Year 1: Growth and Development

Today marks one year since the launch of Capitol Heel and we would like to thank all of our loyal readers and subscribers for all of your support.

This year has been all about helping women grow and develop within the political arena. According to Bo Bennet, “those who improve with age, embrace the power of personal growth and personal achievement and begin to replace youth with wisdom, innocence with understanding, and lack of purpose with self-actualization.”

With each passing year, reflect on your personal goals. If you notice that you are off track, devise a plan, refocus, and execute. In some cases, you might determine that you need to change jobs or leave a certain city to achieve your short or long-term goals and that is perfectly fine but don’t wait six more months before you begin to plan for that job switch or that move.

Every year should teach you something new about you! Take a moment to reflect on these lessons and dedicate some time to becoming the best version of you because when you do, you will see the benefits in your career. Most importantly, as you reflect on those lessons or challenges make a plan to overcome those challenges in the future. Being able to navigate challenges is a valuable skill.

And while reflection is important, executing your next steps will determine how successful your reflection will be the following year. With that being said don’t be afraid to take that new job, move to that new city, mend that office relationship. Remember, “everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it” – Andy Rooney. Work hard and never get too comfortable because “if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) and “all progress takes place outside of your comfort zone” – unknown.

So, as we embark upon year two it is our hope that you experience an abundance of growth, development, and ultimately, success in your life, relationships, and career!

Happy 1 Year Capitol Heel!

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Mentors Matter!

Colleges tend to put a lot of emphasis on finding the right internship, and while this is important, finding the right mentor is equally as important.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a mentor is an experience and trusted advisor. Having someone that you trust and that you know has been where you are trying to go is a valuable asset. If you use this relationship well you might find it to be one of the most rewarding relationships.

Now, there is nothing wrong with having a man for a mentor. Trust me, I have a few. BUT, you need to have a female mentor as well!

Having a female mentor gives you the opportunity to ask women specific questions. It will also allow you to hear about some of the challenges that are specific to being a woman in politics. Knowing these challenges ahead of time, gives you the opportunity to determine how you want to react, or even better, how you should react. AND, I suggest running your instincts by your mentor so that she can flag any negative reactions they might receive.

A female mentor can also talk to you about how important your reputation is and can detail some scenarios that can jeopardize your reputation. These conversations, in my opinion, are better to have with a female mentor since there are things that can hurt a woman’s reputation, and potentially get her fired, that may or may not do nearly that much damage to a male counterpart.

Not specific to having a female mentor, but also important, you need someone to hold you accountable to your goals whenever you get scared. For example, I think about all of the consequences of having a “high profile” job within the political arena, and if you do too, there will come a time when you are overwhelmed by the unknown and want to give up. This is usually when I call my mentor, tell him or her how I am feeling, and they help me snap out of it. Having someone to defuse the situation is crucial not only to keeping you focused, but also to your sanity! Anxiety attacks are not fun!

One of the most important reasons for having a mentor, in my opinion, is that you need someone to help guide you towards your goals. If you are anything like me, you have written down your “end goal” but if you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s okay. However, when starting your career it is important that have a general idea of where you want to be in three years. Knowing where you want to be will help your mentor provide you with sound advice on which internships and or jobs will get you to that point. Additionally, knowing which opportunities to take will keep you moving towards your goal and decrease the amount of time you spend exploring offers that get you nothing other than an extra $1000 a month. Not saying that money isn’t important just saying it won’t always get you closer to your goal.

Ultimately, your mentor should be someone in your field, holding your dream job (or did at someone point), and, most importantly, should be someone that you admire and respect. The sooner you find your unicorn, you will be on your way to leaving your mark in politics.

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Five Reasons Why Your Graduation Money Probably Won’t Make It To The Bank

It is graduation season and so many of our graduates are getting hundreds and thousands of dollars for completing what seems to have been the hardest years of their lives. Gosh if they only knew that this was just the beginning! Either way, people travel from far and near to celebrate this accomplishment and when they do, they usually come bearing gifts. When graduating from undergrad, students usually receive anywhere between $500 and $1500 but this amount could vary depending on their network. Now, while receiving money is a good thing, many graduates never make it to the bank with their money and here is why:

1. It is time to turn-up!

For most graduates, undergrad was filled with ups and downs, with the downs usually out-weighing the ups. So, graduates feel like they are entitled to a post-graduation turn-up to celebrate getting through such “hard” times. Thus, they party. Some for one night, others for two nights, and if it was really a struggle, they might end up partying every weekend for a month. And graduates don’t just go to the club! Those days are over. These days graduates are buying sections, bottles that come with sparklers, and some even rent out entire venues. But no matter how they decide to turn up, they usually pay very little attention to the cost. After all, the experience was worth the money.

