Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in book_prev() (line 775 of /home/customer/www/

Complete Transcript

Aileen Clarke Hernandez is a union organizer and civil right activist from New York. With the passage of the national Civil Rights Act of 1964, she was appointed as the only woman member of the new United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Frustrated with the limited power of the civil rights agency, she resigned after eighteen months as a Commissioner, returned to San Francisco and founded her own urban consulting firm in 1967. The firm works with major American companies, governmental agencies, and community-based organizations on a wide variety of issues facing cities such as housing, employment, education, sustainable development and transportation. She is the State Chair Emeritus of the California Women’s Agenda (CAWA), a network of 600+ organizations serving women and girls; the Coordinator for Black Women Stirring the Waters; and Chair of the Coalition for Economic Equity, which advocates for increased government contracting opportunities for businesses owned by women and minorities. She was the second national president of the National Organization for Women (NOW).  

Catherine Tactaquin is Executive Director and a co-founder of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Her commitment to immigrant rights was initially motivated by her own experience as the U.S.-born daughter of an immigrant farmworker from the Philippines. Before joining the National Network, she was involved for many years in grassroots organizing and advocacy in the Filipino community on issues of discrimination and foreign policy. Catherine helped to found Migrant Rights International in 1994, and is a member of its Steering Committee. She is a former recipient of the Bannerman Fellowship, an award recognizing outstanding activists of color.

Juliet Ellis is Executive Director of Urban Habitat, an organization that builds power in low-income communities and communities of color by combining education, advocacy, research and coalition building to advance environmental, economic and social justice in the Bay Area. Prior to that she was the Associate Program Officer for Neighborhood and Community Development at The San Francisco Foundation where she was responsible for all aspects of grantmaking, in the areas of workforce development, housing, homelessness, economic development, community development, and neighborhood planning. Juliet has served on numerous regional and local boards and committees, including the Oakland Homeless and Low-Income Taskforce, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the Boards and Steering Committee of Transform, the White House Environment and Climate Taskforce, and several others.



Jesse Clarke: Good morning, everyone! I'm Jesse Clarke, editor of "Race, Poverty and the Environment." And I'd like to welcome you to Radio RP&E and to the KPFA studios, where we're being produced by the "Women's Magazine" of KPFA with assistance from the National Radio Project, and particularly thank Lisa Andrew, our bard today. Our program today, we have three special guests, and they're going to be discussing the role of gender and women's participation in the social justice 00:30 movements. And how the work of each of these leaders has enabled and empowered women workers, the U.S. economy, particularly working class women and other marginalized communities of women in the United States including immigrant women and working women of color. And each of our guest, you know, comes from a different generation of women's activists and we're looking back, as it's the 20th anniversary of RP&E, at some of the 01:00 origins of  the social movements over the past few decades, and their trajectories into the future. And particularly we're looking at how race and class analysis works with gender analysis to really provide a base for liberating the people of this society.


So, our guests today. We have with us from California, since 1951, she tells us: Aileen Clarke Hernandez, who's a union organizer, a civil rights activist from New York, but been here since '51. 01:30 She, upon the passage of the Civil Rights Act from 1964 became the first and only woman member of the United States Employment Opportunity Committee--Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. And she spent some time working in that format, ran into some blockades and some frustrations, which I hope she'll be talking about a little bit in this interview, and went on to move into her own consulting business, since 1967, which she continues  02:00 to run. And she's the second National President for the National Organization of Women, and she's also the State Chair Emeritus of the California Women's Agenda. And the founder of Black Women Stirring the Waters, which sounds very interesting. Thanks for coming, Aileen.


Aileen Clarke Hernandez: You're very welcome! I'm delighted to be here.


Clarke: We're also joined by Catherine Tactaquin, who is the executive director of the National Network for Immigrant and 02:30 Refugee Rights. And her commitment to immigrant rights was initially motivated by her own experience as a U.S. born daughter of immigrant workers from the Philippines. And before she was at the National Network, she spent many years doing grassroots organizing in the Filipino community, and she's now the executive director of the National Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights. And thanks again, Catherine, for joining us.


Catherine Tactaquin: Thank you.


Clarke: And we also are joined by Juliet 03:00 Ellis, executive director of Urban Habitat. And it's an organization that builds power in low-income communities and communities of color by combining education, advocacy and research to advance environmental and economic justice in the Bay Area. And she's also currently a member of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. And it's an interesting set of connections as we have these people going into these commissions, and doing their best to shift their political agendas. 03:30 And sometimes we have some interesting challenges in that dimension, so I'm hoping we'll get some conversation about how moving into these political positions really shifts our work in today's context. So, thanks for joining us again.


So looking at the bigger picture of the women's movement, there's sort of an ideological and ideational basis for it, which is feminism 04:00. And Aileen, having started organizing in 1951 in California, or perhaps maybe even quite a bit before that, there might not have been an obvious lead to find movement as the people in the 60s looked at it. But obviously women's suffrage and the struggle for equal rights in the United States, ongoing process. And maybe you can just talk a little bit about your perspective on, you know, how you see feminism and what does it actually mean to you?


