Voting Power 2014

Shirley Chisholm

When Shirley Chisholm broke both racial and gender barriers to become the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968 and later the first Black woman to run for U. S. president, she leapfrogged over more barriers to power than any woman considering a run today can even imagine.

Was she conflicted in her relationship with power? Just the opposite as the quote above indicates. How did she get that way and what can we learn from her on Election Day 2014?

My systematic research into many women’s ambivalent relationship with power began during the 2008 election season, when I wrote an article for Elle magazine about why women do—or as I came to find out, more often don’t—run for office.

Though women constituted 53% of the voters in 2012, Congress is less than 20% female and state legislatures are not much better.

At the rate women are advancing in Congress, it will be 60 years before gender leadership parity is reached. But more astounding is what I found in 2008 that stopped me short: it’s no longer external, structural barriers, though some do still exist, but internal ones that hold women back from fully embracing their political power. And there are far more similarities than differences in how this dynamic plays itself out in the seemingly divergent realms of work, politics, and personal relationships.

Image via Rutgers
Image via Rutgers

The personal is, was, and always will be, political.

I wanted to learn more: to understand what internalized values, implicit biases, assumptions, and beliefs about ourselves we as women haul around, like worthless cargo, hindering the full attainment of our potential as leaders and doers—what intricate personal and cultural constructs of power, the silent sinews that bind not only our political intentions, but our work lives and even our love lives.

vote_todayParadoxically, I’ve spent most of my adult life working for justice and power for others—African Americans, poor kids, other women. Not, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I feel blessed to have been able to make my life’s passion for social justice into my life’s work. And my path is not so different from gendered behavior regarded (and rewarded) as laudable—being nice, putting the needs of others first.

Which is the point. Fighting for others seemed worthy. Fighting for myself, or something I wanted, did not. And many younger women today tell me they experience similar reticence, even as they seek role models and mentors to teach them differently.

Yet all effective leadership is rooted in the language of power and the willingness to embrace the power one has. If women are ever to complete our staccato journey to equality, we must join the discourse and become deliberately fluent in power’s meanings and nuances.

While the men around us operate as though they own the world—because, for the most part, they do—women have to work consciously to assume that place of intentional power and agency. Women’s inner struggles parallel the pushme-pullyou history of our social and political advances.

It’s this relationship with power—almost a spiritual factor, rarely acknowledged by the metrics or even the philosophers, which I’ve witnessed in myself and countless other women—that fascinated me and propelled me to undertake writing my book, No Excuses, ultimately leading me to cofound Take The Lead. For until we redefine our relationship with power, we will stay stuck in our half-finished revolution.

And that matters for two reasons.

First, we will remain able to excuse and justify our lack of progress by pointing outward rather than owning our part of the responsibility to take the harder road of pushing forward courageously as Chisholm did.

Second, until we can stand confidently in our own power, we won’t be able to lead ourselves or others with intention. If we allow that to happen, both women and men will remain constrained within lives of limited gender stereotyped possibilities, lives that keep us all from achieving our full human potential.

The Right Honorable Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada (and the first head of that nation’s government), put it this way: “Look, power exists. Somebody is going to have it. If you would exercise it ethically, why not you? I love power. I’m power-hungry because when I have power I can make things happen, can serve my community, can influence decisions, I can accomplish things.”

Why not you, indeed? Why not any one of us?

And if a courageous woman like Shirley Chisholm could blast through seemingly impermeable barriers to run for president half a century ago, surely each and every one of us can at a minimum honor her memory by voting today and every Election Day.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Thank You, Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman, 1928-2014

Maya AngelouI remember the first time I read Maya Angelou’s book
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was the most searing yet beautiful prose I had ever encountered. And later, the phenomenon of her poem “Phenomenal Woman” invaded my consciousness and became a kind of anthem for women everywhere:

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

And who can forget the distinctive, rich voice of America’s poet laureate reading “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration?

“And still we rise.”

Like picking your favorite star from the galaxy, who can choose one from among Maya Angelou’s shining words? But it’s equally impossible not to try. Here are a few of our favorites in tribute to the woman who in the authenticity of her soul and the sharing of her wisdom  grew ever more beautiful with age:

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels.

Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.

