A network executive once said to me, "Sure, you're young and you're smart, but what do you know?" His question caught me off guard. I had spent several years working on campaigns and elections and in the non-profit field, and yet, he perceived me as too young to boast expertise. Realizing this, I tried to sell him on the value of my perspective. "I know my experience in the world,” I asserted. “That has to count for something.” I failed to convince him. But he gave me a great gift: he opened my eyes to the systemic biases of news and opinion organizations. What constitutes news? Which stories deserve to be told? Whose perspectives matter? Most importantly, who makes those decisions? As a minority woman in the media, I think about these questions constantly. The good news is this: the answers are expanding to include more of us --- more of our news, more of our stories, more of our perspectives. But they will only continue to expand if we equip those whose stories aren’t being told with the skills to tell them.
In honor of IWD, I pledge $1K to: Girls Write Now
Mission: The Girls Write Now mission is to provide guidance, support, and opportunities for at-risk and underserved girls from New York City’s public high schools to develop their creative, independent voices, explore careers in professional writing, and learn how to make healthy school, career and life choices.
I came to social justice rather late in life so when I first learned of Radical Brownies, I had to know more. The Oakland, CA based group allows young girls of color to learn about social justice and, more importantly, put what they learn into action. The girls earn badges like “Black Lives Matter,” “Food Justice,” and “LGBT Ally.” The group helps young girls understand what it means to be an active part of a community and how to foster an informed awareness of how injustice affects the marginalized in our society. They learn about social justice movements from the past and participate in social justice movements taking place in our present. The young women who are part of Radical Brownies are shown that their lives matter. They are encouraged and supported in creating a sisterhood. This group is just starting but they offer so much necessary hope, not only for youth activism, but for all of us. We need to be reminded that sometimes the greatest change begins with small steps forward. We need to be reminded that empowerment and activism are more powerful and productive than cynicism. We need to be reminded that we can, indeed, make this world a better place and that we need not do that work alone. Radical Brownies allows young people to be part of that work. The group allows them to shape their own futures. I cannot think of anything more exciting and it is my fondest hope that the Radica Brownies will flourish, not just in Oakland, but all over this world.
In honor of IWD, I pledge $1K to: Radical Brownies
Mission: The Radical Brownies create opportunities for young girls of color to form fierce sisterhood, celebrate their cultures and contribute radically to their communities. It empowers young girls of color so that they step into their collective power, brilliance and leadership in order to make the world a more radical place
I would like to highlight TGI Justice in the Bay Area who is doing revolutionary work under the direction of the legendary Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. They are centering the lives and experiences of trans people of color in and outside of the prison system. Everyone should know--and support--her vital, life-sustaining work.
In honor of IWD, I pledge $1K to: TGI Justice
Mission: The TGI Justice Project's (TGIJP) mission is to challenge and end the human rights abuses committed against transgender, gender variant/genderqueer and intersex (TGI) people in California prisons and beyond.
Know Your IX is the brainchild of sexual assault survivors and student activists with legal chops to boot -- they make sure survivors and advocates on the ground have the legal information and resources to advocate for themselves within their institutions. Wading through federal regulations and legalese is no small task for anyone; for a survivor of sexual violence trying to make sense of her options, it can be even more trying. Know Your IX cuts through those barriers, presenting the necessary information in an easy-to-digest format. They're also media-savvy, working tirelessly to counter misleading narratives around campus sexual assault and punishment (they even offer a guide for journalists), and to let survivors and advocates on campuses know they exist. Know Your IX is important because it's a practical, accessible, factual resource that fills an important need. It's been incredibly useful to me as a journalist, and to women and men at universities across the country.
In honor of IWD, I pledge $1K to: Know Your IX
Mission: Founded in 2013, Know Your IX is a national survivor-run, student-driven campaign to end campus sexual violence. They educate students across the country about their civil right to education free from sexual violence and harassment while also pushing policy and legislative change on the national level for better federal enforcement of that same right.
