March 16, 2018 under Posts

Rising Together: From #Moment to Movement, Keeping the Promise—and the Momentum

From #Moment2Movement: lessons from our recent conversations with national women leaders and local changemakers

Cheryl Wills (left) co-moderates a panel on seizing moments with FPWA CEO Jennifer Jones Austin (far right), feat Tamika D. Mallory and Linda Sarsour. (Regina Flemming for FPWA)

We’ve witnessed an incredible outpouring of public activism over the past year in response to the politics of exclusion, with the national Women’s March on January 21, 2017 emerging as a key #moment for the social forces seeking a starkly different vision for America—one that’s inclusive, equitable, representative.

One year later, FPWA brought some these national leaders and local changemakers together at our inaugural Rising Together benefit breakfast to honor the women seizing moments and leading movements for greater inclusion.

We had a lively discussion with all of our honorees, including founding members of the National Women’s March (Tamika D. Mallory, Linda Sarsour); Joanne N. Smith, Founder and Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equity; and Glynda C. Carr, co-founder of Higher Heights for America. With NY1 Anchor Cheryl Wills presiding as Mistress of Ceremonies and panel facilitator, we welcomed special remarks from U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Civil Liberties Union’s Executive Director, Donna Lieberman, as we discussed the role such #moments play in advancing movements for greater inclusion.

Our discussions at the Rising Together event distilled two key themes:

First, it’s resoundingly clear that women are leading. We’ve long been on the frontlines, but we’re now filling leadership roles like never before. Senator Gillibrand summed this up convincingly in her remarks, reminding us that women’s voices—and especially women of color—are making the difference in our country right now, with more women than ever are speaking out and demanding to be heard.

Tellingly, Senator Gillibrand mentioned that Emily’s List—the political action committee promoting women to elected office—normally registers about 1,000 candidates by this time of year. But with more than 25,000 candidates already in the pipeline (400 of whom are running for Congress), it’s clear we’re witnessing historic numbers of first-time female candidates—a testament to the fact that women aren’t waiting to lead.

This groundswell in women’s political participation is the result of so many civic engagement efforts, like the impressive efforts undertaken by our honorees at Girls for Gender Equity and Higher Heights for America who work to empower younger generations with the tools for effective political participation and expression.

Secondly, it’s clear that the big picture matters if we are to keep the momentum.

It’s all too easy to lose that “big tent” feel that first united that diverse set communities that came together for the Women’s March. As the NYCLU’s Donna Lieberman put it at our event, we can all get bogged down in what can too easily drive us apart—“you don’t get my experience; I don’t get yours,” as Donna warned. But we can in fact draw strength from acknowledging the diverse sets of life experience we all bring to what is truly a shared conversation.

It is critical to keep an eye on the big picture—on the values that unite us—even if this isn’t always comfortable or easy. If we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that the public good will suffer if it isn’t safeguarded by a broad coalition committed to a core set of values. National #moments will come and go, but as we work to refashion our politics and institutions to better serve all communities, we must also work to stay united.

We at FPWA are committed to keeping the momentum, convening the diverse voices that make #moments and movements possible, and playing a productive role in shaping these conversations.