Hernandez: Well, we're sort of doing this on a very interesting day 04:30, because August 26th is the 90th anniversary of women getting [to] vote in the United States. And I would say the word "feminism" at this stage, has a much better reputation than it had some time back. Because it was very difficult, particularly to try to get women of color involved in the women's movement in those early days. It was mostly a movement that was led by women who were middle class 05:00 and white, for the most part. And it happened in a very strange way. It happened at a conference, and the conference that we're talking about was a conference that dealt with the fact that there were people who were concerned about women moving past just having equal pay, because that had occurred in 1963, just a few days before--a few years before then. And the women who were there happened to be 05:30 there because they were all appointed by some governor in some state that they came from.


So you were dealing with a whole lot of women who for the most part were not women who were working class women. And so it was very difficult in the beginning to even find a few women of color there. And not to be identified was what everybody who was a minority said at that time. If you were a black or a Latino or a Filipino, or what, you just didn't join the women's movement 06:00, as identified by NOW. And people just don't recall that there were other parts of the women's movement going on at the very same time, but NOW was a very different organization.


Clarke: I don't know if Juliet or Catherine, you want to talk about how you actually see the ideas of feminism and the sort of social stream of thought, as you intersected with it, entering into your own work life 06:30?


Tactaquin: Well, I was glad to hear Aileen's description. And I think as a young woman coming into political awareness at a certain period, I certainly did not identify with really I think significant feminist movement, that did shake up a lot of things in a very good way. But I think as a young woman of color, and in the political organizing that I 07:00 was interested in doing, in the Filipino community at the time, it didn't really I think have much impact on me. And I was actually much more drawn to identifying with some strong women leaders, for example, that I came into contact with, for example, who were leaders in the Philippines, in the movement there who were fighting the dictatorship. Many of them came to the United States, were exiled here, and played a very leading role 07:30 in building a movement among Filipino nationals and Filipino Americans, like myself, and raising awareness around foreign policy or on what was going on in the Philippines, the role of the United States.


Those were the leaders that I looked to. And I probably, when I look back on it, I think I rejected a lot of the leadership from the mainstream feminist movement, as I saw it as not being really relevant and interested in what I was doing.


Clarke: Interesting 08:00. And coming in maybe another...


Ellis: Generation, exactly.


Clarke: ...20 years later. How did it look from your perspective, Juliet?


Ellis: What's interesting is that at the university level was interesting in kind of women's studies and those types of classes, but also extremely interested in environmental justice courses that were offered, for example, at San Francisco State. And would get individual books myself, just because I was interested in learning 08:30, et cetera. But what I find around the work, kind of the social justice work, is that all of my colleagues and peers that were women, and most of them were women of color, many of us identified either as feminists or just didn't talk about the work in that way, yet we all had mentors that were women of color that were in leadership positions and that were making amazing differences in the work 09:00.


And it wasn't until I became executive director at Urban Habitat at the age of 29 that it really struck me on a personal basis of what the differences to lead as a woman and as a woman of color for an organization. And both in the interactions that I would have with male employees and staff people that were all made of color. But even the way that they interacted with me, and their expectations of if 09:30 you didn't lead in a certain way which I would say often times almost are stereotypical male ways, of hogging up all the space and slamming the door and, "When I'm mad, you're going to know it," and da-da-da, like and using my power because I have it and intimidation. Like if you didn't operate in that way, that it was a constant battle because of the push-back of who is actually leading? Am I in this position?


And it was really interesting, and I think it's taken a while just to be able to kind of embrace my own leadership 10:00 style as a woman, and that it is different then kind of what you imagine stereotypically of kind of more male leadership. But that there's space for that and that there is kind of greatness around being a leader that's grounded in your own values, and et cetera.


Hernandez: It's very interesting that you say that. Because I came from Civil Rights movement, that's where I got into the women's movement, from the Civil Rights movement. And actually I was a graduate of Howard University 10:30, and did my first picketing in Washington, D.C., which was totally segregated in those days. No blacks could go anywhere in Washington. There were no restaurants you went to or no places that you could actually go to a movie and sit in the seat that you chose: you went to the seat that they put you in at that stage. And I think that whole period of my life was never seeing women in any positions of authority, but, and knowing that there were lots of women who 11:00 had done a lot of things.


Washington is a strange city in many ways, and I'm sure a lot of people will agree with me on that. But in those days, there were very many, very outstanding women. Mary Church Terrell, for example, was very active in those days, and she also helped to found the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and she sued the government and finally wound up getting their changes on it. She sued the restaurants in Washington, D.C. 11:30 And my role model was a woman by the name of Pauli Murray. And Pauli Murray was a graduate of Howard, she was at the Howard University law school, at that point. I was still I think a sophomore in those days. And she was so different from anybody I had ever met before because she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She had fought discrimination all of her life, both as a woman and as a person who was black, and 12:00 Pauli was the one that really got me going. In addition to my professor at Howard University, when I decided to take political science instead of education; came into the room and saw me alone in this room of 40 people, all the rest were men. And said, "If you are not ready to work very hard in this class, I want you to leave now, and take home economics."


