“90% of our stories are told by white men.”
This statistic was stated during the Can Stories Help Save Us? How to Use Our Words to Shape the World We Want on the main stage at The United State of Women Summit (USOW 2018) held in Los Angeles, CA May 5th and 6th. I was able to attend in my capacity as political director for Emerge America along with The BGG contributor Kristal Knight. Out of all the things I had heard during the day, hearing that our stories are told by others more than by ourselves at a whopping 90%, made me truly realize how important this blog is and the importance of having a recap of the Summit told from the perspective of women of color who experienced it through a different lens.
While most women summits/events/conferences are predominately white, I was extremely astounded at the way women of color were present throughout the conference from attendees, to vendors, to the speakers. Valerie Jarrett and Tina Chen, two former White House officials in the Barack Obama Administration, help lead the efforts for USOW, and Joi Chaney (a Black woman) helped manage the logistics of the event. Having women of color at the decision-making table for women’s events often ensures that the voices of women of color are amplified during the event.
While the summit was not focused on politics, it was full of dialogues, conversations, and discussions, showed that even when discussing mental health, sexual harassment, and gun reform, everything in our lives is political, especially when it relates to women of color.
Sarah Eagle Heart – Indigenous Leader
I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at a roundtable gathering the Democratic National Committee hosted for women’s organizations to meet influential Indigenous women leaders. At the meeting, Sarah and others discussed their new report Advance Native Political Leadership. For me, this report was educational as to not only how I could better influence and support Indigenous women professionally, but also personally and an underserved group of women. Sarah leads Native Americans in Philanthropy and they have a conference coming up that you can help spread the word about. You can also follow Indigenous Women Rising an organization co-founded by The BGG contributor Rachael Lorenzo.
Gun Reform and Women of Color
I highlighted my good friend Amber Goodwin in the blog post on the Black women in politics that made the Essence Woke 100 list for 2018. It was great to see Amber on stage talking about how the Black community is disproportionately impacted by gun violence, but to put a focus on how women of color are also heavily impacted by gun violence but are not centered in the conversation, especially when it comes to domestic violence situations. Amber is the only Black women leading a gun reform coalition, so her voice is a much needed one in a space where the majority of people talking about us and telling our stories don’t look like us.
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris
Whenever California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris is on a panel, knowledge will be dropped. Most people don’t know that Kamala started her career in politics running for district attorney in San Francisco before becoming attorney general in California. Criminal justice reform has been a key issue she has run on since day one, and she has not abandoned it since arriving in the U.S. Senate. As the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate, we are thankful for her voice and the work she does every day to raise awareness for issues that are important to women of color.
By "Trust," You Meant "Support," Right? The Importance of Investing in Black Women
I was already planning to go to the panel on investing in Black women, but when Glynda Carr from Higher Heights told me Angela Rye was going to be moderating the panel, I knew I had to arrive early to get a good seat. Along with Glynda, the panel featured two more of my favorite Black girls in politics, Compton, CA Mayor Aja Brown and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza. I honestly feel that this panel could be an entire post in itself. If I had to recap one of the most significant things said, it was when Mayor Brown talked about the need for us to be continuously active in politics. When we don’t, other people that are loud and vocal have an impact on the decisions being made, and those decisions may not be to our benefit. You can check out video of some of Mayor Brown’s remarks below.
Vice President of the Minneapolis City Council Andrea Jenkins and Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar
On The BGG Twitter account, we have lots of tweets dedicated to #BarrierBreakers, and that is what Councilwoman Jenkins and State Representative Omar are. Both women hail from Minnesota, where Councilwoman Jenkins is the first open Black woman LGBTQ woman elected to a city council and Representative Omar is the first Somalian-American elected to a state house. When I see these two women, they are a reminder of how far we really have to go to become a reflective democracy. It is 2018 and there are still councils, commissions, boards, and state houses that lack diversity. These two women are history makers and we hope that other Brown girls will follow in their footsteps so that they will be the first, and not the last.
If anyone had dry eyes after hearing from the young undocumented women who told their stories there is something clearly wrong with them. Most people associate DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) mainly with Latinx youth, but the reality is that there are undocumented youth in this country from African, Asian, Caribbean, and European countries. They are as American as you and me, and all they want is a good life in America.
If you are not familiar with DACA, visit http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/25/key-facts-about-unauthorized-immigrants-enrolled-in-daca/ to learn more and also find out where the members of your congressional delegation stand on the issue.
Young Women of Color Advocates
The kids are going to be alright. This is how I felt after listening to almost two dozen young women of color discuss how they are advocating for themselves and their fellow Brown girls by being involved in local community organizations. From education to sexual harassment, these girls are already walking in their power by using their voice at an early age to affect change. They are also a testament to what happens when we invest in our girls of color early and let them assume leadership roles instead of telling them to wait their turn. Frankly, the kids are going to be more than alright, they are going to save us all.
Tarana Burke – Founder of the #MeToo Movement
The minute her name popped up on the jumbo screen, every single woman in the audience stood up to give Tarana Burke the standing ovation that she deserved. As the founder of the #MeToo Movement Tarana has used her voice to amplify an issue that has been kept quiet from Hollywood to the halls of Congress. She tells people that she is what a survivor looks like, because survivors are allowed to be happy, powerful, and inspiring. During her remarks, Tarana went off script at the end and reminded every single woman about the importance of self-care. These are hard times that we are living in, and while we must be engaged in advocacy and politics, we must also take time for ourselves.
Tracee Ellis Ross and Michelle Obama
The main attraction of the Summit did not disappoint! Tracee Ellis Ross moderated a great panel with Former First Lady aka our forever First Lady Michelle Obama to close out the Summit. The discussion touched on everything from finding hope, mother-daughter relationships, men failing up (we are looking at you Donald Trump!), and of course, women running for office. Mrs. Obama made it clear that we can’t rely on others to be the ones to run for office and save us, we, as women, have to step up and do it ourselves and support the women that run. Mrs. Obama also mentioned that we are living in a time where it is hard for young girls to know their worth when those in leadership (we are looking at you Donald Trump!) make women question their worth and benefit to society. Mrs. Obama said she finds hope when she looked into the audience and saw the 5,000 women in attendance at the Summit. The BGG finds hope by knowing that there are women like Mrs. Obama out there encouraging our advocacy and using our voices to let our fellow women of color know that we see them and that we are here to support them on their journey.
You can find out more about the United State of Women at: https://www.theunitedstateofwomen.org/
Watch videos of the morning and afternoon sessions here: https://www.theunitedstateofwomen.org/stream-2018-summit/
You can also join their new initiative for women to take 1 million actions for gender equality before 2018 at https://www.theunitedstateofwomen.org/1millionactions/.
What is your action going to be? Let us know on Twitter and don’t forget to use the hashtag #TheBGG.
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