2. Hit ’em with the flex!

While this might seem somewhat similar to the first reason, there is a significant difference. According to the Urban Dictionary, to flex means to put on a fake front, to fake it, or force it. Graduates love to flex. They go out and buy gucci flip flops, red bottoms, Versace, and every other article of clothing and jewelry being promoted by Drake and Future. However, the reality is, they can’t afford it. I mean honestly, I still can’t afford these things and I’ve finally moved away from hourly pay. Nonetheless, these graduates buy all of these things, just to take pictures and post on Instagram, but a month later they end up doing the #BowWowChallenge trying to keep up that image. Seriously, it’s like tax season all over again.

3. Spending before you get it.

One thing that is very common, but not just for graduates, is this idea of spending your money before you get it. A lot of people make a list of things they want to buy or plan how they will spend a specific amount of money before they actually have that money in hand. As graduation approaches, a lot of students have started to think about things they want to buy and the list continues to grow until they receive that money. The problem is that sometimes they have subconsciously spent ALL of the money and it may not occur to them that there may or may not be more money coming to replace the money they spend. So, they go out, spend the money on their list of things, and then once the money is gone, they have to pray or hope that someone will send a late card with an extra $100.

4. Out-standing debt.

Education is not cheap and young people are taught that getting a college education will put them in a position to make decent money. Now, while this is generally true, most students leave college with debt they can’t afford to pay right away or debt that will take them ten plus years to pay off even if they pay it consistently. However, if they are lucky and don’t have loans, they could potentially owe the school.

In this situation, the school might allow them to participate in the graduation ceremony but they won’t receive their diploma until they pay that outstanding balance. Not receiving that diploma can make a student feel as though they did not really graduate; therefore, some students will decide to use their graduation money to pay that balance. Not many can argue with anyone spending their graduation money this way.

Additionally, there are students who get credit cards to help soften the burden of getting through college and may still owe on those credit cards. Some might use their graduation money to pay off a credit card or to simply bring their balance to good standing.

Either way, it is common for a graduate to use a portion of their graduation money to pay off some form of debt.

5. Lack of financial literacy.

This is probably the most common reason why a graduates money never makes it to the bank and it can turn out to be very detrimental to a young persons future.

So many young people have not been taught the value of money, how to save, or how to budget. A lot of graduates leave college and do not have a clear sense of how important a credit score is to their future. Some do not understand how interest works and how you can literally pay for a car twice before you actually own it. Additionally, not many know about the stock market and how to invest their money. All of these things are essential to ensuring they are not making financial mistakes.

So, what can graduates do to ensure they break the cycle? I’m glad you asked! Here are a few tools that can be used going forward.

1. Mobile Banking Apps and Banking Registries

Since so many of us are constantly on our phones, there is no reason why you should not have your banks mobile app on your phone. Use it! Check your account as often as you deem necessary so that you are aware of the money that is coming in and money that is going out.

Use a bank registry! Yes the paper thing, that looks like a spreadsheet, which is usually given to you when you open a new account. Record ALL of your spending and check it against what your bank displays on the mobile app. Doing this can help you catch transactions that look “fishy”.

2. Learn how to budget.

One budgeting tool that you might find useful is Mint Budgeting. Mint can help you build your budget and will hold you accountable. With Mint you can link your bank account to your budget and Mint will send you updates on how close your are to each cap you have put in place. For example, if you tell Mint that you will spend no more than $100/month on groceries, it will analyze where your spending and then notify you as you get closer to hitting that $100 grocery limit.

3. Explore ways to invest.

Whether you invest in a mutual fund, an IRA, or just a standard 401K, it is important that you start investing young. The earlier you invest, the better your chances are for a comfortable retirement.

Among the many places that you can use to explore your investment options, I would encourage you to reach out to my Soror Chelsea Phillips of Phillips and Associates. She can definitely guide you in the right direction!

To request Miss Phillips’ contact information, please use the contact page and include your investment interests.

4. Get your debt under control!

This is a must and I’m sorry to inform you that there is no magic trick you can perform. You simply must pay off your debt! For the purpose of my advice, I am referring to debt outside of your student loans.

You can start combating your debt by exploring your credit report, locating small amounts of money that owe, and paying them. Setup a payment plan, something you can manage, and stick to it until you have paid off that specific debt. Once that debt is paid, move on to the next. If you can pay on more than one debt at a time, do it! You won’t regret it because as things fall off of your credit report, your credit will improve and whether you like it or not, having good credit is important.

