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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

This Women’s History Month make plans to engage in the political process

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Kennedy Phillips

Rosa Parks. Susan B. Anthony. Barbara Jordan. Sandra Day O’Connor. Madam C.J. Walker. Those are among the women most people think about during Women’s History Month.

I think about my mom, my grandmother and my granna.

They’re the ones who laid the foundation for me to make history as a first-generation college graduate and one of the few Black young women to lobby on behalf of the rights of women at the Indiana Statehouse.

They’re the ones who schooled me from a young age in the importance of paying attention to the political process, representation and empowerment.

And they’re the ones who told me, “Black people and women didn’t fight for the right to vote for no reason.”

In my family, awareness of what’s going on in politics is expected. Participation in the process is a part of life. And voting? That’s an obligation.

With this foundation, I became interested in powerful political leaders at an early age. In middle school, I became aware of then-Sen. Kamala Harris. Seeing a Black women in power inspired me to want to run for political office (something that still intrigues me, albeit probably at a local level because that’s where real change happens). I was only eight years old when my mom took me for the first of two times to hear President Obama speak, experiences that will forever motivate me.

In college, I pursued a degree in political science at Winston-Salem State University, an HBCU in North Carolina. There I got involved in local and national campaigns, the student government political action committee and a huge get-out-the-vote effort. As part of the American Israeli Policy Committee, I visited Washington, D.C., and met two of my heroes, Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Filled with passion after that trip, I was elected to lead the HBCUs for Biden group on our campus.

My point in sharing all of this is not simply to tell my story. My point is to encourage everyone to take time this month to think not just about the giants of women’s history but also about the women who personally inspire you. Who helped shape you? Who blazed a trail for you? And how can you work to fill their shoes?

My guess is that you can honor their legacy is by speaking up, showing up and voting.

That last point is especially important for young women and men. In the 2020 election, only 29% of Hoosiers aged 18 to 24 voted. Imagine the change we could drive if every young adult who voted four years ago came back to the voting booth this year but, this time, brought along one or two people who didn’t vote back then. And imagine the impact we could have if we all took time to urge people to vote.

That’s where Women4Change can help you engage. Once again, we’re organizing a Get Out the Vote campaign, and we need lots of volunteers to make it happen. Whether you want to register voters, write postcards or staff tables to answer questions, you can be a part of an effort to show anyone who runs for office that women’s votes can be deciding votes.

And you can be a part of a movement that honors the great icons of women’s history as well as the humbler, but no less important, women like my mom, my grandmother and my granna.

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