 ♦

You may encounter many defeats,

but you must not be defeated.

In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats,

so you can know who you are,

what you can rise from,

how you can still come out of it.

♦ 

The plague of racism is insidious, entering into our minds as smoothly and quietly and invisibly as floating airborne microbes enter into our bodies to find lifelong purchase in our bloodstreams.

 ♦

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” 

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.

Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.

And nothing will ever dim the words of this phenomenal woman. Thank you, Maya Angelou. May you rest in the peace of one whose words and deeds have made the world phenomenally better.

What are some of your own favorite Angelou quotes?


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Women’s Equality Day and the Civil Rights March

It was all over the news for days. Every pundit, every political talk show, every newspaper march-on-washington-widerunning big retrospective spreads. Op eds galore, and reminiscences of what it was like to march together toward equality.

Today, August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, the day that commemorates passage of the 19th amendment to the US constitution, giving women the right to vote after a struggle that lasted over 70 years. A big deal, right?

Right. But that’s not what all the news was about. In fact, though President Obama issued a proclamation and a few columnists like the New York Times’ Gail Collins gave it a nod, hardly anyone is talking about Women’s Equality Day. At least not in consciousness-saturating ways that garner major media’s attention, as Saturday’s March on Washington commemorating the 50th anniversary of a similar Civil Rights march.

Yet the two anniversaries are rooted in common values about equality and justice for all. They share common adversaries and aspirations. Racism and sexism are joined at the head.

And as League of Women Voters president Elisabeth MacNamara’s article in the Huffington Post explains, both movements today share the challenge of maintaining the right to vote, earned with such toil and tears and even bloodshed.

Like many people who participated in the 1960′s Civil Rights Movement, I celebrate how far America has moved toward racial justice in the last 50 ‘years. I am grateful to the Civil Rights movement for calling our nation not just to fulfill its moral promise to African-Americans, but by its example of courage and activism inspiring the second wave women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and so much more.

I remember having an epiphany while volunteering for a multi-racial civil rights organization called the Panel of American Women, that if there were civil rights, then women must have them too. That awareness ignited my passion for women’s equality which has driven my career ever since.

But just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s galvanizing “I Have a Dream” speech thundered, “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” (emphasis mine) and sisters were not mentioned, women have yet to rise to full equality when it comes to honoring women’s historical accomplishments and current voices.

And just as the commemorative March on Washington was a necessary reminder of how far we have yet to go to reach the full vision of the Civil Rights movement, so Women’s Equality Day is best celebrated by committing ourselves to breaking through the remaining barriers to full leadership parity for women.

Check out Take The Lead‘s two posts on The Movement blog calling attention to the auspicious anniversary.

The first is Susan Weiss Gross’s delightful personal story–the tractor being a perfect metaphor — of how she overcame her internal barriers to equality. The second comes from author and Ms Magazine founding editor Susan Braun Levine. Suzanne will be writing about “Empowerment Entrepreneurs” and how empowering each other is the latest development in women’s equality.

Read, enjoy, and then get to work along with Take The Lead, which I co-founded along Amy Litzenberger early this year,  in our 21st century movement to prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their air and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025.

As the March on Washington twitter hashtag exhorted us to do, “#MarchOn!”


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Outsider Fits No Political Box, but Declares Choice Because “I Hope It Gets Better”

This is a powerful personal essay guest post on American culture and politics from my colleague, Tamara Fagin. Her title was “Random Musings From the Frontline” but I don’t think it’s random at all. I believe most Americans feel like outsiders at some time in their lives, and who have had the experience of being bullied or feeling like we have been treated unfairly because of our birth origins.

We are a nation of diverse heritages, a salad bowl of tossed differences rather than a melting pot where we all blend in together.

How does Fagin tie her personal experience as a one-woman salad bowl of cultures who always felt “different” with how she came to choose a candidate for president? Read on…and tell us your experiences.

All or for much of my life I have felt like an outsider.  Bullied in a sense for giving a damn.  I have early memories of eye-rolling, smirks or quiet taunts. This was not the punching, hair-pulling, tripping garden variety of physical bullying and worse, rather the insidious kind that eats at one’s insides and makes one eat lunch in the high school bathroom (it was clean and a friend joined me).

