|L. to R. Dr. Barbara George Johnson, Mayor (and Dr.) Angela Garretson of Hillside, Debbie Walsh of Ready to Run, and Councilwoman (and Dr.) Renee Baskerville of Montclair.|
On Friday, I was a panelist at Run Sister Run: Women of the African Diaspora Changing the Political Landscape, the pre-conference session for this year's Ready to Run conference sponsored by the Center for American Women in Politics. See my earlier post here. It was a fabulous session, with the legendary Jeannine Frisby LaRue filling in as moderator for Dr. Joyce Harley. The panelists, Dr. (and Montclair Councilwoman) Renee Baskerville, Hillside Mayor (and Dr.) Angela Garretson, Dr. Barbara George Johnson, from the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State College, and I shared our stories of getting involved in politics--I wasn't the only one on the panel who had run off the line--and of maintaining one's ethics and independence while running for office.
We also spoke to the audience about identifying the reasons that one might want to run for office--to influence public policy, to make change, etc., and the importance of truly knowing whether one wants to dive into the murky depths of politics. I told my own story about successfully running off the line against two opponents, and also shared the story of what happened last week in Plainfield, when the duly-elected Plainfield Democratic City Committee members were disenfranchised by Chairman Jerry Green not allowing them to vote on the candidates for this year's council seats. To the shocked looks of many of those women in attendance on Friday, all I could do was shrug and smile. Others gave me knowing looks--they, too, had come up against political bosses who did not believe in democracy.
We also spoke of sexism and homophobia and the last-minute desperation mailers that come out the night before the election to attempt to destroy one's character. I made the audience aware of the pathetic and hateful mailer that Jerry Green sent out the night before my first primary election a few years ago--attempting to smear me--to tie me to a superintendent that I didn't even know--to say that I didn't speak out on Muhlenberg, that I supported its closure, that I didn't support Obama in the primary--which, of course, I did--it was JERRY GREEN who endorsed and supported Hillary Clinton over Obama!
I spoke of how this ridiculous flier went on to state more silliness, and also to remind folks of my sexual orientation, even suggesting (wrongly, of course) that I had no interest in LGBT rights--willfully ignoring all my work and advocacy in this area on behalf of young people and others. To the right is just a portion of the flier I shared.
The moral for the women present was, make sure that you have a strong and secure sense of yourself, and maintain your integrity, your values, and your ethics in the face of the lies and smears you will be faced with simply for having the temerity to want to run for office.
I was awed to be in the presence of these powerful women, and I found them all to be incredibly inspiring!