While the Declaration of Independence says that "all men are created equal," We Won't Wait is spending the July Fourth weekend reminding everyone that we're not quite there yet. The coalition of organizations, which works to advance policies that benefit and protect women of color and low-income women, is holding a "week of action" during the national holiday, with grassroots events across the country.
We Won't Wait is comprised of nine advocacy organizations, and was spearheaded by Make It Work, the National Domestic Worker Alliance, and Caring Across Generations. These groups came together in 2016, during the height of the election cycle to promote an intersectional agenda anchored in providing economic security to women of color and low-income women. This included advocating for healthcare access, immigration and criminal justice reform and fair wage and paid leave laws.
Nearly a year later, We Won't Wait is using the Fourth of July as an opportunity to hold a series of events to engage women of color and low-income women, connect them with the politicians, and most importantly, create sustainable support by fostering life-long activists.
Alicia Jay, leader of We Won’t Wait and co-founder and managing director of Make It Work, says that the decision to tie the event to the Fourth of July holiday was both logistical and symbolic. Congress is in recess, so getting constituents to come to events in their home areas would be easier. Moreover, the parallel between We Won't Wait's mission and what the Independence Day holiday represents can't be overlooked.
"Given the political landscape, given how important it is for us all to work together toward a solid, common goal, we saw the July Fourth week of action as an opportunity," Jays tells Bustle. "Being able to tie it to the narrative of the holiday, which is around the Declaration of Independence and this idea of 'liberty and justice for all.' Well, who do we mean when we really say all?"
We Won't Wait's events aim to get women of color and low-income women to recognize how powerful their voices and votes are, and then give them the tools to channel that power into legislative change. Events will include a block party in downtown Las Vegas with both family-friendly entertainment and conversations with elected officials, round table discussions in Atlanta that will focus on black women's issues, events in Michigan hosted by criminal justice reform and labor advocacy groups, and an event in Washington, D.C. centered around the fight for a fair wage for restaurant workers.
Jay says that We Won't Wait aims to hold politicians' feet to the fire when it comes to the promises they make to women of color and low-income women on the campaign trail.
"I think if public officials, generally speaking, want to rely on the support of women of color and low-income women, then they need to advance policies that actually recognize the needs of those communities," Jay says. “And, the other half of that is if they claim to represent them, then they need to actual support policies that support our families."
Jay says that one of the most amazing things she hears at We Won't Wait events is women saying they never knew they could wield this much influence in the political arena.
“There was a domestic worker, and I remember her standing up and saying, 'I had no idea I had so much power until I came here,'" Jay says of a woman at an event last fall. "These events are compelling because they give people a sense of their own power within the context of collective action. It’s real grassroots activists being able to see that they're not alone."
On this Fourth of July, the women who participate in these events, or who want to be involved remotely, are being asked to sign on to We Won't Wait's own declaration. The pledge calls on signatories to call their representatives once a week for the rest of the year, to continue the coalition's goal of advancing its agenda and holding politicians accountable.
"There's this idea of 'You come for one of us, you come for all of us,'" Jay says. “All of our stickers say 'Get free together.' And I think this week in particular its going to be clear — whether the attacks are on voting rights, immigrant rights, cuts to Medicaid — we really are all in this together. We really all have a stake in this fight. And if we fight together, we’re so much more likely to win.”