During a recent Inclusion NextWork’s Community Conversation, political experts Ana Victoria Morales and Jackii Wang, shared how they move the needle on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Social Justice (IDEAS) within their sphere of influence. Their wisdom gave us three ways to advocate for IDEAS in US politics even after the midterm elections.
Bring others with you.
At the most basic level, representation matters. It is imperative to have people in office with values, identities, backgrounds and experiences that mirror the communities they serve. Recently, Morales was given the opportunity to shape Senator Warren’s visit to Lawrence, Massachusetts (Morales’ hometown) after a recent unexpected gas explosion. She was uniquely positioned to design this visit not just because she grew up there, but because she shares the Dominican identity and background of the many families affected by the tragedy. Morales’ team gives her the respect, the access, and the resources to influence decisions directly impacting her community. This illustrates the importance of diversity and inclusion: not only was she part of the team, she was also deeply valued and fully involved and supported.
There are significant structural barriers that prevent marginalized communities from advancing in US politics. Morales and Wang stressed the importance of giving back and encouraging a greater diversity of potential candidates to enter politics. If you’re in a position of power, open doors for others by mentoring or sponsoring them. Go out of your way to recommend someone with potential. Make time for informational interviews. Go back to your high school and speak about your career. Most importantly, don’t just ask people to attend important meetings or briefings because it looks good. Ask their opinions, and make sure their voices are heard. Be an ally and a partner, and be open to learning from them to inform and strengthen your own work as well .
Make the time for real human connections.
Engaging in conversations across political differences can be intimidating. It can also ignite fear. Most frequently, it can leave both sides exhausted, frustrated and defeated. Morales and Wang both agreed that to achieve political progress, people must try to push past the awkwardness of uncomfortable conversations to find human connection across difference. Morales shared a story of building strong relationships with the conservative mechanics who fix her car. Despite their political differences, the mechanics go out of their way to make sure she is cared for and that she is safe on the road. Wang explained how she formed a friendship with a Republican grad school classmate, with whom she worked together on a successful project .
Discovering the human side of people builds trust, empathy and hope. Building meaningful connections across difference takes time. Challenge yourself to be vulnerable with those who are different from you by sharing personal stories and using “I” phrases to explain your perspective. Recognize your shared humanity, and find areas of overlap to work together on those issues where you can find shared values and a common cause.
Morales and Wang reminded us that breaking barriers for marginalized communities in politics is hard work. Continue to bring up the IDEAS issues that matter most to you and don’t back down. For Wang, this may mean speaking up to add in statistics about women of color (or the lack thereof) in her Congresswoman’s speeches. For Morales, it involves consistently bringing her community issues to meetings or weaving them into casual conversations with influencers in her office. People in positions of power can support individuals fighting for IDEAS issues through amplification. Both panelists recommend amplifying the comments made by underrepresented colleagues to echo and reinforce their points, while continuing to create spaces to make their voices heard in the first place. Change won’t happen overnight, but collective, committed voices expedite the process.
Above all, don’t forget that you can make an impact in your own sphere of influence. Whether you’re a Campaign Director, a Policy intern or a first-time volunteer, your efforts make a difference. Continue to find ways to promote more diversity in politics at all levels, make sure these voices are heard once they’re there, and support (and vote for!) their work along the way. PANELISTS
Ana Victoria Morales joined Senator Elizabeth Warren’s re-election campaign as Deputy Political Director. Born in the Dominican Republic she immigrated with her family to Lawrence MA she is a Lawrence High school graduate and upon receiving a full tuition scholarship through the Posse Foundation, she attended Denison University earning a bachelors degree in Political Science, Spanish, and Dance. After graduation, she served as Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Press Assistant for the State and then joined the labor movement as Deputy Communications Director for Service Employees International Union Local 509. And now she is returning to her old stomping grounds excited to get Senator Warren Re-elected. Ana is an active member of the Merrimack Valley who currently serves as a state committee member for the 1st Essex and Middlesex districts, recently held a seat on Lawrence's Mayor Dan Rivera’s re-election committee, and is passionate about voter engagement and inclusion, she believes that civic engagement, education, and access is key and the backbone of democratic politics. Ana is a proud resident of Lawrence MA and if you are interested in getting involved in the campaign or connecting with her do not hesitate to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jackii Wang is currently a Legislative Assistant for Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and supports the Congresswoman's women's issues, healthcare, and education policy portfolio. Previously she worked as a Women's Congressional Policy Institute Legislative Fellow for Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA). A native New Yorker, she completed her master’s degree in Public Administration (MPA) with a focus on women’s issues and social policy at The George Washington University where she was also MPA President. Prior to graduate school, she worked for the New York City Department of Education and a boutique lobbying firm, where she was involved in state and local politics. Jackii received her bachelor's degree from New York University.