EMILY’s List, Politicians Push for More Women of Color in Office

by: Micha Green Special to the AFRO
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While some viewed the election of Donald Trump as a setback for progressive women in politics, recently an EMILY’s List conference proved it was not a defeat.

EMILY’s List, an organization that seeks to get pro-choice Democratic women in office, brought about 300 leaders from around the country to Washington, D.C. for its “We Are Emily 2017” conference and gala on May 3. The women discussed methods to progress their agenda in a post-Trump era and participated in specialized trainings to prep them in areas such as running a campaign, managing finances, creating a donor network, and learning the difference between earned and paid media.

Virginia State Sen. Jennifer McClellan encourages women to not worry about building a family before going into politics. (Courtesy Photo)

This year’s theme had a very clear message to all women – “Resist. Run. Win.”

“Women are motivated. They are leading the resistance across the country… Women are angry and they want to make sure their voices are heard,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. “We have very specific programs and outreach and great partnerships…to reach out to communities of color of all backgrounds to find those brave women who are ready to step up and run, and I really have seen increased numbers of women of color jumping into races…and I’m expecting to see more and more.”

During the conference and gala, many speakers acknowledged their disappointment in the 2016 presidential election, particularly considering Trump’s controversial comments about women and sexual assault . Yet, speakers empowered attendees by offering a game-plan to get more women in office.

“When we look at Black Lives Matter, when we look at public education movements, when we look at reproductive justice, when we look at airport workers who are forming a labor union or nurses who are forming a labor union in our city, I’m seeing leadership, and Black women leadership,” Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym, who won the organization’s Gabrielle Gifford Rising Star Award, told the AFRO. “So, what I want to make sure is we’re helping those movements thrive, grow, be supported, and be deeply connected to the politics.”

Resisting is the first step in achieving the goal of getting more women in political positions, according to EMILY’s List representatives. Resistance includes efforts like the Women’s March earlier this year, when women all around the world marched in solidarity against the election and agendas of President Trump. “The women’s march released the activism in America,” said former speaker of the U.S. House, Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) at the gala.

But, speakers emphasized that resisting is just the first step in getting progressive women at the political table. “To every woman who marched, I will say you have marched, now you must run,” Pelosi added.

One of the major efforts of EMILY’s List is to give women the tools to learn how to run for office, and many of the successful female politicians at the conference and gala attributed their success to the support of the organization.

With its initiative “Run to Win,” EMILY’s List is pushing for women to run for office more than ever, according to Ellen Malcolm, founder and chair of EMILY’s List. “Taking the resistance and showing women how to run is the future of our democracy, and I couldn’t be prouder,” she said.

Politicians at the conference and gala emphasized the importance of running despite doubts and fears. “Instead of waiting for the perfect moment to run, I urge women to run now,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

Virginia State Sen. Jennifer McClellan encouraged women to not worry about building a family before going into politics, and shared a personal anecdote about getting married and having children after being elected. “My first date with my now husband was at a fundraiser for me,” she said. McClellan’s choice to go into politics before having children made her the first pregnant Virginia delegate to participate in a legislative session.

The first Black woman mayor of Flagstaff, Ariz., Coral Evans, was a single mother and fought breast cancer before claiming her current title and she had a lot of naysayers, including her predecessor. “I was told by my predecessor that I didn’t know my place…As a Black person, as a female, as someone who came from the projects, like, ‘Why don’t I know my place?’ and quite frankly that is what made up my mind to run for mayor of the city,” Evans told attendees.

Since her mayoral run and win, Evans said she has made it her mission to show that, “anyone who is female of color, understands exactly where their place is. I think that’s in the mayor’s office.”

According to Muthoni Wambu Kraal, vice president of national outreach and training at EMILY’s List, more than 12,000 women reached out to the organization with interest in running for office after Trump won.

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