So it was a whole different atmosphere in those days that you had to go through. 12:30 And you always were trying to prove yourself as you went along, in those days, because nobody else was around to do it for you.


Clarke: Yeah, I'm interested. If you could talk more about both the personal experience of sexism and discrimination, and the challenges around that, and also in the larger picture reflect on how sexism and discrimination are functioning in today's society and how that structurally is playing out, in terms of the feminisation of poverty and the role of economics in women's 13:00 lives? I don't know who to jump to next. Just some of the other experiences you've had directly of sexism and discrimination, but also looking at that larger picture?


Tactaquin: Well, I think, for myself. First of all, I grew up in a family with three brothers. We were a poor farmworker family, my mother worked in the fields. I think for a lot of poor working class people, in terms of gender roles, some of that begins to break down. On a certain level, a lot of it gets played out economically. 13:30 And both parents, Mom and Dad have to work for family survival. But at that point there clearly is a stop, and I, growing up, was very aware of certain, of gender roles within my family. But because I was the only girl, on the one hand I was treated in a special way. On the other hand, I had to speak up for myself. And so I learned to deal with male counterparts 14:00, just on the basis of that family experience.


But as I grew older, when I began to do organizing, directly out of college some of my first tasks that I took up had to do with employment discrimination in the Filipino community. And they were with Filipino women who were being chastised and harassed at work for speaking Tagalog at the workplace. 14:30 They felt they were being harassed specifically, not only because they were Filipino, but because they were women. And there was a stereotype about Filipino women who could be intimidated, so they were singularly being targeted for this kind of harassment. So from day one, I think it was in a lot of ways sometimes very difficult to--you know, when you dissect issues--to separate out those specific roles and why this is happening,15:00 and we found in most cases that it's an interplay of all of those elements.


And in the case of the work that I was doing in the Filipino community where we had a major increase in immigrants at that time, it was always the interplay, especially of immigration status and race, but gender definitely entered into the picture. And as I was doing some workplace organizing in San Francisco, 15:30 and it was clearly I think played out along those lines, but I think in an interesting way when you're talking about people of color. I felt that the gender discrimination was actually much more defined than it was, say, just in application to say white women, that it was much stronger. And so I thought that was interesting, although for me, kind of the leading denominators really had to do more with race and immigration status. 16:00


In the course of the work, I think because I had the benefit of working with organizations that were, as political as social justice organizations, were very aware of gender roles, specifically addressed issues of sexism within our movement and within the organization. In a way, I felt I really benefited from that experience 16:30. But I think also because of that, and we saw that in a fairly [insular way], at the same time, I think we probably did not pay as much attention to issues--looking at things through a gender lens as perhaps we could have. Because we were so concentrated on looking at questions of race and immigration status. That's beginning to shift I think certainly in our work, and I can talk about that more. But as we're looking at how 17:00 immigration enforcement, for example, impacts immigrants, there are distinct ways in which immigrant women are being affected, and there are distinct ways because of that that there's a certain impact that's happening on immigrant families and communities.


So as it has evolved, that gender lens I think is becoming more and more important for us to incorporate into our work.


Ellis: And what 17:30 I would add. I mean, I think it's interesting to think about how do you incorporate a gender lens into your work that is organization-wide, versus in a more piecemeal approach. And I know, for Urban Habitat initially, for example, that we would convene low-income women of color around transportation issues, and we would get support from foundations like the Women's Foundation that were really at that time, and this was years ago, much 18:00 more focused on funding kind of gender specific programs. And so it has to be like: what's the impact? And it has to be all women, for example, that you are dealing with.


And we had worked really closely with them over the years, the Women's Foundation and within our own organization, to be able to think more about--that work is extremely important, but it's also important to push the organization to be able to think about how do you infuse a gender analysis into all of the work that you're doing? 18:30 So it's not just the tables that are all women, but it the--when I'm sitting with the Bay Area Council and we're talking about kind of issues of investment and triple bottom-line initiatives, and how do you really address social equity, that we're able to talk about gender in those [forums] as well.


And the other thing I would add, just thinking about Urban Habitat's work, which has struck me over the last couple of years as we've had more conversations around gender--our organization has a mission to 19:00 really built power in low-income communities and communities of color. We've created a Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute program that is looking to recruit, train, and place progressive people of color and low-income people onto local and regional boards and commissions, with the idea that we really are the decision makers, and it's not just about getting a seat at the table, but feeling comfortable enough and really believing that we can be decision makers for everyone.


And as women of color have 19:30 come through this program that we've created, it's been extremely interesting to even have these conversations about how they think about themselves as leaders and what they think is possible for themselves. And so often times women will come through into the [cohort], and as they identify which commissions they want to target, it's the lower-level commissions, it will be commissions that are more advisory, have less money; it would be like the Status on Women or the Human Rights Commission versus a planning commission, these other 20:00 commissions.


