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How She The People Is Changing Politics

The crowd turned out in force to watch eight Democratic presidential hopefuls – Senator Cory Booker, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren – ask for their vote.

But it began with a preacher’s rousing call.

Reverend Leah Daughtry, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee and Pentecostal minister, opened the She the People Presidential Forum 2019 yesterday with a reminder that the issues that affect black women voters in the U.S. are everybody’s issues.

“We vote for ourselves, yes, but we also vote for our families, for our community, and for our nation. We carry this nation on our back and OUR VOTES MATTER,” she said, leading the crowd in a chant.

Then She the People founder Aimee Allison took the stage and made the business case.

“Remember,” she began, “we’re a powerful voting bloc. One of five voters in primaries are women of color, and we are 25 percent of the voters in key swing states: Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, [and] Arizona.”

She delivered the message early and often: The eight people who came here today can’t win the nomination without us.

But while the first-ever political forum designed to center the issues of women and families of color emphasized the political power of black and brown women, it also put the commitment to inclusion front and center.

Allison explained in her opening remarks that she’d founded the organization on four key principles. “To love our own and each other, to seek justice for all, to ensure that everyone belongs, and to make sure that this American democracy lives up to its greatest promise.”

It was that framing and those benchmarks that made the event so unlike anything that’s typically seen in political life.

Allison deserves a lot of credit for designing a movement that is able to shape the conversation in a new way.

It probably helped that it was not a DNC-sanctioned event and the organization raises funds and operates outside of traditional party circles. And they cast a wide net. “In California, a third of the registrants are Independent and they break toward more progressive,” Allison said on San Francisco Chronicle’s political podcast “It’s All Political.” “We’re making this a space where we can talk about the issues… opening it up past what the traditional lines of what is considered the Democratic Party in politics.”

While much of post-forum coverage is focused on who appeared to win the crowd, I found the more compelling story in simply watching the candidates attempt to field a relatively simple question: Why should women of color vote for you?

“Though it was cringe-inducing to watch many of these candidates stumble over what should have been an easy and essential question, their shared awkwardness underscored just how unprepared politicians often are to engage the specific needs and expectations of black and brown women,” notes Stacia L. Brown in The New Republic.

It became a three-hour teachable moment.

For one thing, conference organizers made sure that they filled the room with experts and stakeholders, many of them local to the region, whose energy from the seats helped fuel the conversation on stage. And they gave the microphone to people representing a variety of perspectives, whose questions were held as equally valid.

“Undocumented students, debt-saddled college graduates, Native women, black mothers concerned about disproportionately high maternal mortality rates, and queer women were all invited onstage,” says Brown. They posed questions about a broad range of issues, from sub-minimum wage for restaurant servers to abortion access, from criminal justice reform to immigration, and from low investigation rates for incidents of violence against Native women to the impact of redlining on generational black and brown homeownership.”

I’ll leave it to the true politicos to cover the horse race, though it is worth noting that Elizabeth Warren’s detailed plans seemed broadly appealing to an audience that is so often invisible to those seeking power.

But besides offering an object lesson in political inclusion, She The People also feels like the start of something equally important: A better way to hire a public servant.

On Point

Black Facebook users get “Zucked” on the platformIt’s not a compliment. According to this damning and detailed story from USA Today’s Jessica Guynn, black Facebook users are routinely censored or locked out of their accounts for discussing racism, their experiences, or their activism on the site. “Black activists say hate speech policies and content moderation systems formulated by a company built by and dominated by white men fail the very people Facebook claims it’s trying to protect,” says Guynn. Instead, legitimate threats and slurs are left unaddressed and harassment campaigns targeting black users are allowed to continue. It puts black people who can’t afford to be out of touch with family, friends, and their broader communities, including small business pages, in untenable positions. USA Today