It was the one-off comment from the popular, All-American high school cheerleader that goes unanswered by one’s peers and one’s teacher. When I answered a question in A.P. U.S. History class, our teacher asked the class, “Why can’t you guys answer that question?  Tamara just moved here from Japan.“  The cute blonde cheerleader girl shouted, “She’s an import!” I can’t remember what happened after that.…

I just remember that I wished that we were back in Japan.  And, I wished that she knew the deal.  But, c’est la vie or shikataganai, as the Japanese say.

Note to Mr. M.:  you should have called her on that.  You should have never made that comment to the class about me being able to answer the question.  I was new to the school.  I was miserable.  I missed my old school, my old friends, my old beaches, my old Japanese nightclubs, my old routine and I missed Okinawa, Japan.

Note to educators everywhere: you make the bullying problem worse when you do this kind of comparison thing. It doesn’t work for parents when they say to their kids, “Why can’t you be more like your big brother, Johnny?”  Why the hell do you think it is going to make your domestic darlings try harder?  It just doesn’t.  It breeds resentment.  It pits us against them.  U.S. blonde, blue-eyed and beautiful against different. But, to borrow a phrase from my LGBT brothers and sisters, IT GETS BETTER.

In 5th grade, my family moved from the quaint, hippy town of Boulder Creek (nestled in a majestic Redwood forest atop the Santa Cruz mountains) to the small tropical island of Okinawa, Japan. I attended 6th grade at the brand new Amelia Earhart Elementary School and then attended the brand new Kadena High School (actually served grades 7 – 12). Both were on Kadena Air Force Base, one of the largest Air Force bases in the world.

My dad, a veteran of the Korean War, is a patriotic American; he is pretty much as American as you can get.  Born in Aldenville, Massachusetts in 1933 to a physician and homemaker (this moniker does not do her justice—she ran the hospital and the family home which was attached to the hospital).  My dad was the 4th born of 8 boys. The first 2 died in childbirth.  My grandfather delivered my dad and all of my uncles in their hospital in Western Massachusetts.

My mother was a Japanese woman born on August 25, 1945 in Hiroshima, Japan; a mere 2.5 weeks after the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb ever there.  My mother died a week before I began law school from stomach cancer.  We do not know if it was related to the bomb.  We will never know.  What I do know, is that life will never be the same for us with her gone so young.  She was only 47.

I am half Japanese.  I lamely joke that I was made in Japan but born and assembled in the U.S. of A.  Certified American.  Not an import. So, like our dear president, I am 100% American; and Mr. Trump and similar doubting Thomas’s (birthers—that term does a dishonor to mothers everywhere IMHO), I can produce my birth certificate but I choose not to. You are a bully, sir.  All that money and “hair” and you are a disgrace to this country.  But freedom of speech is king and you are free to make an ass of yourself.  Make my day.  Be my guest. Master Trump and Ann Coulter types only help my cause.

I leave for Japan on Thursday.  I wanted to be here for this historic election.  I am going to Japan with my husband to retrieve my maternal grandmother’s ashes and import them to the good ol’ U.S. of A.  It was not an easy call for me.  I have procrastinated all year trying to figure out what a Japanese woman born and raised on a tiny island off the coast of Hiroshima during the Taisho Era would have wanted.  It upsets me and is really ironic that I never discussed this with her.

You would have thought that this might have come up while my mother was dying in a hospital in Kobe, Japan.  You think this might have come up when I visited my grandmother all of those times while I was attending Tsuda College in Tokyo or when I was in Hiroshima doing research on social programs for the elderly. You think that this might have come up because I was a tax lawyer and even practiced estate planning law toward the end of my legal career.  How could I have been so negligent?

When my grandmother had a major stroke last year, I was not able to talk to her or her caregivers.  It seems that even Japan has enacted patient privacy laws.  There was no advance health care directive or power of attorney on file.  I was not her guardian.  She had no living children or heirs according to the official Japanese Family Registry – my mother never registered my brother and me.

What was my dear obachan?  A ward of the state?  She had 1 living younger brother – a man I did not know.  How could I not know her only living brother? He lived less than an hour away from her?!

