Leadership in Action!

"Mr. Kelly, please do not leave because I want you to know that I am more offended as an African American woman than you will ever be. And this business about making America great again, it is your president that is dividing this country. And don’t talk to me about the fact that we don’t understand what happens…No, I will not yield. Don’t tell me that we don’t understand, that’s the attitude that’s been given toward women time and time again. I respect the chair, but don’t stop me in the middle when you didn’t stop [Rep. Mike Kelly, R-PA] in the middle and so I shall continue."

(To Rep. Kelly) "Don’t you dare talk to me like that and think that somehow, women don’t understand what goes on on the floor of automobile dealers. And I am saying that I will continue to do that. However, I don’t appreciate that you did not interrupt him when he was making those outrageous remarks about him knowing more about discrimination than I know about discrimination. I resent that, and I resent the remark about making America great again. He’s down here making a speech for this dishonorable president of the United States of America. Having said that, I reserve the balance of my time. And no, I do not yield. Not one second to you. Not one second. Not one second to you."

This represents bold remarks made by a black female leader on the House Floor as she was continuously interrupted and recommended to make her remarks to the Chair, when that same treatment was not directed to her white male counterpart.

The black female leader in question is non-other than U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, D-Calif. She has represented multiple districts in Southern California (where I grew up) since 1991. This blog is not a commentary on politics, it is a commentary on leadership in action and the ability to speak up and be heard. Yes, we need leaders who make policy change and affect financial decisions, but the ability to clearly articulate your thoughts, views, critiques, warnings, and recommendations has historically been reserved for those in positional power. But when that positional power is skewed towards the hegemony, then we do not have representation.

Rep. Waters doesn’t represent the status quo – she’s black, female, and an elder. Not celebrated widely in the U.S. But what she does, repeatedly, is speak truth to power. She is what I refer to as #blackgirlpower. Not magic, but power. And that power scares many who would have her silenced. Her voice represents significant constituents whose voices will never be heard because this country doesn’t value them. Her act of speaking up, even during the act of being silenced, is the power to persevere for the many voices who do not have that platform. As our country is being inundated by the voice and the tweets of #45, it is imperative that we hear also hear other voices. Voices that are not afraid to call it as they see it (a lesson I learned at an early age by my grandfather).

An important component of my work over the years has been allowing space for voice. Not necessarily giving voice to, we all have our voice and our stories to tell, but creating a space where women and girls voices are encouraged, heard, and celebrated. Carol Gilligan (1993) encourages women to have relationships, release voices and claim what we know. Patti Lather (1991) promotes the development of feminist research designs, which empower and create self-reflexive processes. Monisha Das Gupta (1997) articulates the need of a gendered, transnational approach to examining the question of identity for immigrant women. Gloria Ladson-Billings (2000) legitimizes racialized discourses and ethnic epistemologies as processes that are rigorous and scholarly in the construction of a worldview that differs from the hegemony of the Euro-American worldview. What Rep. Waters so eloquently and powerfully does, is takes her space with a commanding presence. Not waiting to be called on or asking to be heard, she’s putting it out front and center. That is leadership in action, we see it, we hear it, we embody it, and it emboldens us!

Supreme Court Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a telling dissent calling attention to the inequity of #45's travel ban, when Justice Neil Gorsuch, a #45 appointee decided the fifth vote which upheld the ban. Justice Sotomayor and Ginsburg wrote:

"The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty. Our Founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment. The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ because the policy now masquerades behind a façade of national-security concerns."

In speaking truth to power, Justice Sotomayor concludes:

"Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments. Because the Court’s decision today has failed in that respect, with profound regret, I dissent."

Yes! I applaud these powerful women for having the courage and being diligent in using their voices to represent the sentiments that are held by so many who are being denied that basic right. And yes, we hear very loudly the voices of opposition to religious freedom, ethnic and cultural representation, gender identity and self-designation, and basic human rights to those who are marginalized in this country and around the world. Leadership is not something that gets awarded and placed on a mantel. Nor is it something that comes with a title, elected or otherwise. Leadership is the act of being selfless, to understand the needs of others and represent those needs in multiple environments; from the board room to the classroom and beyond.

With new leadership onboard, and marking its twentieth anniversary, LeaderSpring Center (LSC) sheds new light on its values, philosophy, and goals, grounded on two decades of exemplary service. More specifically, LSC reaffirms its foundational pillars of growth; community; trust; and commitment; building on the accumulation of past accomplishments and forging the future of equity. In its new phase, LSC undertakes its work by delving deeply into what impacts and undermines leadership among people of color in the social sector and other marginalized groups, honing-in on systems of oppression. These systems not only assail low-income and historically marginalized populations, but they also impact the leadership of those committed to transforming communities.

Working on leadership in this manner requires an approach and a lens that affirms and cultivates leaders’ talents, acknowledge and address the detrimental effects of oppression, and foment thorough personal and organizational change. LSC resolves to be a catalyst for societal good by facilitating:

* Transformative processes that elevates people’s agency, collectively and individually to optimize leadership for change; and

* Changes in organizational culture and structure in efforts to oppose and dismantle systems of oppression.

To facilitate this, in addition to our Fellowship program, LeaderSpring will work with leadership in governmental institutions, philanthropic foundations, and other relevant entities that impact the social sector. In essence, we will undertake a dual approach by working with leaders that have likely experienced oppression, and with organizations and institutions whose cultures may gain from a deeper understanding of what systems of oppression and inequities are, do, and represent. The application of a magnifying lens on systems of oppression bolsters countering efforts and stems from understanding what research, studies, and practice show.

It is from this preface that LeaderSpring Center is pleased to announce Women of Color LeadStrong Fellowship. LeaderSpring’s fellowships are an antidote to isolation and an opportunity to set in motion powerful shifts in the way social sector leadership is defined and how power is distributed. The purpose of the Women of Color LeadStrong fellowship is to elevate and strengthen the vision, voice, power and leadership of women of color working for social and racial equity and justice in the social sector. It will provide a healing, generative, and rigorous space to learn, grow and create.

The framework for the LeadStrong fellowship holds that equity and social justice leadership actions, individual and collective, centered in a love ethic, can transform self, others, systems and the communities in which we live and work, through integral personal development, critical sector analysis, intersectional and collective partnerships, and changes in organization culture and systems. Applications are now being accepted for this two-year cohort. For additional information, please visit the website for an interest form and information session dates and locations.

Also, please save the date for LeaderSpring’s Annual Event, the graduation of our East Bay Cohort class of 2018, and the Contra Costa County Leadership Institute, along with special topic discussions by current fellows and alumni to be held on Thursday, November 15 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. More information to follow.

So, as we move into celebration of America’s Independence Day--Fourth of July--let us interrogate what that means for our hermanos y hermanas y hijos who are being denied independence and justice at our boarders.

¡La Lucha Continúa! (The Struggle Continues!)