LaGuardia Community College has a club for just about every interest and skill. Photography, chess, creative writing, women in stem, tabletop board games, psychology, cooking, anime, economics, are all clubs organized by students for students. Despite the presence of these clubs at LaGuardia, each offering leadership and community-building opportunities, a growing number of LaGuardia students […]
On April 7th, more than 2,700 thrilled and invigorated people, mostly women, packed the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City to hear a discussion between Women’s March national co-chairs Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour alongside Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, who were members of “The Resisters” panel, moderated by Rashida Jones at the 2017 8th Annual Women in the World New York Summit.
The event was hosted by Tina Brown Live Media and co-hosted by Toyota. The summit was a three-day event which presented powerful female role models around the world, who shared their stories that tackle the most critical international issues. CEOs and world leaders, artists, activists, peacemakers, and revolutionary insurgents joined together at the event. The Summit showcased the impact of women on society. Even more, “Women in the World” included the participation, onstage and in the audience, of men who support women.
One of the panels included the three “powerhouses who happen to be women,” as Ms. Jones described them, who were onstage as frontline speakers and organizers in combating injustice, prejudice and bigotry across the country. Ms. Jones started the discussion by asking the trio for their perspectives about the current state of America.
Ms. Mallory spoke first, recalling the historic Women’s March in January, where she watched thousands of women gather at the nation’s capitol in support of human’s rights. “It is so wonderful to see women be empowered—standing up and speaking out,” Ms. Mallory said. Learning how thousands of women have decided to run for office after attending the Women’s March on Washington, she added, illustrated the impact that movement can have on people, especially women.
Ms. Sarsour, a Muslim-American, born and raised in Brooklyn, agreed with Ms. Mallory’s remarks. “I’m proud to be in a movement with women who are unapologetic—strong, inclusive and intersectional, and we are already starting to win.” Ms. Sarsour was also one of the national cochairs of the Women’s March and is the cofounder of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPowerChange.org.
“I think we’re winning. At least on the Muslim ban, we’re winning,” Ms. Heller concurred. Ms. Heller founded and directs the International Refugee Assistance Project ( formerly the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project) at Yale Law School. She took legal action when the executive order was announced to ban Muslims upon entering the country. More than 1,600 volunteer lawyers organized by Ms. Heller’s organization went and defended the rights of immigrants and refugees who were held at the airports.
Ms. Jones later asked the three women how they started and managed to organize their movements so quickly, and how people have been mobilized. “I was born in the ashes of 9/11,” Ms. Sarsour said, as she remembered how she saw men in her community “dragged out of coffee shops” and how “businesses were raided, and people were picked up from their homes.”
Ms. Sarsour added that in the last 15 years, her community has suffered in a post-9/11 America, and that the movement against President Trump has become the ‘awakening’ for so many people. While Ms. Sarsour did see how people across the world have united to protest the Muslim ban, she asked everyone to not leave the movement once everything seems to start looking better. “Recognize that some of us are in perpetual fear,” Ms. Sarsour said.
Following Ms. Sarsour’s comments, Ms. Heller talked about how she got into the movement and how she started fighting for human rights. In the summer of 2008, Ms. Heller did an internship in the Middle East. “As an American, I had this obligation to understand the fallout of my own country’s foreign policy,” she said.
Ms. Heller went to Jordan and talked to refugees, who told her that they were all on a “waitlist,” and hoped that help from other prosperous countries would soon come to rescue them. She later learned that there was no such thing as a “waitlist” for the refugees. She refused to believe that the “waitlist is this propagated rumor of the US government to placate refugees.” Ms. Heller metaphorically remarked that when people live deep at the bottom of a dark hole, people need something at the top that looks like it’s lighting their way out. “[But] the fact that the best these communities could come up with was a ‘waitlist’ was tragic, and I thought we could do something about it,” Ms. Heller added.
Ms. Mallory came from an activist family who fought for civil rights; however, her own activism stemmed from the murder of her son’s father. Her son, who is now 18 years of age was only 2 years old when his father was shot. Ms. Mallory then started looking at the core of the problem by asking, “Why was he even in the situation that he was in? And why did I have to join a club of so many young black women who had lost their children’s father to gun violence?” She brought up the systemic issues of gun violence and crime. “The shooter was just as much of a victim. That is what is happening in marginalized communities every day.” She said that was when she became her own activist and not just her parents’ child, who was an activist.
Ms. Mallory expanded her statement by reminding the audience of the importance of staying with the movement. “I think people are beginning to have the curtains opened and they are beginning to see,” she said. Echoing Ms. Sarsour’s concerns, Ms. Mallory also advised against leaving the cause as things improve. She wanted people to be mindful of the fact that, “if white women start to earn as much as white men, [understand that] women of color are not on the same level as white women.”
When Ms. Jones mentioned that 53 percent of white women had voted for President Trump, Ms. Mallory shared the conversation her community was having before election day in November to encourage women to do the same. “Black women, regardless of whether we like Hillary Clinton or not, we understood what we had to do,” Ms. Mallory said. She added that women need to have these kind of conversationswith their mothers and families to understand who they are voting for and why.
Ms. Sarsour and Ms. Mallory got arrested last March in New York for participating in the “Day Without a Woman” protest. The event was made to highlight women’s value to nations economy, while earning less and facing injustice. Ms. Sarsour said, “We asked people to do a few things: Don’t shop. If you have to shop, go to a woman-owned business or minority-owned business—we had a march on Fifth Avenue.” Ms. Mallory added that the group’s march didn’t get approval from the NYPD and therefore people got arrested for it.
As a final point of discussion, Ms. Sarsour urged everyone to continue supporting the cause. “Show up. Donate. Build deep transformativerelationships,” she said. “When you hear there’s an action or a vigil, don’t say, “They won’t miss me if I don’t come,'” Ms. Sarsour added. Ms. Heller reminded the attendees to “stay focused” on what is truly happening around us and “don’t get distracted.” As Ms. Mallory noted in the beginning of the talk, remember that “women are bad-ass, and we’re not having it!”