Hernandez: Where the real power is.


Ellis: Where the real power is, where the real money is, where, that are higher visibility. And so within the organization and through this program, we've been really going back and forth about, like we will interview these women and be like, "Oh, my gosh! The Status on Women commission is important?" But you have all of these other amazing skill sets, we want to put you on the redevelopment commission--we want to work for that type of, kind of higher visibility target. But I think it says a lot about our own internal doubt 20:30 that I think women bring to the table often.


Clarke: Aileen, maybe you could talk a little bit about your experience on the Equal Opportunity Commission? And being one of the first, and how that power and lack of it actually plays out in those situations?


Hernandez: Yeah, I think that's very interesting. Because I was describing earlier a little bit about how this came about. And because we had this commission on the status of women across the country, the people who founded the early days of NOW 21:00, there were many other organizations incidentally that were feminist organizations, so I don't want anybody to think that NOW is the only one on the list, it wasn't. But what you had then was a real pressure to make women visible: they were not visible in the society. And what we had were pieces of law that made the difference.


We had the Equal Pay Act in 1963 and the, well, Fair Employment Practice Commission in California much earlier 21:30, in '59. But on the national level, we finally got Title 7, in a very strange way. Nobody thought that we were going to have sex in that law, and it got put in at the very last minute, so it was strange to everybody. And in fact, many people laughed over the fact that it was put into the law. They thought it was such a funny situation to do this. But when you really looked at it, what you saw was that women were simply invisible 22:00. They were not in the places that you would expect now, and you certainly do see them now. But they weren't there. We had hardly a handful of women in the Congress in those days.


When I came to California, there was one woman from California who went to Congress. That's all. And the San Francisco Board of Supervisors had one woman on, and then that was it. So what it took time to do was to get to the point that you were 22:30 raising, Juliet. And that is that women really weren't sure where they needed to go with this, and they weren't sure what the whole law was about. And then what feminism really meant--they knew about the law, but they didn't know what feminism meant. And it was like you have to choose: I have to go for one thing or the other.


The interesting thing for me was that I came to the Fair Employment Practice Commission first, in California, and then the Equal Employment Opportunity commission 23:00, because of my union work. I decided not to keep going to school, and I was lucky enough to have the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union create an intern program, in which I went. I was sitting at the New York University, in the library, trying to do a paper. And I got tired and I looked at a magazine and I started reading it, and the magazine had an ad in it. And it said, "Are you an oddball? Would you like a job that doesn't pay a lot 23:30 of money, but gives you lots of positive feelings about what the society ought to be doing?" I said, "They're talking to me."


And I answered the ad and it turned out to be David Dubinsky at the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, founding this organization to get young people into his union. Because there weren't very many in those days. And the women particularly, although the union had huge numbers of women, 24:00 they were not in leadership. There was an executive committee that had maybe 15 or 16 people on it--there was one woman on that executive committee, in a union that was at least 60 percent female. So it wasn't anywhere that women were being seen. And that issue I think was very important. You had to begin to understand what it was like to be a garment worker: in Washington, D.C., in New York, in California 24:30. All of them were what they thought women should be doing. You could be a garment worker, but you couldn't be in any other union, you weren't going to be in any of the other unions that were around in those days. And you also could not get women into almost anything that we absolutely expect them to be in now. You just couldn't. They just couldn't see that happening, and they were treated very differently when they were in those positions.


For a long time, I was the only woman 25:00 in a whole bunch of men. Every time I went somewhere, it was only men and me, and that was it. And you got a little bit of a funny sort of approach: you got them being very gentlemanly to you. Or them saying, "Well, if you want to get along here, you're going to have to be like the boys." I wasn't about to be like one of the boys. My parents are from Jamaica, they would not of wanted that at all. And you learn a different way of operating in the society, as a result 25:30. The good part about what happened with NOW coming in at that point, the feminist movement growing at that point, was we did have a piece of legislation that did try to get equal pay for women on a national level. The second thing was Title 7 came in and said you couldn't discriminate, that women could get jobs anywhere that they had the ability to do the job. That was a big difference.


When we first started at the EEOC, women were in about five 26:00 occupations across the country. They could be an elementary school teacher, not a high school teacher, not a college teacher, but an elementary school teacher. They could work in a shop, meaning that they would be in a department store. They could also be in the garment unions. And that was about it, except, nursing. So you had nursing, secretarial work and that. That was it. The change is significant now 26:30. There are women in almost every kind of occupation you can think of now, and the changes on the political level have been dramatic. You start from one and now we have a lot of women in the state of California. Not anywhere near 50 percent, but there are a lot more than there were when there was only one.


And we are seeing more and more women going forward. If you look at the state election right now, you're looking at women fighting women in these positions. 27:00 And so this is a change that we now are beginning to recognize.