I appealed to the hospital staff in Akashi from my home in California. I sent desperate faxes of pictures of me with my grandmother.  I had Bullet Train passes with dates of trips that I had saved from Tokyo to Nishiakashi.  I had pictures from April of 2006 when I took my husband, daughter and then 1 year-old son to visit her.  None of this worked.

I enlisted Japanese friends who were respected professors and government employees to contact the hospital on my behalf.  I was told to get to Japan ASAP.  I hired a lawyer.  He drew up the paperwork.  I was finally able to see her… but it was too late.  She was gone… or almost gone.  I visited with her for 2 days.

Going through everything in my head.  What could I have done differently?  I should have visited more.  I should have called more.  What a mess.  What a frickin’ mess.

I returned to California beaten.  Very unsure about whether being half Japanese, bi-racial, bi-national was worth it.  I didn’t get to have nice holidays with my grandparents.  I hardly ever saw them growing up.  I could not communicate with my grandparents until I was in college because I did not speak Japanese.  My mother translated everything.  Why couldn’t I just have grandparents who popped over and watched my soccer games like everyone else?  Why? Why? Why?

The day after I got home from Japan, I woke up and checked my email. My grandmother had died last night I was told.  She probably died when I was on the plane coming back. “What would you like us to do with her stuff?” they asked.

So, now I prepare feverishly to go to Japan with my husband.  We will go to the Buddhist temple where my grandmother’s ashes are stored, meet with her only surviving brother – who is understandably disappointed with me for my complete failure to handle this in a timely, efficient and appropriate Japanese manner, meet the real estate agent who has recommended that we cut the price of my grandmother’s modest home by 50% in order to sell it (we have had no offers for 9 months but it went on the market right after the Tsunami, hardly a good time for a quick sale) because it is on the proverbial slippery slope —the same sloping mountain side it has been on for 60+ years without incident!  We will try to eat some good sushi (Jiro Dreams of Sushi; Jiro-sama, please save us a seat at your sushi counter – a big seat for my husband and regular one for me onegaishimasu), see some cool stuff, soak in a nice onsen and purchase a new, state-of-the-art rice cooker.

So, how will I be treated in Japan as a hapa haole or as the Japanese say “hafu” (means half)?  I don’t look Japanese.  I somehow got all of the haole genes. I am often mistaken for a Latina. I use that to my advantage whenever I can. 😉

I am more Japanese than most folks would ever imagine and certainly more Japanese than pretty much any Japanese-American you would meet in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo or San Francisco’s Japantown.  I have been to more places in Japan than my mother and grandmother combined and more than most Japanese nationals I know.

So, let me tell you how I will be treated.  I know this well from past (painful) experience, and I doubt that things have changed much in the last year.  I will be treated with the utmost respect and polite distance.

Japanese people, bless their hearts, will use the appropriate honorific speech for someone of my educational background, gender and age.  They will be REALLY nice to my husband.  He will be treated like the prince that he is. 😉

I will be told umpteen times how good my Japanese is (even though it will never be really good) and how well I use my chopsticks (even though I am not so good at using chopsticks; my Jewish husband has much better form than I do, and I ask him to teach our kids!). And, people will be shocked when I tell them that my grandmother, grandfather and mother were Japanese.

I mean… jaw-dropping SHOCK will pass across their faces.  It will be fun for the first day and after that it will get old.  I will wish that I can just blend in and go on with my business.  But, that will never happen as long as I look the way that I do, walk the way that I do (like an American – taking up too much space and too proud), talk the way I do and look people in the eye with a little too much intensity and directness.

I will tell people that I’m half Japanese and people will shake their heads and crinkle their brows and try to compute that… “Hontoo ni?” Really? Yes, really.  There will be a disconnect.  But, no matter how good my Japanese is, no matter how much Japanese history, proverbs and strange only-Japanese people know kind of stuff I know, I will always be an outsider to them.  I will always be a gaijin (literally – outside person).

I was made in Japan – my mother was very pregnant with me when my mom and dad fled Japan for America.  My father worked for the U.S. government and wrote his Congressman and the Embassy/Consulate and requested an emergency transfer back to the United States for himself and his pregnant Japanese national bride.  Somehow they agreed.

