She the People Summit 2018, Women of Color Gather in Power

Kim Christensen, San Francisco
Photos: Tumay Aslay

Holly J. Mitchell, California State Senator

She the People came roaring into town Thursday determined to shake up the political landscape by investing in the leadership and collective power of women of color. An energized crowd of about 500 squeezed joyfully into the Julia Morgan ballroom for the first “She the People Summit 2018” in San Francisco. The standing room only, sold-out event featured movement leaders and living legends, including Congresswoman Barbara Lee and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta. “We are in the presence of our very own royalty” said Holly Mitchell, California State Senator.

Kimberly Ellis, Founder of Unbought-Unbossed

Activists from 36 states across the nation flocked to the summit, which was a mix of rollicking rally, power networking event, and get-down-to-business political strategy session. Political stars shared the stage with soon-to-be famous leaders and activists. Black Lives Matter, Women’s March, UltraViolet, Higher Heights, ROC United, Native American women, domestic care workers, LGBTQ activists, and immigrants were among the diverse organizations and movements represented on stage by speakers at the event.

Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, shared in her speech, “I believe that black people deserve to be powerful in politics.” She observed that “this summit is in the legacy of black women coming together to set our own agenda.” Garza offered a new economic vision, saying “we need to transform the economy from one that is predatory to one that is rooted in care.” The caring economy was called for as a paradigm shift by other speakers as well, including Ai-Jen Poo, Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance. The Alliance is working on groundbreaking family care legislation to address the current and coming need for in-home care of elders of the Baby Boom generation and beyond.

Tram Nguyen, DeJuana Thompson, Montserrat Arredondo, and Tory Gavito talk tactics

Speakers included rising star Kimberly Ellis, founder of Unbought-Unbossed, which she designed as “an incubator for the next generation of political disruptors.” Ellis is also the former executive director of Emerge California, which has become one of the most effective training programs for Democratic women who want to run for office. (Emerge “sisters” who went through the training include U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.)

Political tactics and strategies were hot topics at the event. Moderator Tory Gavito asked her panelists to get specific about how they were able to “leap over the old boys club.” Holly Mitchell, California State Senator, challenged each person in the room to take action, “do one thing when you leave the room,” such as sign up for a phone bank or donate to a woman candidate. Mitchell said, “In California, don’t assume it’s all good. Sisters, we got work to do.”

She the People tapped into something powerful as about 500 women from 36 states came to the summit, and many more tuned in to the live stream, according to founder Aimee Allison. She the People Summit got the details right too, providing a “Quiet Room” for nursing / pumping or general downtime; a red carpet-style media room for photos and on-camera interviews; as well as a lady DJ spinning woman-power tunes.

About She the People

She the People is a new political network. Its stated mission is to “advance our democracy by calling women of color fully into their fierce and loving leadership and collective power.” It highlights “women of color as the drivers of a new progressive political and cultural era.” She the People was founded by Aimee Allison, a San Francisco Bay Area leader, speaker, writer, activist and expert in women of color in politics. Allison is also the President of Democracy in Color and host of a popular podcast of the same name. She dedicated a recent podcast to telling the story of She the People. [You can link to the Democracy in Color Podcast here. ]