Clarke: I think in talking with Rinku in the last issue of the magazine, we talked a little about how the dynamics in racial justice organizing have shifted, as African Americans and other people of color have moved into leadership positions. And sort of the terrain of the struggle has shifted to some extent from simply getting, as Juliet said, into the conversation or at the table, 27:30 but into the decision making realm.


Hernandez: Exactly.


Clarke: And I'm curious, Catherine, if you could talk a little bit about what you see really as the--I mean, the struggle of the 1960s was to change the [dujour] segregation, both on a racial level and to lesser extent, but eventually moving into a wider spectrum of issues on the sex level. But looking today at women, poor women, working class women, where are the key issues and how, especially as we look at the immigrant struggle, which is 28:00 in a particularly crucial and very frightening place right now. How do you see the most important political struggles today, in this century, to bring justice into the calculation that will actually shift some of the current struggles, particularly for women?


Tactaquin: Well, I think among social justice organizing, anti-racist organizing, I think clearly we see the leadership 28:30 of a lot of strong women in those institutions. And I know there is some unevenness. And within some organizations, I am aware of dynamics gender, dynamics that play out in terms of paid staff positions and in boards of directors and so forth. So some of that is still there 29:00. Within the immigrant rights movement, I think we have seen over--I mean, our organization, we'll celebrate our 25th anniversary this next year--I think we have proudly a history of leading women in the organization throughout: as founders, as leaders of the organization itself. And increasingly, though, what certainly has changed is the presence 29:30 of women leaders on the ground, that have emerged out of organizing, and have kind of come into their own: building new institutions, leading those.


And we laugh a lot at times when we will call a national summit or a national meeting, and out of a small meeting of 30 people, 25 will be women. Not out of any designation, but these are the people who come forward. 30:00 We laugh a lot about who is the backbone, who is doing the work? And it's obvious that women play out a lot of those roles, and it's clear that women play particular functional roles within the movement--I think are often the glue that holds organizations together, that keep things moving. But also certainly our part of the decision making and 30:30 recognized leadership. Some of the things that we certainly are looking at though, are how we can really support and develop that leadership. Because, especially within the immigrant rights movement, we don't think there's a strong sense of even those leaders, immigrant women leaders, identifying as women leaders and being self-conscious about what that means as a woman, and also 31:00 what it means I think as mentors to younger women. And how, what are some of the challenges that play out in the movement?


We have a project we're calling Raising Women's Voices for Immigrant Justice in the National Network, which we've just launched. And our partners at MISS Foundation have been I think really good over the years, supporting the development of this type of work. But in which we want to help support immigrant women on the ground, and we have a number of 31:30 organizations that are focused, that have built by our organizations of immigrant women, but there's a big divide in terms of the broader women's movement and how that women's movement identifies and is aware of the human rights crisis in the United States that does affect immigrant women. So what is happening to immigrant women along the border, for example. Everyone has heard about how horrible it is 32:00. I don't think they're aware of how significant the impact is on immigrant women and families.


And if, as a women's movement, to not recognize that, I think is really a crime. So in our project we want to help cultivate the distinct leadership of immigrant women, but we also want to build from the ground up. Not just at the top level, but from the ground up 32:30. More of a synergy, a relationship between immigrant women, other women of color, and the broader women's movement. And I think that's going to have a profound effect on how we address issues of immigration and race, and all of the controversies that we know are present now and are around the corner. I think that movement, a more integrated movement, can play a big role in beating back the hate that we see 33:00 on the ground. So for us, that's actually a very--I think right now it's in a project, but it's really part of I think a growing core mission to help shift the debate on immigration to a break, a consensus that immigration enforcement, for example, is OK and in fact it is necessary.


Women's voices, immigrant women, women of color, the broader women's movement I think can really play a significant role in breaking that down 33:30.


Clarke: Yeah. And if some of you want to address the kind of isolation of women's issues, which for quite a period of time were tied to reproductive rights or other kind of--often, women and children were kind of the category into which all of women's issues were kind of bagged. And as you talked about, moving into arenas of actual power. Some of the tensions and process 34:00 that are going on between the well-educated people who have the opportunity to serve in the leadership positions--you can have a Hilary Clinton and a Margaret Thatcher, and you can have a major political leadership that are women. But it doesn't in any way imply that they're feminists or that they're rooted in the communities from which the bulk of women's experience is actually going on.


So, if you can talk a little bit about the class dimensions of the conflicts within the women's movement and how 34:30 some accountability process can be developed between the women that are brought into leadership positions, I think Catherine was talking about building some of these institutions. What are some of the institutions of accountability that are developing or that you're working on to try to build that kind of sustained solidarity that can actually survive those tensions?


Hernandez: Well, I think feminists, for example, have made a big difference 35:00 on an international level. Because one of the things that occurred was we had this whole series of international conferences that were held every 10 years, and they got a chance to see women of color in other countries that they went to. They saw them in situations where they recognized that those women had a very different life than the ones that they had seen before. I think a lot of what we would call the traditional feminists, the early feminists, 35:30 learned a lot in that process in those conferences that they went to, and the women that they saw, and saw what those women were doing in many of the countries that they had never been to before. And learning that women were taking on much of the role of being the leaders, because they did all of the work that was going on in those countries while the men were at war for such a long period of time.