5. SAVE!!

Saving can be hard but when you save, you position yourself to be able to handle incidentals. The first step to ensuring the success of a saving commitment is being honest with yourself about why you do not save.

For example, I know that if I see the money, it is very likely that I will spend that money. My Grammy would say, “that money is just burning a hole in your pocket, huh?” At first I did not know what that meant but as I have matured, I began to understand it as whenever I knew I had money, I always got the urge to spend it. Most days I know that God is on my side because I will walk into the mall ready to spend and will not find a single thing I like. But even still, I had to be real with myself and say if you see the money hit your account, you will spend it!

As a result, I decided that I would split my direct deposit. I opened another account at an institution that would require me to physically go to the bank to get the money out. If I am being completely honest, I live in DC but I opened an account at Redstone in Huntsville, AL – which meant I would literally have to drive 10 plus hours to get my money. Yes, I am that bad. Additionally,I did not get a bank card because I wanted to minimize the chances of me getting desperate, and accepting a $4 ATM fee, just to get the money. Ultimately, I did my direct deposit paperwork to ensure that the desired amount would go directly to that savings account and not to the account that I access at least 20 times a week.

Now, this has worked for me and if you are anything like me, I suggest you do something similar. However, if your spending habit is not as bad as mine, you are probably better off. BUT, whatever is keeping you from saving, you have to be honest with yourself about it and work to find a solution that works for you.

There are several tools that can help you get started and one tool that you might want to explore is the Dave Ramsey Program.

This article was written at the request of a recent graduate but I hope that other young women can find this useful.

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Woman Crush Wednesday: Tyler Brown

Tyler Brown is probably somewhere screaming internally, doing ten praise laps, rolling on the ground, and ugly crying as she completes her final day of classes at Oakwood University, where she has been studying Public Relations and Political Science over the past four years.

Brown is an amazing young woman and is the epitome of classy, sassy and politically-savvy. Over the course of her college career, Tyler has been an intern at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and for Congressman Elijah Cummings (MD-07). In addition to all of her political work, she has continued to be a leader on campus. Currently, she is wrapping up her term as the Senior Class Vice President.

Post graduation, Tyler will spend four weeks studying abroad in Beijing China. Upon her return, she will be attending American University in Washington, D.C., where she has been accepted to both the public policy and public administration programs.

Ultimately, Tyler hopes to work as a human capital consultant, assisting government agencies and leaders through crisis.

It has been a pleasure having Tyler Brown as a mentee and Capitol Heel wants to congratulate her on all of her accomplishments!

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Complicated Taxes, Virginia Democracy Summit, and Millennial Candidates

Jessica Washington is back in the studio to talk to Francoise about why our tax forms are so darn complicated. Plus: tax marches across the country, citizen funded elections in Howard County, Maryland, working with activists in Virginia, and Millenials running for office.

Links from this episode:

http://www.npr.org/2017/03/29/521954033/stanford-professor-loses-political-battle-to-simplify-tax-filing-process

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2016/12/06/jewell-jones-makes-history-michigan-youngest-state-representative/95064768/

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Interested in Resistance Opportunities?

Here are two ways you can get involved in the following weeks:

1) The Resistance School: a free four session practical training program to sharpen the tools needed to fight back at the federal, state, and local levels.Their goal is to keep the embers of resistance alive through concrete learning, community engagement, and forward-looking action. Find more information and sign up here.

2) The Tax March: a march to remind President Trump to release his tax returns. They believe that without his returns, Americans are in the dark about Trump’s conflicts of interest, his foreign entanglements, and whether he even pays any taxes at all. The march will take place SATURDAY, APRIL 15, 2017. More information can be found here.

If you know of any interesting opportunities coming up, feel free to use the contact page and let us know!

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SCOTUS, New Mexico, and Homeless Donors in Seattle

Jessica is still thawing out from her below-freezing morning at a Supreme Court rally when she and Laura sit down to talk about the many groups that don’t want to see Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and why. Then there’s TWO good news stories this week! The first is in New Mexico, where bipartisan majorities have passed an update to the state’s public financing system. The second is in Seattle, where democracy vouchers are lowering the barriers for homeless people to participate in local politics.