Somehow the story of my affluent maternal grandfather, Mr. Noboritate, and his henchman (including the local police) and their bullying of my dad and my mother struck a chord with someone. Somehow his concerns for my mother’s sanity and the well-being of his unborn child resonated with someone fairly high up somewhere.  My grandfather was a nutcase.  He threatened my mother with a knife when she told him she was going to marry my dad.  She was young.  My dad was 13 years older and had been married before.  I get it.  I would not have blessed that marriage either… but a knife?

Really?

It was the 1960’s when my parents delivered their engagement news. Don’t kid yourself that the revelation of their marriage plans would have fared much better in the good U.S. of A where miscegenation was still against the law in a staggering number of states.

In spite of the challenges and my mother’s broken English, their love thrived and they were married until my mother’s premature death.  My maternal grandparents, on the other hand, divorced when my mother was still in elementary school.  This was the early 1950s and divorce in Japan at the time was unheard of and women’s rights in Japan was even more remote (or not even a concept yet!).

My grandfather was so unfit that even the desperate Japanese Army in the waning days of the World War II would not conscript him.  He was a flat-footed, he was mentally unstable, he was the only eligible bachelor on the island left for my unfortunate grandmother to be set up with in an arranged marriage.  He was a jealous, drunken fool and liked to beat her and chase her with a knife around the house.  She hid in the closets until he would fall asleep.  I can only imagine the horror.

At some point it must have become unbearable.  She made the Sophie’s Choice-like choice of staying with the madman or leaving my young, vulnerable mother to be cared for by his relatives.  She fled to Kobe—I guess she had a brother up there.  I’m not 100% sure.

I should have learned more about this sordid chapter of the Noboritate family history.  But now it is too late. They are all gone. How this must have felt, I can only imagine.

Anyway, I’m half Japanese and half French, I typically say; even though my dad is really of French-Canadian descent.  But, I am really 100% American.  I do not feel like an import.  I feel American.

Do I drive a Japanese car?  Your damn right I do.  I love my Lexus.

Do I like Japanese food?  Of course, I do.  I grew up eating steamed white rice every day.

Do I worship the emperor?  Are you kidding me? Of course, not.  No way.

I am 100% American – that I’m sure about.  But, I feel very conflicted these days.  Elections and the Olympics tend to do that to me.  I feel confused. Do I cheer for Japan or the U.S. in Women’s Soccer?  I usually go with whoever is winning. 😉

I don’t fit into any neat racial boxes and neither do my kids (it gets more complicated for them!).  At some point you have to wonder, what is the point?  My daughter is ¼ Japanese, ¼ “black” (well, technically, her paternal grandfather was from Trinidad, and my ex doesn’t like the phrase African American so I will honor her wishes here), ¼ French-Canadian and ¼ French (but my daughter’s paternal grandmother was born and raised in Algeria – so does that make her North African? She sure as heck did not feel French when they were forced out of Algeria and had to settle in the South of France – but that is another story for another time).

I don’t fit into any neat political boxes either and hence my dilemma this morning.  I need to fill out my ballot.  I need to turn that in tomorrow and really start focusing on my trip.  Argh… What to do?  I’m socially hyper-liberal and moderately fiscally conservative.  I am pro-choice and pro-parents’ rights but pro-tax reform and like the idea of a flat tax with credits/exemptions to address equity concerns (as long as they don’t wreck the simplicity/efficiency of the flat tax).

I am liberal and even libertarian at times but I support better food labeling, better environmental and food safety regulation and I support our military but I want our troops the hell out of Afghanistan.  I support our bases in Japan but I desperately want to go there and tell the troops – please, please, please leave the local people alone.  Respect them.  They may not look like you but they have sisters and mothers just like you do.  Do not abuse them.  Do not rape them.  Treat them like you would like to be treated.  Get along.  Be an example.  This is all they know about America.  Do not tarnish that.

To make things even more interesting, my family and I lived in Columbus, Ohio for most of 2011 and part of this year.  We also visited this summer.  It was insane the amount of political ads that were on the radio, T.V. and EVERYWHERE.  I feel for my fellow Ohioans… you must be SICK TO DEATH of this election.