So those are some of the things that occurred. And the other thing is 36:00 coming back home then, I always thought that it was just going to get transferred, so that when they got back home they would see that in the United States as well. But somehow we didn't get to that point of view. So it's very important for us to see now women coming up from what we would call the low-income level, into leadership, tremendous leadership in so many ways, and being really strong about standing on issues that were very difficult. And we've all learned a lot. When we started 36:30 out with the reproductive rights issues, women of color taught women who were white why you had to look more than just at saying that you had the right to have an abortion. They wanted to say: we also want to have the right of not to have our bodies changed because people don't want us to have babies, because we're poor. So they...


Clarke: Sterilization issues, yeah.


Hernandez: Exactly. They brought a new dimension in, and people learned 37:00--that you couldn't just deal from one level, you had to look at what was happening to women across the board. So I think the women of color, who were not always in the organizations that we recognize, they were in their own organizations and they came together, they changed the dimension of the women's movement tremendously, and made it work a lot more differently in the United States, as well as in the countries that they chose to go and visit and to be part of.

Clarke: Juliet. [delete chatter]

Ellis:  it's great, Cathy, to hear about the solidarity program and how you're thinking about scaling it up, even at a national level. Because, I mean, it seems like it should be happening and it should be happening organically, of which women across class and across race are able to see the connection between the issues. And just from a personal 38:00 basis of what those experiences are like. Because I don't think that there are characteristics that tend to be gender based. Like when you talk about women being the glue within their organization, or often times they're the ones that are making things happen. I mean, they're often the types of roles we play within out own households as well.


And that whether it's talking about things that are happening on the border that are so horrific and that have such impact on 38:30 immigrant women, you would think that women who are not even having that personal experience know what it's like to feel threatened, know what it's like to feel at risk because we're smaller, know what it's like to feel as you're walking to [a bar]. I mean, like all of these things are common experiences, but it's almost as if, and I think it can often times be based on class, is that you end up compartmentalizing that, and you just operate. And so that you don't go down to the core 39:00 of--yes, as a woman, there is a solidarity across all of these issues, because we are treated differently and have different experiences, just based on gender.


So it's interesting, as you guys are thinking about, organizationally, how you, and I think it builds off of Aileen's point of you get exposed to things and you assume that it is going to have a real difference, because it should. And then, how do you make sure that that happens?


Clarke: On a structural level, in terms of women and people of color, the obvious but rarely 39:30 acknowledged fact is the majority of the United States population, the majority of the world population is women and people of color. It's sort of a ridiculous, obvious fact. But you can still hear people calling people of color "minorities," you can still hear people kind of invisiblizing women. And sort of denying the obvious fact that if women and people of color were acting in concert, it would be very difficult for them to lose an election anywhere, if there was a 40:00 consciousness like that.


And I'm wondering how you see capitalism and the ways in which we're sort of structured into this individual and isolated set of particulars, playing into this kind of fragmentation, and disabling the popular movements ability to actually take the power of their true majority status. Because essentially, it's a majoritarian movement. It's not some minority that's trying to take power, it's really the majority 40:30.


Hernandez: One of the things I think we have to recognize now is that we have made a major change in identifying with what the problems, quote, "are." And what it is now is we are no longer just speaking about African Americans. We are now reaching out in so many ways because we recognize that we are all going through the same thing, and that's a significant change. Even now as we talk about education around the issues with feminism 41:00 and racism and all the rest, we have very little information out there that people can really reach out and touch. We lived in such a segregated environment, for such a long time. Whether it is race or ethnicity, or whether it is class, we're all in little pockets. But we're coming together for a whole lot of reasons at this stage and people are now working not just for their "group," quote, unquote, like women who maybe have started out 41:30 about women are now involved in wider issues in the society.


And I think men are coming into those things now too. They are beginning to understand that it's not about any one group, it's about the injustice in the society, in so many ways, against a wide range of people. So I think that's a plus that's coming out of it. It hasn't been easy, because we have segregated the society. As I told you, Washington, D.C. was totally segregated, 42:00 and there were lots of other places. I came from New York, but New York has segregation as well--there was no question about it. And we are now breaking those walls down. We're starting to understand that we are in one community and that community needs to have everybody's talent and everybody's ability to make the changes that are necessary.


Because we come from the capitalist approach, the rich are the ones who are supposed to get everything, and the poor are the ones 42:30 who are all supposed to be working to get the rich as much money as they can as well. So we have to keep looking at that and saying, "This is not the way it's going to go any more. We've got other issues going."


Clarke: Catherine?


Tactaquin: Well, I was going to say I think recognizing that we do function within a system that has developed structures that have been designed to preserve power, and power based on a certain premise 43:00--who controls that powers, who has access to that power--I think for those of us in the social justice movement, we base a lot of challenges to create new vehicles for us to function that are going to be democratic and that are going to help to impact those structures more. And I think seriously challenge them. And that won't be easy, and, I mean, as it has been, tremendous push-back. 43:30 We see that now just in trying to change policies within Congress. I mean, the structures that we're going up against, the politics that play out to preserve those structures. We see it every day.


