Shirley Chisholm had guts.
This is how Chisholm herself, the first black woman elected to Congress, wanted to be remembered, she told filmmaker Shola Lynch during the making of the 2004 documentary Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed. “I’d like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts,” she said.
And she did.
In 1968, the groundbreaking political figure won an unlikely contest against the better known James Farmer for New York’s 12th Congressional District.
Chisholm was black, a woman, and the daughter of immigrants, all of which made her a suspect in the eyes of establishment politics. But she lived in the district, a largely black and Puerto Rican community in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Chisholm deftly framed Farmer, who was black and ran as a Republican, as an outsider because he hailed from Manhattan and worked in national civil rights politics.
Then she went to work.
She ran a gutsy campaign by the standards of any era. The former teacher spoke Spanish at key campaign stops, a language she’d learned teaching Puerto Rican kids, and rode the streets on a truck while campaigning through a bullhorn. “This is Fighting Shirley Chisholm,” she would say by way of introduction.
And once in Congress, she delivered for seven consecutive terms. Career highlights include co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus and supporting Title IX, which ended discrimination against women in federally funded education and sports programs.
In 1972, she went on to become the first black woman to run for president with a major party.
While she didn’t win her bid, she stayed gutsy. In a controversial move, she visited one of her rivals, the Southern white supremacist candidate George Wallace in the hospital, after he was shot while campaigning during the primary. “Black people in my community crucified me,” she told The New York Times.
The two talked about the optics while he lay in bed. “[Wallace] said to me: ‘What are your people going to say?’ I said: ‘I know what they’re going to say. But I wouldn’t want what happened to you to happen to anyone.’ He cried and cried and cried.”
So in 1974, when Chisholm needed the help of Southern members of Congress to support legislation that extended the minimum wage to domestic workers, it was Wallace who helped her push it through. “I contacted George Wallace,” she said. “Many of the Southerners did not want to make the vote. They came around.”
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of her historic win, a year that has seen a long overdue wave of women becoming lawmakers, many of them first-time candidates and groundbreaking in other important ways.
Somehow, then, it feels good and right that yesterday, Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman ever elected to Congress from Massachusetts, inherited Chisholm’s old office.
Pressley has described Chisholm as a “shero” of hers.
Pressley’s victory over a ten-term Democratic incumbent was similarly surprising, and her opening remarks to her new constituents were similarly Chisholmesque. “People who feel seen and heard for the first time in their lives, a stakehold in democracy and a promise for our future,” she said. “That is the real victory.”
But the even better part of the story is this: The office had originally been claimed by Congresswoman-elect Katie Hill of California.
Hill, who ran a gutsy campaign of her own – taking no corporate money and rising to power the new-fashioned way by talking directly with voters – is a former executive director of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), a statewide non-profit organization working to end homelessness. She was in a position to understand the poignancy of the moment.
“We just learned my Congressional Office designation will be #ShirleyChisholm‘s former office,” tweeted Pressley. “How’s that for divine intervention AND the selflessness of my colleague @KatieHill4CA who drew a better lottery# but still wanted me to have it.”
It’s an ally move that Chisholm herself would have appreciated.
“To black and white Americans, although I’m making history this evening, I love to believe that my victory tonight is a symbol of hope for many of us who never dreamt or never believed that we would have had the opportunity to move out [into politics],” Chisholm said when she won in 1968.
Fifty years later, a new class of women lawmakers are preparing to work together to bring those dreams to life.
