We Organized A Massive Feminist SOTU Of Our Own. Here's What We Learned

Othello Banaci

What does unity look like? It sure as hell doesn’t look like what we saw at President Trump’s first State of the Union address.

A room full mostly of white men, applauding policies to separate families and deport the parents of United States citizens. A room mostly of top income tax bracket-earners, applauding tax reform that benefited the 1 percent under the pretense of “trickle-down” economics. A room standing to support spending billions of dollars to build a wall to keep people out, while 20 percent of our own citizens in Puerto Rico still don’t have running water.

Yet, just down the street, only a few miles away, another room full of people modeled unity. We know — because we organized it, and because we were there.

That is what real unity looks like. Diverse. Multiracial. Multilingual.

We were gathered with women activists and leaders at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to present The State of OUR Union to more than six hundred attendees. It was hosted by leaders from women’s organizations including Tarana Burke, Cecile Richards, Arisha Hatch of Color of Change, and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner of MomsRising. Minnesota State Representative Ilhan Omar spoke at the event, alongside Congresswomen Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee, both of whom had boycotted the State of the Union.

PHOTO

We shared stories of survivors of sexual assault who were silent for years and now feel safe speaking up, thanks to the #MeToo movement. We shared stories of the women of Appalachia who have to travel three hours to reach a hospital with a labor and delivery unit. And we recognized the women whose strength and support allowed us to arrive at this moment in the room — from the caregivers who support our sisters with disabilities, to the ancestors of our Native women, whose courage lives on through the generations that have followed.

We shared stories that demonstrate the strength and resilience of women — the same strength that now powers our movement for democracy — and we linked hands in symbol of our union.

That is what real unity looks like. Diverse. Multiracial. Multilingual. Reaching across industry and community to make space for all voices and concerns. Building our strength together rather than competing for strength with each other. Finding leadership in those with shared values, regardless of background.

When our democracy is under attack, women are the first responders who come together and rise. When our healthcare is at risk, women call their representatives and demand dignity.

It looks like the first Indian-American woman elected to the House of Representatives standing with a 10 year-old girl whose mother is a Dreamer and at risk of deportation. Or the first Somali-American Muslim legislator, also a woman, standing with a former domestic worker who endured abuse by her employers.

Othello Banaci

What we learned from The State of OUR Union is that our country is ready to be led by women. This year, we have an unprecedented number of women, especially women of color running for office — an incredible contrast, given how underrepresented women are in our political system, despite making up over 50 percent of our population. As women, we are working on social issues that people across our nation care about, and so often we are providing the answers.

When our democracy is under attack, women are the first responders who come together and rise, making history during the 2017 Women’s March. When our healthcare is at risk, women call their representatives and demand dignity. And now, when our very union is under threat by a divisive administration, women are stepping forward as candidates and elected officials, to set the agenda and take power into our own hands.

Othello Banaci

We want this union to be a healthy, multi-racial, inclusive democracy where we can all be heard and our collective strengths contribute to a stronger union for us all. Women are already building it in the way we’re building our movement. We know that women can, and will, tip the scales towards greater democracy and a more perfect union. Our refusal to be divided signals that it is within reach.