It's insane that we continue to support policies that we know are wrong, but backing them or not challenging them is all a part of a preservation of certain political 44:00 power. And I think within the movement, I think we're greatly challenged in terms of the institutions that we need to build. I'm concerned about the fact that a lot of organizations right now are locked into 501(c)(3) formats that I think actually can preserve the ongoing systems of power--they are part of that power make-up, they are part of that system--and that 44:30 status can continue to relegate us I think to powerless beings. So I think we, on another level, have to be very thoughtful and at the same time aggressive about building more independent structures that can bring together really the diverse and broad I think kind of cross-sectoral, ground-up 45:00 inclusive entities that we are going to need if we're really going to make serious challenges.


I don't see that kind of happening from our 501(c)(3)'s. We're doing our best and we're doing all of this integration, we're speaking from a gender lens, we're speaking from a racial justice lens. But frankly, I think we continue to be locked into a system that we're trying to break down.


Clarke: Just to follow-up: you mentioned earlier that you were talking about building alternative women's institutions and institutions that would meet these new--45:30 is there any specific examples of prototypes of successful elements where you think you've started to build such institutions, and that they are developing kind of this [modern tone]?


Tactaquin: Well, I think what we're doing, and I think a lot of us in the organizations that we try to build on the ground are a part of that. The concern is whether then we also just kind of replicate what is existing, and we're not attempting to break new ground. So on the one hand, I'm a big believer in building institutions. I think people have to be organized 46:00, it's not enough to have the mass movements. It's not enough to have the U.S. Social Forum, as wonderful as that was. But for that to make a difference, really make a difference, it has to, the proposals, the organizing has to reside in entities that can garner participation, that can democratically lead. So I think to the extent that we can support organizations of farmworker women, or that we support 46:30 like this new entity Domestic Workers' Union in New York and the new National Domestic Workers' Union Alliance, which is not gender based, but because it's organizing domestic workers it's primarily being built of and by women.


And it's part of an international movement. We also do work at the international level and work with domestic workers, organizations and unions in [Columbia] and Europe. It's great to see that beginning to happen. That's part of it. But even those organizations 47:00 I think are going to face limitations unless we find some way to bring them together on a more independent basis, that's not locked into chasing foundation support, for one.


Ellis: Well and, I mean, I think that the challenges are so huge and it's so institutional and it's so systemic, that the question of, because even if you look at who is, like when you talk about the policies. Like policies are getting passed that we know are completely the 47:30 wrong policies, yet, I mean, it's all about like who are the lobbyists and which elected officials are getting paid by what, and that they have this long-term ambition themselves. And even the folks that were organizing are not voting in their own self-interest and most of them are not even registered to vote. But there is this--it's so many different levels of complexity with regards to kind of what are the right strategies to get the fundamental breaks that we actually need, 48:00 that in some ways I feel like we're a long way from being able to--because I feel like we still have trouble, even being able to articulate.


Is it a mass movement? Is it that we are able to say people of color and women are the majority, yet most folks are still calling themselves a minority when they talk about themselves? It's just so multi-layered that, I feel like that's what keeps me up at night as far as trying to even be able to figure out what is 48:30 the right entry point. And that conflict between: you have to build an institution that is strong and able to have impact, which requires chasing the money. Yet that, are also the handcuffs that allow you to actually move in a different way that might be the right way to get the fundamental change we're trying to achieve. So, it's complicated.


Hernandez: It's complicated. And if you look just at the political end of it? We know that the processes right now 49:00 and the politics are terrible. But even the people that we are supporting in many of these ways are just raising money all over the place, and we are getting people running for office who are just pouring millions and millions of dollars into a campaign, without any concept, as you listen to what they are going to do once they get in there, you know they should not be in office. Because they're not going to be doing any of these things that we talk about in social justice. 49:30 But they are coming in and pouring millions of dollars. And even during the Obama campaign last time, although the money was raised in many ways from a lot of people giving small amounts, it shouldn't be that way at all. You know, politics should not have to cost you money to get into it.


Clarke: Well, we're getting close to the end of the time. And I did want to ask you just a little bit about where you would see, heading into the future. If you look at women's economic power as they have 50:00 become so critical to the U.S. economy, if you look at immigrant economic power as immigrants are so critical to the U.S. economy, if you look at the places where the economic organization of the country is dependent on workers, and how that can be mobilized to win the political victories that are needed. There was a period when union leadership did challenge certain things, they accepted certain gains for the working class and stopped challenging some of the political structures.