|The promise of a connected world is closer, thanks to Africa|
|According to data from the International Telecommunication Union, an agency of the United Nations, some 51% of the world will gain access to the Internet by the start of 2019. Much of that progress comes from Africa, which has seen explosive growth in the last decade or so, from just 2.1% in 2005, to over 24% in 2018. It’s real access, too: 90% of those 3.9 billion souls can access the internet through a 3G or higher speed network and 96% of the global population now live within a range of a mobile network. Affordability still remains an issue in Africa. But still.|
|Behold, Eve Ewing in conversation with Trevor Noah|
|The writer, scholar, educator, poet, and artist Eve L. Ewing was a guest on The Daily Show last night to share the findings of her most recent book, Ghosts in the Schoolyard. It tackles some of the issues behind racial inequity in education, using a series of school closings in the South Side of Chicago as her focal point. “The problem is that in America, we have two different sets of standards of education we offer,” she begins, one for the affluent, the other for the often urban poor. That quickly breaks down by race. But, she points out, school closings that happened in 2013 had their roots far earlier, in redlining, Jim Crow and yes, chattel slavery. “In order for us to understand the way schools operate now, we have to understand that history.” No, not technically good news, but it’s excellence on display on a vital topic in front of a mainstream audience, so I’m counting it.|
|Ten short films by Latino directors you must see|
|The Remezcla staff felt this list of short films was necessary because U.S. based Latino directors are working at a distinct disadvantage: Directors working in Latin America often have the benefit of government funding for their film projects. “The glaring differences are evidenced in the vast disparity between the amount of Latin American movies circling the globe at Class-A festivals compared to Latino ones,” the write. The winners were selected from suggestions offered by film experts; so many Latino filmmakers working today are second-generation kids of working-class immigrants, they say, it makes supporting their work even more vital. “Then, we’ll see actual change in the representation of Latinos—both in front of the camera and behind it.” Enjoy.|
|How adoption has changed parenting and families|
|“My name is Michael James Matt,” came the email out of the blue to reporter Lisa Belkin. “Nineteen years ago you wrote an article about me and my adoption. I would love to talk to you sometime about that article and how things have played out in the long run.” So begins this extraordinary story about one of the earliest “open adoptions”, which occurred at a time when pregnant women were first testing the edges of control over aspects of the entire process, including selecting the parents and staying in touch. “Broadly speaking, the generation growing up right now has a different definition of family than any generation ever has,” says one adoption expert. But, as Michael’s story will attest, it’s beautiful but…complicated.|
The Woke Leader
|There are no major U.S. airports named for women|
|There have been plenty of women who broke new ground in aviation, though sadly, Amelia Earhart – who we just can’t seem to quit – hasn’t even earned an airport. The closest we get is an add-on: The Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Ark. (There are a couple of municipal airports and some terminals, that’s it.) But folks in the Bay Area are hoping to remedy this. Maggie Gee, an Oakland native, was a former Women’s Airforce Service Pilot (WASP), and one of two Chinese-American women to serve in the elite WWII force. Gee served as a tow target pilot for flexible gunnery training for male cadets until the WASPs were deactivated in 1944, and went on to become a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. If you’d like to see the Oakland International Airport named for her, click below.|
|Superman is an immigrant|
|Obed Manuel, a Report for America corps member and staff writer with the Dallas Morning News, weighs in with a poignant take on how Superman is actually an immigrant. “He is hopeful and believes in the United States,” he writes. “Superman believes that as long as he does his job, things are bound to get better.” Which is why Manuel thinks the next man of steel should be un hombre de acero. He’s already like a modern immigrant, a refugee, sent here alone by his parents who became an undocumented worker. But, “I’m talking about a Superman raised by Mexican immigrants,” a dream which would now possible via an alternate storyline and the departure of white actor Henry Cavill from the DC universe. If Superman were raised on a border town, he’d know some things about America. “Hardship is his reality but, again, he stays the course and does his best to protect humanity from evil.”|
|Making a different case for diversity in tech|
|Todd L. Pittinsky, a professor of technology and society at Stony Brook University and a senior lecturer at Harvard, points to an affirmative case for diversity that moves past typical “business case for…” language. For starters, diversity makes people feel good. “Put simply, the negative emotions that tend to go along with bias — fear, anger, contempt, and the like — are damaging,” he says. Diversity done right, which can elicit feelings of admiration, comfort and kinship, not to mention a sense of novelty and adventure, can drive innovation. “Replace those [negative] feelings with positive emotions and we all will benefit,” he says.|