YC Radio Institute for Social Justice talks about women of color entering politics – Pandoras Box
Photo credit | Flickr via communications from the House Agriculture Committee
By Rajiv Rampersaud
YC Radio’s Institute for Social Justice hosted its first episode of the semester on March 18, featuring a chat with Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, celebrating Women’s History Month at York College.
The Social Justice Institute show was created in response to last year’s global protests against the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The purpose of the Institute for Social Justice is to give students and staff the opportunity to discuss important topics surrounding social change. This particular event in March was to discuss the rise of women of color in politics and the next steps to create opportunities and positive change for future women.
The guest speakers who attended this event were Stacey Plaskett, Karen Boykin-Towns, Damary Bonilla-Rodriguez and Alicia Smith.
Plaskett is a Democratic delegate to the US Virgin Islands, but was born in Brooklyn. At the event, she addressed the struggles for women of color to enter politics, saying there is an economic wall holding back women of color. Plaskett recalled a January 2021 row within the Democratic caucus that occurred because there were no black women in elected leadership positions, with a lack of funding to blame. She backed up this claim by pointing out that Vice President Kamala Harris had to drop out of the presidential race due to insufficient funding.
She concludes from her personal experience that women of color need to support each other to be successful together in the future. She presented the vice president as an example, recalling that Harris contacted her after the impeachment trial to praise her efforts to try to hold President Donald Trump accountable. On that call, Harris said, “Girl, you killed her on impeachment.” According to Plaskett, setting the tone for women of color who help each other more often is a big change she wants to see.
During the conference, Plaskett proposed two laws for 2021 that she would like to see passed to help women of color and the black community as a whole. The first is to make voting more accessible to minority populations. The second bill that will be proposed is the Economic Growth Bill, which aims to create wealth in the black community.
Plaskett gave the example of Bill IG to make a comparison. After World War II, the GI Bill allowed veterans to go to college, own a house, and take out small business loans. She said the economic growth bill could be similar and include an increase in Pell grants, a student loan cancellation, home ownership support and the creation of small businesses for the black community and women of color. may have power in America.
“It’s about fairness, not just equality,” Plaskett said.
Since Plaskett lost her first election when running for Congress, she has offered advice to women of color who may think a glass ceiling is holding them back in overcoming their obstacles.
“When nothing seems to help me, I’m going to watch a stonemason hammer his boulder maybe a hundred times without a crack appearing in it,” Plaskett said, citing nineteenth-century muckraker Jacob Riis. “Yet on the hundred first move it will split in two, and I know it wasn’t that move that did it, but everything that had happened before.”
When she lost the first time, she had her family to support her, helping her get back on the track to run again. Plaskett’s advice to women of color facing failure is to go ahead and create a support system so that if that fails, you can get up and try again.
“If you have something that you believe in and you are the best person to do it, you must not only find the inner strength, but you must also create a tribe that will support you.”
In the second segment, three women, Karen Boykin-Towns, Damary Bonilla-Rodriguez and Alicia Smith were introduced to the panel.
Smith is a former York University who received her BA in Social Work and MA from NYU. She is part of IGNITE, an organization that helps women of color run for office. Smith says his job has been easier since the summer protests when asked about social justice work.
“There are now a lot of women ready to take action looking for something to do and ways to influence change,” Smith said. “Women want to get involved to help their community.”
Smith noted that grants were given by IGNITE to women to join the boards of their communities’ police commissions and local government. This was an attempt to help control the way police services are conducted in their neighborhoods and to prevent unfair police activity.
Boykin-Towns, who was born and raised in Harlem, began a career working with then New York Governor David Paterson. She is currently Vice-Chair of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP. She is also chair of the NAACP Image Awards Committee.
Unlike Smith, Boykin-Towns said his job was easier and more difficult since the social justice protests of the summer. She blames the lockdown and the global pandemic of mental health tensions and reminds everyone to take care of themselves during this time.
“It’s not natural like we’ve been doing for over a year now so I would say it’s a double-edged sword,” Boykin-Towns said. “The work continues, you have to continue, you don’t have time but you have to take the time to take care of yourself to keep fighting. If we don’t have our health, we cannot achieve the accomplishments that we are so determined to make.
According to her, the NAACP plans to prioritize economic opportunities for black entrepreneurs, assist with vaccine distributions, remove police from schools, restore sanity and write off student debt. Part of the NAACP, she notes that hundreds of companies have made a public announcement about their commitment to donate money to Black Lives Matter and the black community.
Damary Bonilla-Rodriguez, born and raised in East Harlem, is the director of Leaders of Color in New York. She is the first Hispanic elected principal for the East Stroudsburg Area School District (ESASD) in Pennsylvania.
Bonilla-Rodriguez agreed that it is easier for women of color to take inspiration from the injustices that surface publicly. She said it’s also more difficult when people around you and coworkers are sexist and racist. As an example, she called for a change in unprofessionalism at a recent school board meeting. Unfortunately, her response was not well received and believes it was due to the fact that she was one of two people of color in the room. She believes that to achieve change, black and brown Americans need to sit in places of power.
“It’s difficult because the -isms have appeared,” Bonilla-Rodriguez said. “Now we realize that the people in your own circles, the people you consider to be friends and colleagues are racist and sexist, and have all of these underlying biases that you haven’t even realized. This therefore places us as leaders in a space where we must act. ”
The panel was asked a question about how the daily work of women bridges the equality gap between men and women of color. Karen Boykin-Towns responded that black men and women of color have to work together due to limited resources.
“It can’t be us versus us,” Boykin-Towns said. “Resource sharing is not about running contests.”
As a leader of the NAACP, she recognizes that the organization must collaborate with other organizations to move forward.
“Our job is to make sure we train our leaders and weed out those who are there for the wrong reasons.”
One of the efforts Karen was involved in was Wind of Black Women. In this project, several businesswomen got together and wrote two letters to Joe Biden asking for a woman of color to be elected vice president when he was chosen as the Democratic presidential candidate.
“It probably started in April of last year when it was known that Biden had kind of gotten the entire nomination and was pushing to make sure he had a black woman as his vice president,” Boykin said. Towns. “These are some of the most amazing women, many of the ones you see on TV, leaders in business, politics and entrepreneurs, who wrote her two letters to lobby for Kamala Harris.
Alicia Smith said she mobilized women of color to run for office, showed them how to get resources, ask for money, develop teams, PR and campaign to win, and encouraged women, which is his way of concluding. the hole. Smith recognizes that working with a member of the assembly in government has been beneficial.
“If you can get the opportunity to work for an elected official, it really helps,” said Smith, who currently works as a liaison for Congresswoman Jamie R. Williams in New York’s 59th District in Brooklyn. “Being a York College student, volunteering and working full time for a Coven member who challenged me was important for gaining experience. It [Assemblywoman Williams] laid the groundwork for me to be a consultant and help others run for office.