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Tamika D. Mallory, National Co-Chair, Women's March at The 2017 Women In The World Summit in New York City.

The resisters

‘Bad-ass’ feminist organizers talk frankly about a new wave of protests

April 7, 2017


On the day of the historic Women’s March in January, Tamika Mallory, a national co-chair of the event, watched as thousands of women stormed the nation’s capitol in support of human rights. The day was a rollicking success. Millions of women marched in cities across the world. But for Mallory, it brought mixed emotions.

“I did stay on that stage looking at so many people pouring into D.C. and feel a little sad,” she said on Friday at the Women in the World Summit in New York. “For some of the folks who showed up, their moment of ‘awakeness’ started with Donald Trump. But for so many people, Donald Trump is just an extension of what has been happening in the country.”

At the summit, Mallory joined two other women leading a movement to combat injustice and discrimination across the country. In a frank and fiery discussion, the trio told moderator Rashida Jones about their hurdles and how they’re using protests, legal action, and social media to further their fight. The bottom line, Mallory said: “Women are bad-ass, and we’re not having it.”

“We’re winning,” said Becca Heller, director and cofounder of the International Refugee Assistance Project and a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School. “At least on the Muslim ban, we’re winning.” She described how her organization took action when the executive order was announced, organizing more than 1,600 volunteer lawyers at airports around the country to defend the rights of incoming refugees and immigrants.

Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian Muslim American born and raised in Brooklyn, agreed. “We are in a very serious moment. It’s a dangerous time, and I’m proud to be in a movement with women who are unapologetic.” Sarsour, a national co-chair of the Women’s March along with Mallory and two other women, is also the cofounder of the first Muslim online organizing platform,

“I was born in the ashes of 9/11,” Sarsour said, describing how she saw members of her community suffer in the wake of the attack, with unwarranted surveillance and arrests. “At the march, I said, ‘I welcome you to the movement right now. Don’t leave us. Recognize that some of us are in perpetual fear.’”

Mallory echoed that sentiment, stressing the importance of staying with the cause. “I think people are beginning to have the curtains opened and they are beginning to see,” she said. Yet she cautioned against abandoning the effort as things improve. For example, “If white women start to earn as much as white men, [keep in mind that] women of color are not on the same level as white women.”

Jones noted that 53 percent of white women had voted for President Trump. Mallory said women need to talk to their mothers and their families about who they are voting for and why. She said women in her community were having those conversations before election day in November. “Black women, regardless of whether we liked Hillary Clinton or not, we understood what we had to do.”

Mallory, whose parents are both involved in civil rights, said her own activism sprang from the murder of her son’s father in 2001. Her son was two years old when his father was shot on the outskirts of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. “That’s when I became my own activist, not just my parents’ child who was an activist,” she said, recalling how she began looking into 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.” Now the president of Mallory Consulting, a strategic communications firm, she often speaks about civil rights and social justice.

In March, Mallory and Sarsour were both arrested in New York for marching in the Day Without a Woman protest. The event was held to highlight the value that women bring to the socio-economic system, while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities. To mark the day, “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,” Sarsour said. “And we had a march on Fifth Avenue.” However, the group didn’t get approval for the march, she said, and people got arrested for civil disobedience.

Sarsour said there are everyday things people can do to support the cause. “Get to know your neighbors. Do you know who lives down the hall from you? Build deep transformative relationships. Donate to organizations—$20 a month, $5 a week. Show up: When you hear there’s an action or a vigil, don’t say, ‘They won’t miss me if I don’t come.’”

Heller’s advice: Stay focused and don’t get distracted. “Crazy things are going to happen every day,” she said. “Don’t forget about the crazy thing that happened yesterday.”

Additional reporting by Yasmeen Qureshi. 


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