Links from this episode:

See Jessica at the Supreme Court: https://www.facebook.com/everyvoice.org/posts/1336817163030749

Three reasons to stop Neil Gorsuch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSo0tBWqI0Q

Our letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee: http://everyvoice.org/press-release/120-groups-ask-will-gorsuch-defend-rights-everyday-people-heard-big-donors

Demos report: http://www.demos.org/publication/court-cash-2016-election-money-resulting-directly-supreme-court-rulings

Good news in New Mexico: http://krwg.org/post/campaign-disclosure-public-financing-fixes-go-governor

Democracy vouchers in Seattle: http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/jon-grant-says-hes-signing-seattles-homeless-up-for-democracy-vouchers/

Read more here.

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#WeObject

In case you missed it, several resisters planted themselves in front of the United States Supreme Court yesterday morning. Among the groups represented were End Citizens United, Every Voice, NARAL, MoveOn.org, and SEIU – delivering more that 1 MILLION signatures in opposition to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Grosuch. They even had a special appearance from our girl, Senator Elizabeth Warren!

According to The People’s Defense, Judge Grosuch has a record of siding with powerful interests over everyday people. Some might even say that he thinks a big donor’s right to influence our elections deserves a higher level of constitutional protection than our right to vote.

If you are interested in getting involved in the resistance surrounding Judge Gorsuch’s nomination please visit the official website of The People’s Defense or the Every Voice Supreme Court website.

Happy Resisting

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Who Runs the World? Girls!

After the Women’s March, Claire Landsbaum wrote an article that talked about how there has been a drastic uptick in the number of women applying to candidate pipeline groups, as a way to prepare themselves to run for office. According to Landsbaum, EMILY’s List had more than 4,000 people reach out and say that they were interested in running for office.

Candidate pipelines, in general, have historically been put in place to prepare up and coming leaders to either run for office or be a campaign manager/staffer. Trainings usually include, but aren’t limited to, the following: fundraising workshops, messaging tips, how to hire campaign staff breakouts, and other value related panels.

Typically, when people think about candidate pipelines EMILY’s List, Emerge, and Wellstone trainings come to mind. However, in recent years, there have been many candidate pipelines popping up nationwide. Take New American Leaders Project for example. They are focused on preparing first and second generation Americans to use their power and potential in elected office because they believe that when our elected officials mirror the makeup of our nation. Additionally, there is Run for Something – a group who recruits and supports millennials, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench. And last but not least, She Should Run – which started as a project in 2008 but has dramatically grown and is working to create a culture that inspires women and girls to aspire towards public leadership.

But what does this actually mean and why is it important?

When all around the world participated in the Women’s March because they believe that women’s rights are under attack, in some way. The turnout was great but more women need to run for office and win for things to change.

Lets look at Alabama for starters: according to Center for American Women and Politics, the Alabama General Assembly currently has 16 women serving in the State House and 4 women serving in the State Senate. There are a total of 140 seats and women account for 14.3%. However, that’s not all! Currently there are 1,389 women serving in our State Houses and 441 serving in our State Senate Offices. This means that women only account for 24.8% of seats-holders at the state level!

So what’s the problem?

If there are more women then men in the world (which is probably way half of us can’t find a man but I’ll save that for another day) why are women underrepresented at the state level? That’s a problem!

Another problem is that we aren’t represented well at the federal level either. The Center for American Women and Politics states that women account for only 19.4% of the seats held in Congress. So, either we aren’t running or we aren’t winning, but either way, something has to change!

So what’s next?

Women have to run for office and other women have to support them! This doesn’t mean if she isn’t the right candidate, go out and vote for her, but merely that if she is the right candidate, we have to support her. That means volunteer! That means donate! Some men see women as inferior and will never vote for a woman even if she is good, so ladies, we must have our sisters back!

Additionally, when we get in office, we have to let the ladder down and groom other young women! When I wanted to get into politics, I couldn’t find one female mentor who was willing to let me shadow her, which is unfortunate. If our female electeds don’t prepare the next generation of female leaders, we need to be prepared to see more men moving for the state level and into Congress and while I love men, I would prefer to see girls run the world.

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Pre-paid Debit Cards, South Dakota Repeals, and Coming Face-to-Face with Your Reps

Take a moment to listen as Laura and Jessica discuss the Betsy DeVos vote, plus a story you may have missed in Congress: they’re trying to repeal some basic protections for pre-paid debit card users and wealthy special interests may be to blame. There’s an update on the shenanigans in South Dakota and Arizona, and in good news for the week: people are showing up to meet with their representatives, and we’ve made it really easy for you to do so, too.

Read more at here.