Houston high school principal standing by her dress code for parents
Carlotta Outley Brown, the principal at James Madison High School in Houston, published a dress code for parents after one mother came to school wearing a head wrap and a too-short dress. A national outcry quickly followed, calling the regulations demeaning, even racist. But the award-winning teacher is standing by her code, which includes satin bonnets, shower caps, hair curlers, pajamas, very torn jeans, uncovered leggings, sagging pants, undershirts, low cut tops, short shorts, or dresses that don’t fully cover your netherregion. One parent told CBS News, “This is a failing school. You have other things to worry about than my attire.”
CBS News

Florida House will now require people with felony convictions to pay all fees before being able to vote
The controversial legislation, approved yesterday, will require all former felons to pay all fines and fees accumulated during their time in the criminal justice system before they can have their voting rights restored. Last November, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to repeal the state’s lifetime voting ban for people with felony convictions. Critics say this new measure amounts to a poll tax. “Today’s partisan vote in the House represented a failure to live up to the bipartisan commitment Florida voters showed with the passage of Amendment 4,” says one advocacy group.
Huffington Post

Harvard is hosting a two-day conference on the role of the arts in advancing citizenship, justice, and race
It starts today! Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study is hosting the event called Vision & Justice and has invited all your favorite people, including Jelani Cobb, Ava DuVernay, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Franklin Leonard, Wynton Marsalis, Bryan Stevenson, and Carrie Mae Weems. Watch the livestream here. Harvard Professor Sarah Lewis organized the event, which began a classroom inquiry into the role the arts play in racial justice and the quest for full citizenship. In 2016, she guest edited a free edition of Aperture Magazine called Vision & Justice, explored the role of photography in the black experience. Lewis frames the conversation as a democratic one. “Today, as we are awash with images through the scale of technology and live in an increasingly polarized climate in the United States—sociologists tell us that we come into close contact with those who do not share our political and religious views less and less—it is increasingly visual culture that shows us worlds unlike our own.”
Los Angeles Times

 

On Background

The National Institute of Justice has a diversity problem, which means so do we
This lengthy paper published last year makes an unusual business case for diversity in STEM: A lack of diversity among forensic scientists means a less effective criminal justice system. The NIJ goes into great detail about how they’re hoping to attract a diverse pool into the profession, including partnering with HBCUs and recruiting talent of color from professional groups like the Consortium of Social Science Associations, the National Society of Black Engineers, the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. They’re also looking to raise awareness of their Graduate Research Fellowship Program which supports innovative criminal justice-related research. Please share with anyone who might be interested.
National Institute of Justice

Cause of death: Hit by a rapidly lowering bar
In an essay that starts with a light touch, and becomes progressively less funny and more painful, writer Anna Kegler conducts an autopsy of a recent attempt to win a job by pitching an idea assigned by her interviewers. “I was asked to come prepared to pitch a piece of scientific research that could be packaged into a compact training for someone in a manager role,” she says, noting the homogeneity of the company itself. “So I … gulp… chose to talk about diversity research.” And it went downhill from there.
Huffington Post

How to survive the mango wars
Writing fiction is a case study in authentic expression. And what is more authentic than food? Novelist Soniah Kamal takes us on a delightful journey of stereotypes, exotic signaling, and cultural cues gone badly wrong. “You need to rethink food in your novel, an American editor once told me,” she begins. “Would my Pakistani-American family really be eating so much pizza?” Yes. Yes, they would.
Lithub

 

Quote

My dear Robert Adams: Thanks for the paper containing an account of the Fall [R]iver Aldermanic Reunion. I was glad to observe the part you were able to take in that pleasant occasion. I was also glad to see that your Brother Charles was also there. I am a good deal disturbed just now by the clamour raised for the disfranchisement of the colored voters of the South. The cry about negro supremacy is like the old cry you and I so often heard in the old time about the negroes going to cut their masters throats. Its all humbug – There is nothing in it. Kind regards to Mrs Adams and yourself in which Mrs Douglas joins me. Yours very truly, Fredk Douglass
—Letter to Robert Adams from Frederick Douglass, 1888