I am so glad I got to know you better Ohio. I was fortunate enough to get to know Jennifer Brunner, the first female Secretary of State of Ohio and the author of the new book, Cupcakes and Courage (about her unsuccessful U.S. Senatorial campaign – looking forward to reading that on the plane to Japan), her amazing sister, Andrea Dowling—you are so supportive, welcoming and warm—the best qualities of a Midwestern woman, and my senpai and fellow Bryn Mawr alumna, Pari Sabety.  On the other hand, I was also fortunate to attend an intimate lunch with Senator Rob Portman and Jewish leaders (thank you Bob for that invite).  I met all of you in my first month or so of moving to Columbus.  It was quite an introduction to Ohio politics.

OHAYOO Ohio! Good Morning, O-H-I-O!  Thanks to the time change, it is still morning in California.  It has always struck me as funny that ohayoo in Japanese means good morning.  They are pronounced the same way.  Must be fate that I married two Ohioans and that many Japanese companies, such as Honda, have such a big presence in Ohio.

So, Ohio. You have been on my mind and most Americans’ minds lately. There is less than 12 hours to go until my polling station closes in California (thank you CNN for the countdown!).  I may be conflicted, confused, wishy-washy about many things and who or what propositions I’m voting for but one thing for sure is that I am going to vote.  I will take my kids with me and let them watch me vote.  I will make a big deal of walking to our local fire station or biking there (weather permitting) and exercising my right to vote.

I urge you to get informed.  You still have time!  Please vote.  And, get your neighbors, the elderly, the young hipsters, everyone, to vote. Teachers please share with your classes that you voted!  Take this opportunity to teach what is right and what is truly 100% American.

Our presidential vote in California might not count…but vote to reelect President Obama anyway to send a message if you value tolerance and inclusion. And, we have so many important issues on the ballot—issues that affect our schools (California Propositions 30 and 38), our streets, our safety (such as those regarding GMO-labeling (California Proposition 37)), human trafficking, the death penalty. Get out there and vote.  Proud to be an American, a Californian and half Japanese.  Feeling very patriotic and optimistic. PEACE. LOVE. OUT.

TAMARA MAYUMI GENEST FAGIN resides in Los Altos, California with an active elementary school duo and a great mensch of a husband with an even greater sense of humor.  She is a dedicated (and sometimes overzealous but well-meaning) community organizer and is the current Director of Development of The Fit Kids Foundation in Menlo Park, California (www.thefitkidsfoundation.org – please LIKE us on Facebook!). She is a proud graduate of Bryn Mawr College and Harvard Law School and was a Fulbright Scholar to Hiroshima, Japan in 1991-1992.  She also attended Tsuda College (1989), Stanford Law School (1995-1996) and a ridiculous number of other schools.  She loves to cycle, hike, cook, read, watch sports and hang out with her awesome friends and family. This is her second blog article.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Why Everyone Should Celebrate Juneteenth

I recall Juneteenth being widely observed by the local African American community when I was a little girl in Texas. There were barbecues, church services, and speeches, along with a general air of celebration. Today is the 145th anniversary of Juneteenth–June 19, 1865–the date when the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring the end of slavery, finally reached Texas 2 1/2 years late:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in September, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863. There are several versions of why the news traveled so slowly to Texas, a Confederate state, none of them particularly pretty, most having to do with foot dragging shenanigans and entrenched resistance to ending slavery, at least until another cotton picking season had finished.

In any case, this is why Juneteenth was first celebrated in Texas where it became an official state holiday in 1980.

During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, Juneteenth grew from a historical marker primarily recognized in Texas to a day celebrated nationally and even internationally; it has continued to grow in prominence not just in the African American community but across a spectrum of progressive political and social organizations.

Juneteenth’s resonant message can be interpreted many ways. There’s the literal date on which the slaves in Texas were legally freed from their bondage. But for those engaged in social justice work, its meaning is bigger.

First, as Martin Luther King observed,  the arm of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. We don’t have to be patient, but we must take the long view, stay optimistic, and know that change can happen–will happen if we stick with it.

And second, the liberation of anyone is the liberation of everyone.

Juneteenth, with its distinctive and particular African American dialect serves as a reminder to us all that the human aspiration to freedom and justice is universal.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.