Links from this week:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/republicans-are-moving-to-scrap-rules-on-overdraft-charges?utm_term=.cgRxOJwYV#.tqPlxk2j4

http://bit.ly/courtkit

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Don’t You Dare Give Up On Democracy

In light of recent events – the Muslim ban or the the confirmation of Jeff Session and Betsy Devos – a lot of Democrats and reform organizations may find themselves asking the question what does this moment call for and are we answering that call?

I personally walk into work and almost instantly feel overwhelmed by the number of fights need my attention. There is the fight for Women’s Rights or the fight for Muslim Rights. There are Civil Rights fights and Voting Rights fights; hell there is even redistricting. Everyday, as I read the news or engage in the money-in-politics fight, I find myself conflicted because there are so many competing priorities.

Just yesterday I sat in on a discussion about fighting for democracy and I began to cry on the inside because the fights that we are facing aren’t merely about democracy – based on the context it was discussed – but about a persons right to simply pursue a life of happiness. We can fight for public financing and voting rights but hell to be honest, if we as a country have gone so far as to consider a whole group of people to be a threat, they may not live to donate to someone let alone be allowed to vote for someone. People are fighting for the right to simply be who they are and their right to the pursuit of happiness!

After leaving this meeting, I hopped in a Lyft and called my friend and explained to him that I was done with Democracy because it did not exist and I was no longer going to try to convince others that they should believe in it either. God probably laughed at me because as soon as I hung up the phone, He had a message for me. The Lift driver turned around and said, “Baby I can tell that today was a rough day but you owe it to God and your people to keep fighting. It is a privilege to one, be let into those rooms with all of those white people, two, to be taken seriously, and three, to make it out alive to tell the story. You were chosen by God to do this work! Don’t you dare give up on Democracy! Your ancestors fought long and hard for you to even be able to vote and now because things are hard you want to give up? You don’t get to give up, you have to continue to fight this fight and leave your mark on this movement!”

I left the car feeling somewhat ashamed that I had been so arrogant and weak. I was arrogant because I truly believed I had a choice and I was weak because I was willing to quit after the first two weeks of this man’s presidency as if my ancestors didn’t fight for decades. So, for those of you who are like me, living on the inside, fighting and are getting weary – don’t you dare give up on democracy! That’s not even an option.

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#NastyWomen

Women all over the world were marching today in an effort to bring awareness to women’s rights . I personally attended the Women’s March on Washington; however, there were sister marches in places like Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

According to ABC News, “Washington, D.C., Metro system posted on Twitter that there have been 275,000 trips as of 11 a.m. this morning.”

As Hillary Clinton would say, We are Stronger Together! Today, I would have to agree!

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How Old Are You?

I received my first paid job in politics when I was 22 and by the age of 23, I was managing a field program. As much as I appreciated the Washington genes, whenever I looked in the mirror, I wondered if people would take me seriously – not because I was immature but because even though I was 23 – on most days, I looked about 19 years old.

When I was first promoted to this managerial position, I found myself going out of my way to look older. I tried to avoid ponytails and dressing causal as much as possible. Now that I think about it, none of that stuff actually made a difference.

For example, during my last managerial role, I received a call from an African American man who was in his mid-fifties. He told me that he was a longtime activist who was looking for a job and that someone had referred him to me. We setup a time for him to come into the office to meet with me and I began to plan accordingly.

When the day came for us to meet, I made sure I put on my “big girl outfit” and I waited his arrival. He ended up being late but when I saw him enter the building, I went to great him, “Good morning sir. How are you?”

“Good morning. I’m here to see Jessica Washington,” he responded.

I immediately informed him that I was Jessica Washington, and extended my hand for a femoral greeting. Before shaking my hand, he laughed and asked, “how old are you?” He then proceeded to tell me that I looked like a child.

A week later, I met an older lady who was an activist. I really admired her because she had been politically active for about 20 years. That same day she sent a gentleman to my office, who had her on speaker phone and I heard her say, “she’s a baby and she does not know enough. We really have to school her.”

These are just two examples of the many times I was laughed at, or assumed to know very little about what I was tasked with, because of my age. As if someone as “young” as me could not be interested in bettering the community or ensuring that the right person gets elected.

I have noticed, especially within the Democratic Party, that there is a huge disconnect between those who have worked in politics for years, and those of us who are considered to be “just joining the fight”. It is my hope that one day there will be some real thought put into what could be done to ensure that both generations can work together to move a strong democracy agenda forward. And let’s be honest, if I was an older woman, it would be rude for someone to ask me, how old are you?

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Thank You, Mr. President – Obama Out!

