Women To Know: Aimee Allison

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Women to Know 2020, Aimee Allison

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Aimee Allison

Founder, She The People

Aimee Allison is all about politics with a heart. She founded She the People as a way to turn non-voters into voters and political cynics into believers in community power. The Stanford grad, and Oakland, Ca. native wanted her organization to inspire more people to realize how their collective voices could impact politics, especially when it comes to women of color. Since its inception in 2018, She the People has served as a national network of voters, organizers, and BIPOC women with the goal of leading the nation into a new multiracial political era, where more marginalized voices are being heard. Here, Allison explains how she got into politics, and what her work through She the People means for a better political future. 

When did you first become interested in politics? 

After enlisting in the Army Reserves at age 17, I cared for veterans with lifelong physical wounds, and many that suffered from moral injury. I trained with Black women in my unit in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and Fort Sam Houston, Texas, most of whom came from poor communities but wanted to serve and create a life of meaning. These experiences helped shape my political views. By the 1990s, I took a public stand for peace and had become one of the first women of color to be honorably discharged as a conscientious objector, cementing my lifelong pursuit to support  strong moral leadership and political courage. 

However, my great political awakening came in high school watching political giants like then-presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson, who built a multiracial political organization and inspired millions of people who looked like me. I was also inspired by  Reps. Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan and Barbara Lee, who took a landmark vote as the only House member against the authorization for use of force in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

What led you to found She the People?

She the People began with a dream to write the first book about women of color in politics. For three years, I studied the data and interviewed women of color organizers, strategists, and leaders across the country. The legacy of women of color is the greatest untold political story in America.  I witnessed first-hand the political power, savvy, and brilliance of women of color candidates, organizers, and strategists.

I founded She the People from the conviction that we need to lift each other up, we need to create spaces where we can talk to each other, and unite in the common cause of justice. I founded She the People to create a new center of gravity in American politics around women of color and our collective vision, and to create space in our culture so that our talented, brilliant leadership can govern at every level.

What obstacles did you encounter along the way that in the end taught you some of the most important lessons you’ve learned about how to function in politics? 

First, we need new stories about our own power. This is more than positive self-talk, it is a new understanding that leads us to live in tremendous power and influence when we stand together. When we tell new stories, we can set goals and intentions that reimagine our lives and future. I said over two years ago that Democrats will not win the White House without enthusiastic support from women of color. We are a quarter of the battleground state electorate and can deliver a victory that is a retelling of American politics from which the so-called experts focus their data, and analysis and hopes on a shrinking group of white conservative voters. I face challenges raising political money as a Black woman, and convincing donors of the value of outreach directly to most valuable Democratic voters — Black and brown women. But I’ve learned that telling a story about our power can translate into results. Despite the racist and sexist attacks we have suffered under this current administration, Senator Kamala Harris is on the ticket and widely acknowledged as the best hope to unify a voting coalition across race and gender. That’s the superpower we have. This election is further proof that we still have more work to change the fundamentals of an American political system built to privilege white men over everyone else. While we are experiencing a reckoning with American racism, women of color have been challenging the country to be comprehensive and change the policies and practices that have caused us so much pain under white supremacy.

What has been your experience leading the charge as a Black woman in this space? 

I had to tweet that She the People is a Black-led organization. It’s worth saying that Black women, including myself, are creating the relationships, sensibility and solidarity needed in a multiracial democracy — one that is not here yet but we are living into. I’m a California girl with a community that looks like the future of America. I often connect and reconnect with the legacy of Black women who fought to make sure everyone belongs. Who speak truth to power. It is not easy to be a courageous truth teller – there are often consequences. But my experience shows we pay a higher price for staying back and not using our lives as forces for good.

 

What inspires you to keep going? 

Hope. In 2040, people of color will become the New American Majority, which will be a powerful force — particularly women of color. She the People exists to seize this moment; to show how women of color are driving a new progressive political and cultural era. We have moved beyond stories of being “first” and are changing the ways in which we view and perceive the public good — and the country is ready for our leadership. 

What’s your advice to young women who want to pursue a career in political activism? 

Your net worth is your network. Get involved in movements and understand that public service is not who you are but what you do. A career in political activism should be grounded in relationships and movements that are bigger than one person – and if elected you can carry those movements into offices. Finally, a way to build your network is to take a Higher Heights candidate training, or New American Leaders for our sisters that are immigrants. Or apply to take the year-long Emerge candidate training. We need you, now more than ever. We look to the next generation to help energize the political power of women in color. 

What keeps you hopeful about the future of our nation? 

I am hopeful because women of color are a political force in America changing the norms of politics and what’s possible. Women of color are a massive electoral force — more than 38 million women of color are eligible to vote in 2020, and we are here to save democracy. That should make us all hopeful.

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