By Senator Lena C. Taylor
I grew up during the tail end of the 1980’s and danced my way into the 1990’s. From Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” to Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First,” music powered my politics and my fierce understanding of feminism. I learned at my grandmother’s knee and by my mother’s side, what it meant to be a woman in this world. I knew there were expectations and limitations that had been made for my life, by other people. I would come to understand that James Brown’s declaration that “this is a man’s world” was a mantra based in pattern, practice and at times, in the law. Let’s face it, women are treated differently in this country.
The recent announcement of United States Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) as the Vice-Presidential running mate on the Democratic ticket, has just upped the ante. While there weren’t “binders” of women being considered for the V.P. post, the pool of candidates considered represented the best and brightest minds of our times. While no one could say with certainty who would be chosen, many opined about the possibility of a Harris selection. Afterall, as a contender for the presidency herself, the California Senator made folks a little uncomfortable. For some, a smart, direct, competitive, assertive and aspirational woman is cause for concern. So, in reality, any of the women being considered posed a similar threat.
While Sen. Harris’ nomination is historic, we know that there have been other threats or “table shakers.” I picked up that term from Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), during a discussion about women having a seat at the proverbial table. For years women had been blocked from legislative rooms. Former Rep. Shirley Chisholm (NY-12), became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress in 1968, the first black candidate for a major party’s nomination for president of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, insisted that women “bring our own chair.”
Previous Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (NY-8), who was the first female vice-presidential nominee representing a major American political party, often reminded us that “Some leaders are born women.” To that end, Hillary Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State, became the first woman to earn a major party’s nomination for president, earning 66 million votes and demonstrating that our nation is ready for a woman lead. Understanding this, women are keenly aware of the obstacles Sen. Harris will face. Women around the country have decided to get in formation to protect her candidacy.
While humming “Fight the Power,” I join them in gearing up to stop sexism and unequal treatment in its tracks. As the lyrics play in my head “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps” or in today’s case, most of my heroes don’t appear on no money (Harriet Tubman). Women are ready to fight the powers that be for our rightful place in leadership. As Queen Latifah said “Ladies first, there’s no time to rehearse.”