Why do we need women to Take The Lead now in business, politics, and personal life? I’ve been an activist for women for decades, since when working in the civil rights movement, I realized that women must have civil rights too! It was an epiphany because for me, like many women, it was easier to fight for others than for myself. I was fortunate to make my life’s passion my life’s work, and for 30 years I led Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas and Arizona and then served as national president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. But a few years ago I learned something shocking. And I realized it was time to do something more. I learned that despite the work we had done to open doors and change laws, women had been stalled at average 18% of top leadership positions across all sectors of work and politics for almost two decades. Yet at the same time, the world was crying out for the leadership qualities women bring. The truth is that great systemic problems such as violence against women, environmental degradation, the unending attacks on women’s reproductive rights, failure to advance economic justice, and equal pay for women, even child nutrition -- will not be solved until women and men hold equal shares of social, political, and economic power. Those are the stats, but it’s #NotJustaStat. This is about you and me and our daughters and granddaughters—and men too. We’ll all be healthier and happier when gender power is in balance. That’s why I cofounded Take The Lead, to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025—not 2095 as the World Economic Forum predicts. It’s a big vision to be sure. But I firmly believe this: We can be the women and men who transform the world. Are you ready to join up?
In honor of IWD, I pledge $1K to: Take The Lead
Mission: Take The Lead prepares, develops, inspires and propels women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. It’s today’s women’s movement — a unique catalyst for women to embrace power and reach leadership parity.
It seems incredible that in 2015, “choice” is a word that remains so contentious. To me, the word embodies freedom. It embodies agency. It embodies knowledge. None of these are inherently distressing concepts. But when women are outfitted with freedom, agency, and knowledge, they are also outfitted with the potential to change the world. To some, this makes the idea of choice frightening. To me, it is thrilling. It is why I support Planned Parenthood and all the choices it offers women daily. These include the choice to begin a family. The choice to educate your community about sexual health and personal care. The choice to protect yourself from illness and disease. And perhaps most importantly, the choice to define your life and your future on your own terms. Planned Parenthood is dedicated to empowering women through the endless possibilities afforded by choice, and I am proud and happy to stand beside them.
In honor of IWD, I pledge $1K to: Planned Parenthood
Mission: Planned Parenthood’s mission is to provide comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services in settings which preserve and protect the essential privacy and rights of each individual; to advocate public policies which guarantee these rights and ensure access to such services; to provide educational programs which enhance understanding of individual and societal implications of human sexuality; to promote research and the advancement of technology in reproductive health care; and encourage understanding of their inherent bioethical, behavioral, and social implications.
I care about domestic violence because I care about women. It's hard to find even one person who hasn't been affected in some way or another by domestic violence. Whether it's happened to them, or someone they love, every American can appreciate how difficult getting out of a violent situation can be, especially for more marginalized populations. Some women are already faced with unimaginable danger and can't even find safety by reporting by fear of having their immigration status disclosed or their children taken away. Those women need us. There's just not enough support for them. When all woman are safe from the threat of violence, we can rest, but for now, we have to keep fighting.
In honor of IWD, I pledge $1K to: Safe Horizon
Mission: Safe Horizon's mission is to provide support, prevent violence and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities.
Why I Care: Daily we are faced with so many gender inequities in our business, it's easy to grow accustomed to them. And reading the powerful research done by people like Dr. Stacy Smith at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism around how women are portrayed in the media -- if at all -- can be deeply disheartening. It's something I know all too well having been in the industry for the past two decades. The good news, is that I've also been a part of shows like Orange is the New Black and How To Get Away with Murder, both run by women who are as equally committed to disrupting the gender and multicultural norms pervading Hollywood. As an actress and now producer at Broad Street Pictures, a new company I started with my partner Sarah Megan Thomas, we too will begin producing films with strong female roles. We are going to shake things up! Have you or someone you know experienced inequity? Are you working to change things? Share your story at #notjustastat, and learn who I've partnered with the Harnisch Foundation to support in honor of IWD.
In honor of IWD, I pledge $1K to: Reel Grrls
Mission: Reel Grrls empowers young women from diverse communities to realize their power, talent and influence through media production.