The New York Times has run what is perhaps the least depressing story of this election season: a spotlight on a weekend-long training session for first- and second-generation immigrant women to run for political office. Conducted by the New American Leaders Project, whose express goal is prepping immigrants for leadership jobs in the civic arena, it was the organization’s first session for women only.
The Times piece focused on 29 women in New York City whose ethnicities and immigrant status runs the gamut; they were addressed by NALP founder Sayu Bhojwani (above), former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s first commissioner of immigrant affairs; Melissa Mark-Viverito, NYC City Council’s first Latina speaker; and Representative Grace Meng, New York State’s first Asian-American rep.
The subject of Trump, by name or by specter, was unavoidable—“We need to combat hate speech,” Meng told the Times—but more prominent was the positivity it seemed to inspire, particularly among Amanda Farias, a 26-year-old Puerto Rican/Dominican woman from the South Bronx who next year will run for City Council:
Ms. Farias did not think the political climate of hostility swirling around women and immigrants would stop her or anyone else in the room. “I think this is the moment,” Ms. Farias said. She has worked for Councilwoman Elizabeth S. Crowley, a Queens Democrat, the last three years. “If it’s not now, then it will be never.”
The stakes at this point, in my most hopeful estimation, are that the violent hate rhetoric coming from misshapen chorizo casing Donald Trump is indeed inspiring more women in immigrant communities to run for office, and that the response will be swift, fierce and tangible. Best case scenario, or at least in the realm of wishful thinking, it could parallel and surpass the the record number of women who ran and were elected to public office in 1992 in response to the despicable treatment of Anita Hill during Justice Thomas’s Senate Confirmation hearings (including by, lest we not forget, late-breaking women’s advocate Joe Biden).
Of course things are a bit different now; for one, Hillary Clinton’s made history as the first woman presumptive presidential nominee of a major political party in the US; for two, if vile denture stain Trump is somehow elected, who knows whether the entire structure of running for office will be shifted to exclude immigrants and/or women. (Maybe he’ll just kick us all out!) But it’s truly heartening that in the face of a potential Huxley-esque scenario, there are women fighting the good fight. Take the case of Samelys Lopez, a 36-year-old, Puerto Rican-born housing rights activist who was once homeless, and who this year will run for Democratic district leader in the Bronx’s 78th District. Lopez told the Times:
She said she was born in Puerto Rico, and her mother, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic without a high school diploma, worked in a sewing factory in New York. “We’re hardworking people. We have pride in where we come from,” Ms. Lopez said. “Isn’t that what being American is? The power of overcoming adversity, and being the best you can be with little resources.”
Yes, Ms. Lopez, indeed it is. Read the full piece here.
Sayu Bhojwani, Founder and President of the New America Leaders Project, speaks at a PBS panel in 2014. Image via Getty.