#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!

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?

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!

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!

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.

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.