In 2008, I was a senior in high school who would skip class to attend an Obama rally, and while some would probably look down on me for doing so, it is still a moment that I am proud of. Obama made me believe that though I was an African American woman – that didn’t define the trajectory of my life. His YES WE CAN attitude has kept me going, even in moments when I felt society was against me. He gave me hope – hope that this country was an amazing place; hope that I could achieve my wildest dreams; and hope that love could help people become the best version of themselves.

So, as we reach the final hours of having President Obama as our acting president, it is important that we reflect on all he has meant to so many people:

“To me, President Obama almost perfectly epitomizes my experience as a black woman trying to succeed. In any capacity, from having to work twice as hard as white counterparts who are competing for spots in grad or law school; to fighting to be taken seriously by male classmates in both my STEM and political science classes. President Obama ran a spotless campaign and presidency, in my opinion, in addition to maintaining what seems to be a healthy relationship with his family. He will be missed dearly not just because he was the first black president, but because his presence and integrity transcends the box of color many have tried to confine him to.” -DaNia Henry, Student at Oakwood University.

“Without knowing it, Barack Obama empowered a new generation of you people of color – people who have never participated in the political process or civic life. He appointed young fresh perspectives to his administration and armed many leaders of color throughout the country with a shared agenda with the highest office in the land. He will truly be missed.” -Nicole Brisbane, New York State Director, Democrats for Education Reform

“President Obama was the first president I voted for, and I remember running down the streets screaming with friends on his first election night in 2008. I’ve always appreciated his ability to say exactly what we need to hear, especially during times of national tragedy, like the many mass shootings during his presidency. His compassion, composure and thoughtfulness – and his quiet anger when necessary – blow me away. I’m really going to miss having a president who really seems to listen and know what the country needs at incredibly difficult times. I’m also going to miss having a president who also likes Politics and Prose!” -Meghan Faulkner, Digital Manager, Every Voice

“As a young girl who grew up in a not-so-far-away country, I was always intrigued by the influence the U.S. had around the world. Once in college (and when that interest had already pulled me to study International Relations), I was sitting in class watching the last Obama/Romney debate in 2012, when, thanks to his passion, I decided I had to jump into American Politics. I became a citizen right at the time when a young adult woman starts figuring out how she´s going to make an impact. And not only did President Obama provide me with the perfect role model for putting your talents into the service of others, he also proved to be a feminist ally – and thanks him – I feel ready to take on the fight for the American people from whatever trench I am blessed to fight from. I am not scared. I am fired up, ready to go. Thanks, Obama!” -Andrea Terroba

“So many feelings on inauguration eve. 8 years ago I was standing in line for the inaugural parade, a fairly new resident of DC and bustling with excitement for what was possible for our communities and country. I have so appreciated the leadership of our President Obama, his visionary words that inspired the best in us, his steady hand, thoughtful approach and even when I disagreed with him and wish he pushed harder – I never questioned his values or whether he cared about all people. Tomorrow, a new President will take office and the feelings with me are the exact opposite. Fight or flight, defend, stand up, speak up, expose the truth. This man is not for us, he never was – he’s only been for two things: Money and Power. What a place we find ourselves in. Its imperative now more than ever that we lead with love and nothing less, or we may find ourselves in the same place of our enemies. Yes, President Obama, I too have faith in the American people – in our compassion, in our generosity, in our ability to grow and change. That’s the legacy you’ve left with me, the legacy of never giving up faith in humanity.” – Rahna Epting, Chief of Staff, Every Voice

Thank You, Mr. President!

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First Lady, It’s Your Day!

“I find it hard to put into words just how amazing this woman is and the impact she has made on, not just my life, but lives all over the world. First Lady Michelle Obama taught me the importance of mentorship, sisterhood, and grace. Her love for girls and their education is unmatched. My favorite initiative by the Obama Administration will always be Let Girls Learn. Thank you First Lady for your heart, dedication, love, elegance, class, and grace. You will be missed in the White House but I know your work won’t stop there. You will work hard as we continue to fight to make America a country of equality, love, and peace. Happy Birthday to the greatest First Lady we’ve ever had!” – Archie Stewart, Miss Black US Ambassador

“Michelle Obama is undeniably a Proverbs 31 woman but she has proven that He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord. God bless Michelle Obama!” – Nadine Washington, Water Systems Personnel Manager, Madison County Water Department

“With her beauty, intelligence and grace, Michelle Obama inspired women and girls from 6 to 106. She modeled what it meant to not only be confident and accomplished in your own right, but to be a fully invested partner in marriage and motherhood. I do not believe we will see another FLOTUS like her in my lifetime.” – Regina Malveaux, JD, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Spokane

