Hundreds of women are gathering today in San Francisco for the inaugural “She The People” summit, billed as the first ever national confab for women of color in politics.
Elected officials, candidates for office, activists, organizers and voters are expected from around the country for the sold out event. Keynote speakers will include Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA); Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; and Linda Sarsour of Women’s March.
ESSENCE caught up with Aimee Allison, president of the progressive, multiracial political organization “Democracy in Color,” and the visionary behind “She the People.” In addition to organizing the summit, Allison is launching “She the People”— a 501c3 organization she founded to help women of color lead the charge in the fight for racial justice, gender equality, and inclusive democratic participation.
ESSENCE.COM: How did the idea for the summit come about?
Aimee Allison: It has been a long time in the making. I have been writing a book called She the People. Over the course of writing, I came to realize that the nation urgently needed to hear from women of color; and women of color need to be seen and heard as the candidates, movement leaders, organizers, and a powerful voting bloc. I had the vision [last] March to convene the women of color who [I call] `Hidden Figures,’ driving the democratic winds of the U.S. Then I worked with a national team to organize the `She the People’ Summit. We have 60 partners, like MoveOn and Higher Heights, that are sharing the livestream, with 3.6 million viewers expected.
ESSENCE.COM: How many women are expected?
A.A.: We are expecting 500 women of color from 36 states. We have over 50 attendees from partner organizations like IGNITE and the Young Women’s Freedom Center that are under 25. Our youngest attendee is six; she is coming with her parents from Berkeley, California. Dolores Huerta [activist and co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers] is our most senior participant at nearly 80.
ESSENCE.COM: What are the goals and objectives?
A.A.: Our main goal is to solidify and amplify the political voice of women of color. Black women were only recognized as a political force nationally after the results of the 2017 special Senate election in Alabama. What the political establishment needs to recognize is that Latinas, Asian American women, Native women, and Arab American women– together with Black women– are the fastest growing part of the electorate, and are supporting candidates and issues grounded in racial, economic, and social justice. We women of color want to be recognized as the powerhouse that we are in the upcoming midterms. The other goal is to strengthen bonds, forge new connections, and mobilize a nationwide plan to harness our electoral and political power as we head into midterms, 2020, and beyond.
ESSENCE.COM: There have been several women’s summits (United State of Women, Women’s March, Power Rising, etc.) in recent months. How does this one differ?
A.A.: She the People is the first ever summit to explicitly focus on women of color as a multiracial group. We are building on the success of other summits. And [several] “She the People” board advisors and women leaders like A’shanti Gholar, Kalisha Dessources, and Linda Sarsour were instrumental in organizing these other successful summits.
Women of color have redefined the women’s movement and created a new path to victory at the polls. After the 2016 presidential election and the primaries, it’s clear that women of color are the core of the progressive women’s vote. “She the People” is centering and amplifying the political voice of women of color. And that’s new. “She the People” is about finally getting everyone in formation behind women of color. While we know this work is intersectional, we are zeroing in on activating our political power, because we are the moral and political base of democracy in this country. We ground our work and wisdom in our principles of love, justice, belonging, and democracy.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.