How Valerie Jarrett Is Giving Women, Activists The Tools To Hold Political Office
Kris Connor

As record numbers of women across America embrace activism and express interest in holding political office, a new national organization is encouraging those efforts to mobilize, organize and galvanize: indeed, it’s called The Galvanize Program.

Nearly 1, 000 attendees gathered recently in Chicago for the launch of the nonprofit, designed to turn the passion of women nationwide into strategic action in their local communities.

The initiative is an offshoot of the United State of Women summit, hosted in Washington, D.C. in June 2016 by the Obama Administration’s White House Council on Women and Girls.

The event — spearheaded by Valerie Jarrett and Tina Tchen — then leaders of the White House Council on Women and Girls, drew celebs like Oprah Winfrey and Kerry Washington, along with some 5,000 women from the U.S. and abroad.  

Afterwards, organizers said participants made it clear they wanted to continue learning and connecting, engaging in their local communities to tackle issues such as health care, pay equity and criminal justice reform.

“We know that it’s so important for all women to work together to begin to move towards equality for all women,” said Jarrett, who served as Senior Advisor to former president Obama. “For communities of color, I think it’s an important time to speak out and understand our power.  It’s not a question of if we’re given a seat at the table, it’s time to demand it.”

Galvanize is headed by Jordan Brooks, who serves as managing director and COO; Renee Johnson, a former Capitol Hill staffer who’s on a mission to encourage more Black women to enter politics, is the national training director.

Last weekend’s conclave in Chicago marked the first regional gathering of participants.

The women received training to run for office, manage campaigns, organize in their communities, take on leadership roles and become entrepreneurs.

A host of speakers, advocates and community leaders were part of the kick-off. They ranged from members of Congress such as Reps. Robin Kelly (D-IL), Danny K. Davis (D-IL) and Sen. Dick Durbin (IL) to Millennial leaders like Eva Lewis, founder of The I Project and co-founder of Youth for Black Lives.

Kimberly M. Foxx, who made history in 2016 when she was elected the first African-American State’s Attorney in Cook County, Illinois, was among the speakers.

Foxx often shares her personal journey of being raised in public housing by a single mother and grandmother—neither of whom finished high school. Yet they encouraged her goal of becoming a lawyer. Thanks to education, hard work and faith, the dream was fulfilled.

Foxx said it’s important to be authentic and let people know the struggles you’ve overcome, for it may be a way to help uplift and inspire. 

 “Show up in the fullness of who you are, whatever that is, whatever it is that you came into this world as, whatever it is that makes you uniquely you,” she told the women. “Because we absolutely need every single one of you.”

Jarrett agreed. She believes women should be armed with the tools and resources they need to keep organizing and fighting for gender equity in their communities.

“Our experiences as mothers, as business owners and as Black women have power, and we need to raise our voices and share our stories.  I’d ask you to speak up, and take a seat at the table, and, as Shirley Chisholm said`If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’  It’s time to make room for yourself  — we need your voice.”

Galvanize will host summits in Columbus, OH (Aug 12-13) and Atlanta, GA (Sept 9-10). Future events are planned in Miami, Philadelphia, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

To register, visit

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