will be there including: Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), former Housing secretary Julián Castro (Tex.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), and former congressman Beto O’Rourke (Tex.).

Pay attention to what gets brought up because it will shift the national conversation.

“We are fighting for an unapologetic movement for economic, social, and racial justice in the United States.” — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex (D-NY)

2. The leadership of the newly elected women of color in Congress is supercharging the movement.

It’s time. It’s been time, but now more than ever women of color are demanding the structures of mainstream politics and institutions adapt to meet their needs. This forum provides a platform for presidential candidates to hear what women of color have to say and what we need to see in the leadership of this country. We’re the present, and the future — so let’s have the conversation.

“As the 2020 election gets underway, women of color within the Democratic Party want to make sure it “boldly lives up to its values,”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)

3. Women of color have been some of the most reliable Democratic constituencies for a long time. You want to win? Listen and earn their vote.

Thanks to organizers and groups on the ground, we’re finally seeing a larger recognition that women of color, particularly black women, are some of the Democratic Party’s most loyal supporters. The 2016 election exit polls showed that 94% of black women cast their vote for Hillary Clinton, as well as 69% of Latina voters. Women of color composed 19.3% of self-reported 2016 Democratic primary voters. In the 2018 midterms, nearly 88% of women of color voted Democratic compared with only 38% of white men.

The political power of women of color expands beyond the ballot box — undermining their influence comes at a huge cost.

“We have to build things that we want to see accomplished, in life and in our country, based on our own personal experiences … to make sure that others … do not have to suffer the same discrimination.” — Patsy Mink, first women of color elected to Congress, 1946

4. Women of color have a legacy of intersectional analysis — as Audre Lorde said: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

In the mainstream arena, we continually see the needs of communities of color narrowly defined — Latinx communities care about immigration, Black communities care about voting and criminal justice, and indigenous communities care about environmental issues. This list excludes many other communities of color, as well as all other people whose lives are tied to more than one of these communities, showcasing the issue of outright invisibility faced by so many.

If we are to seek amends and inclusion in our democracy, we have to start by identifying the barriers in the way — that ranges from laws and informal rules that undermine, diminish and isolate communities of color.

A presidential forum dedicated to women of color will force candidates and the larger public to adopt a more expansive framework. You’ll hear women of color talk about racial justice, jobs and wages, childcare, education, immigration, democracy reform, LGBTQ rights, reproductive justice, and countless other issues. Women of color’s experiences can uniquely position them to have a more expansive understanding of the solutions we need for the most pressing issues of our time.

“In electing so many women to Congress, Americans said no to the erosion of our democracy, and to the policies that hold us back by dividing us. We said yes to a government that actually reflects the beautiful diversity of our nation. We said yes to hearing from women, people of color, LBGTQ people, disabled people, and American Indian tribes.” — Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM)

5. When more people see themselves in politics, it inspires them to get involved at all levels.

At re:power, we’re dedicated to growing the capacity of leaders who are dedicated to building a future of inclusive politics, where decisions about our communities are made by our communities at all levels.

We want to see women of color, and others inspired by them — voting, managing campaigns, running for office, or imagining another role for themselves that doesn’t currently exist.

That’s why we’re training people on how to run effective campaigns, right before the forum. After the forum, join us for a Happy Hour, introduce yourself, and come make new friends!

History shows us that the inception of women of color as a political identity helps illustrate that women of color are not only a key voting bloc for the next Democratic nominee, but the face of change in this country.

“We are not born women of color. We become women of color. In order to become women of color, we would need to become fluent in each others’ histories, to resist and unlearn an impulse to claim first oppression, most-devastating oppression, one-of-a-kind oppression, defying comparison oppression. We would have to unlearn an impulse that allows mythologies about each other to replace knowing about one another. We would need to cultivate a way of knowing in which we direct our social, cultural, psychic, and spiritually marked attention on each other. We cannot afford to cease yearning for each others’ company.” ― M. Jacqui Alexander, Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred


Want to know more about what we’re up to in the world? Tweet at us at @repowerorg, and follow along as we come to a city near you! You can also find out more on repower.org

We believe in a future of inclusive politics where decisions about our communities are made by our communities at all levels.

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