Now 50:30 as new immigrant worker organizations are emerging that are not necessarily tied to the previous generation of union movement, as the domestic workers are organizing, as you see women organizing in different levels of political capacity, are you seeing any kind of hopes or directions that people their own economic power seriously? Strikes have always been a very effective tactic, different kinds of boycotts, and interventions in the economic life of the country. 51:00 Any promise happening in the immigrant's movement? One of the things I was most impressed about in the May Day march several years ago here in San Francisco was that it was the first people of color led demonstration, that was a majority people of color, that took over the streets of San Francisco and stopped work for a day.


And you had this, that was a day in which if were in San Francisco, you knew that this is really what is keeping our society together. And 51:30 if you're seeing any kind of trends or hopes in terms of building those kinds of sources of power, [in your work]? Catherine?


Tactaquin: Well, I think there's a recognition that our movements, we have to break down the silos, we can't go it alone. And I think that is something that was, for example, good about the U.S. Social Forum, for example, this passed June. It seems so long ago now. 52:00 Was that I felt that there were really conscious efforts to break down the silos, and a recognition that our movements really have to work together, and objectively we do share interests. We need to build towards a common agenda. So I think that kind of sentiment and sense is really growing and it's becoming more embedded in organizations. Finding the way to do that, and here, for women, I think it's so important that women 52:30 are part of this process at all levels, not just the glue that holds the organizations together, not just doing the work on the ground, those functional roles, but also the big thinkers and the strategizers.


I think there's a lot more and those doors need to be more open I think to women, to people of color, who are looking--we have to think on scale. We have to look at some of those broader strategies. I think the labor movement 53:00, as floundering as it has been, I know in terms of the work on immigration, it is so essential, it is one of the few sources of actual power, and I'll use that is [some] limited context, but it is one of the few vehicles of power that we have. As big as those multi-million people demonstrations were in 2006, they were predominantly immigrant, I would say they were predominantly undocumented--they didn't 53:30 immediately produce political power.


And as the structures are and as our policies are and the way this country is going now, it's not going to result in political power for some time. We know it has that potential. Who we consider our allies from an immigrant rights point of view: certainly the labor movement, I think the broader civil rights movement, certainly the African American community, the women's movement, 54:00 the peace and justice movement. We have an interest in peace around the world--what do we think is driving a lot migration, internationally? Of course it is civil conflict, it's war. We share with international unions the drive to build sustainable economic power, job creation in other countries--we know that affects migration. All of that is very much related and we need to have a movement that understands that and can 54:30 function on all of those levels.


I don't want to always be an immigrant rights movement with our allies: I think we need to be one movement. And we need to be fighting with a strategy that reflects all of our interests. So the National Network has always viewed itself as part of a broader social economic justice movement. What we try to do with our membership is to raise awareness about that connection and bring it to be a part of that, but we also have to be part of building that broader entity. It's not quite, it's not there yet 55:00. Where do they fit in, where do we fit in? But that's the kind of entity that I think we're looking for.


Hernandez: I also...


Clarke: Aileen, closing comments? We're going to wrap up.


Hernandez: I also think that we recognize now that we have to bring some of this back to a local approach, because you can't have meetings all of the time in Washington, D.C., or across the world. You have to say that where you live is a place where you should also exercise power. So I'm hoping that what we are going to get out of this is people 55:30 reaching out in their own communities, and making the cities in which they live and the countrysides in which they are. We are all suffering from the problems of the weather right now and we recognize that we have no control of that internationally. We have to do it where we are, where the problems are going on.


So I'm beginning to see a little bit of people coming together, out of all these different movements that are out there, 56:00 and saying, "We have common ground. We have common ground that we all have to work on." Because we have no control over what is going to happen, unless we can come together and change. We can't change the weather, but we can change the way in which we respond to it. And we can make sure that we're not just looking at the very rich people and what happen to their houses when there is something going on, but we have to look at what's happening to the people who really make up this country.


We have a lot more people who are poor than we have who are very, very rich 56:30, and it's time to recognize that numbers, also, is an important part of growth of this organization. It's not just money. It's the numbers of people who reach that conclusion that we have to make those changes.


Clarke: Juliet, you have some final comments?


Ellis: So, quickly. So I love the recommendation to look locally, because I think that to me that's where you can do the prototyping and actually figure out strategies that work 57:00. So whether it is forging relationships with labor--what we found doing work in San Francisco is it's really getting to know and understand how these unions actually work and how do we talk about race and class, how do we talk about gender, how do we better understand what their self-interests are and have them understand what our self-interests are to be able to forge these new types of relationships, that seem obvious? But then when you get to the rubber-hits-the-road, it's hard to kind of prioritize and figure out how to work together.


So, excited about kind of where this conversation 57:30 has gone, because for us I think local is a way to be able to scale up this work, it's one community at a time to get the type of aggregate kind of new change that we're talking about.


Clarke: Well, thanks again. I'm really delighted to have been joined by Aileen Clarke Hernandez and Catherine Tactaquin and Juliet Ellis for today's show. And I want to thank again Lisa Dettmer from "Women's Magazine" and the National Radio Project for helping us host this show 58:00. Thank you.



Audio icon 16.womenroundtable8-26.mp326.57 MB