“Michelle Obama was Americas best First Lady. She embodied class, sophistication, and modesty all while being spunky and full of personality. When I was 13, I was inspired by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative that encouraged kids to eat healthy and workout everyday. I remember being so excited when my school did Let’s Move Day! Now, eight years later, I am thankful for everything she did to promote a healthy country. I hope she has a Happy and Healthy Birthday!!!” – Tyler Brown, Student at Oakwood University

“The epitome of class, beauty, and kindness. When I think of her time as the First Lady, the past eight years, it’s not the beautifully picked gowns that come to mind but the woman of grace and distinction who is able to eloquently display the most admirable qualities through all facets of life.” Ruby Villalobos, Student at the University of North Alabama

“Classy, gorgeous, intelligent, a lady of courage – an example to all of us that we can be strong, supportive, loving, educated, and a giver. [We can be] lady-like at times, feisty and frustrated [at other times], and still be true to ourselves! As she says, when they go low, we go high. [She is] a woman who stands in the gap.” – Deborah Barros-Smith, Director/Strategist, We The People Moment- Alabama

“I have learned so much from Michelle Obama, but perhaps the best lesson is to always keep your sense of humor, even in the face of hostility and garbage. She inspires me every day, and I hope she has a happy birthday and many more!!” – Francoise Stovall, Digital Director, Every Voice

Happy Birthday First Lady Michelle Obama!

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I Don’t Work on Black Issues but I Love Black Men

In recent years, there has been an increase in media attention surrounding the killing of African American men, and as a result, I have spent a lot of time talking with other African American women about this issue, where we stand, and how it makes us feel. Several of these conversations has made me pay more attention to my role in the political arena, and whether I should be using my talents to demand “justice” for not only our African American men, but for our community in general.

Sometime last year, I found myself attending a meeting full of progressive organizations. Upon entering the room, I immediately noticed that I was the only African American present which, sadly, was not a surprise to me. Either way, I took a seat and hoped that another black person would attend the meeting; however, after waiting thirty minutes, I assumed it would be unlikely.

As the meeting went on, I sat quietly and listened to my colleagues talk about the updated agenda, given the November Election didn’t go as planned. They talked about what could be done legally and then the conversation shifted to “messaging”. Finally, I thought (this was the topic I wanted to discuss).

The conversation started as an overall messaging strategy about campaign finance reform but it slowly transitioned to a conversation about what type of messaging would be appropriate for African Americans and other minorities. I immediately raised my eyebrow because, as I mentioned, I was the only African American present. In fact, I was the only minority present.

The longer I sat there, listening to their messaging strategy, the more annoyed I became. I almost wanted to yell, none of you are African American, Latina, or Hispanic!. Obviously, I refrained from doing so, but instead, I decided to raise my hand and address the room. I started by noting that our overall strategy of “getting more people who look like their community to run for office” would only work if the people in that community knew how running for office would be made possible for them under a public financing system. I also brought up the fact that I had spoken with several of my African American colleagues who had no clue how a public financing system worked and they worked in politics. Ultimately, I found myself challenging us as a group to do a better job of making sure that the people within the minority community, including local electeds, knew more about the issue itself.

After leaving the meeting, I felt good that I had raised my concerns but I began to think about all of the other meetings I had attended where I was the only African American present and said the same things. I started to question whether I should even be working on public financing.

I immediately jumped on a called with some of my female colleagues and told them about the meeting. We talked about how, in today’s society, a black man could be killed by a cop and the cop could never spend a night in jail. We talked about how there are women being raped on college campuses and their white attackers are only spending six months on probation, while black men go to jail for years if they are caught with an ounce of weed. I began to express my concerns about whether I was working on the right issues. Another young lady, who was in fundraising, said that she was experiencing the same sort of doubt. Clearly there were so many other issues that were important and yet, we were still going to work everyday and lifting up our communities, to ensure that certain progressive organizations do not forget us.

The hard part about this is that some of us, especially those who had worked for an elected official, were being criticized by our friends and others, because we were viewed as not doing enough, as if not attending a Black Lives Matter protest made us any less black. However, we all agreed that we loved our black men, even though we didn’t work directly on black issues and that if we individually concluded that we were making the right choice by staying at our current nonprofit, that we needed to make sure that it wasn’t just about “securing the bag” and more about being a spokesperson for our community.

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Women Who Raise Money

kristina
Kristina Desir, MPA, Program Manager
AAUW Work Smart (Boston, Massachusetts)

Kristina and I attended Oakwood University together. Though we spoke casually during college, our communication increased after graduating and seeing that we had developed a similar interest – politics. Kristina quickly became someone I asked for career advice and ultimately encouraged me to get some fundraising experience.

This interview was conducted to find out why Kristina believes fundraising is so important.

Q. So tell me a little about yourself:

My name is Kristina Desir (age 26) and I grew up in South Florida. I am a graduate of Oakwood University with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Minor in Political Science (2012). After graduation, I decided to attend Suffolk University in Boston, MA to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration and Master’s in Political Science (2014).

I currently work as the Program Manager for AAUW Work Smart in Boston, a partnership between the City of Boston and American Association of University Women to offer free salary negotiation workshops to every woman who lives or works in Boston in hopes to help close the gender wage. I also serve as a Board Member and Chair of Fundraising for Emerge Massachusetts and Board Member and Finance Chair for Let’s Bridge The Gap.

Q. How did you get into politics?

While in graduate school, I interned at the Massachusetts Democratic Party during President Obama’s reelection. During my internship, I worked as a field organizer – knocking on doors and making phone calls – to help re-elect President Obama. I was able to get access to the “key players” in Massachusetts politics and Obama’s field team in MA.

After that internship, I got my first campaign job working as a Field Organizer for Felix Arroyo for Mayor of Boston, managing field operations in the Boston neighborhoods of Mattapan and Hyde Park, creating Haitian outreach strategy, and planning house parties and campaign events. After working on the mayoral race, I wanted to get experience in political fundraising. I was later hired to be the Deputy Finance Director for Steve Kerrigan for Lt. Governor of MA. It was at that moment I found my passion in politics and knew that if I could do anything for free it would be political fundraising.

Q. How challenging was it to break into this political arena?

It was very challenging to break into the political arena. As a woman of color, I didn’t have access to networks or individuals who knew how to become a political operative. Not having the knowledge or access made it more difficult to break into the political arena. Interning at the Party was the first step to understanding how politics worked and how to get political career opportunities.

Q. What made you decide to be a fundraiser? Why not an organizer or a campaign manager?

While working on the Boston mayoral race, I became close to the Finance Director who later became my mentor. I loved community organizing but I was interested in raising money in politics. Once I got my first political fundraising experience, I knew that I found my passion. While my understanding of political campaigns, strong management, and leadership skills qualifies me to be a great campaign manager, I see a stronger impact for electing more African-Americans into public office by perfecting my political fundraising skills.

Q. What makes fundraising so important to a campaign?

Fundraising is the most important aspect to political campaigns. When running for office, before you hire any staff, you hire a fundraiser to help you raise money for your campaign needs such as staff, advertisements, events, campaign materials, etc. Campaigns are expensive and its cost varies from state to state and city to city. For example, running for State Representative in Boston can cost up to $40,000 but a race in California can cost closer to half a million. Fundraising matters and it is a strong indicator on whether you can win an election.

Q. Do you think there is a need for more women to become fundraisers?

Absolutely. Fundraising is a white male dominated. We need more women, but most of all, we need more people of color to become political fundraisers. Diversity matters in campaigns, but it matters more in fundraising. If we get more diverse political fundraisers, we can help elect more minorities into public office and build stronger political fundraising networks for minorities as well.

Q. Do you think funds, or lack thereof, keep a lot of women or minorities from run for public office?

Absolutely. It’s very hard to ask people for money, but it is must to raise money in order to successfully win an election. The main reason why we don’t see more people of color running winning elections, particularly federal or statewide, is not necessarily lack of communications strategy, field strategy, or political support, it is because of lack of money needed to win. Fundraising is the strongest indication of winning elections or even being a strong contender.

Q. Have you raised funds via mail or by writing grants? If so, how were those experiences?

My experience is in political fundraising. I’ve raised money through mailers not grant writing. Funds were raised through several mailers I was apart of but fundraising is more successful when you use different strategies such as Candidate call time, social media, fundraising emails, and more.

Q. What advice would you give to other young women who are looking to pursue a career in political fundraising?

Don’t be intimidated by political fundraising. It’s a great field for folks with strong management, organization, and people skills. Also, ask people who are successful at political fundraising for advice. Linkedin is a good source to find local political fundraisers or consultants in your area. You can reach out to them for a quick call or coffee to learn about breaking into the field.

Q. What do you hope to do in the future?

Fundraising is a transferable skill. I want to challenge myself and use those skills to raise money for student scholarships for my alma mater, Oakwood University, and give back. I also want to continue raising funds to elect more African-Americans into public office – that’s where my focus is right now.

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