Originally published in the Houston Chronicle on April 30, 2018:
We live in a moment when fascist and anti-Semitic ideologies are vying for legitimacy, when hate-filled rhetoric is fueling a resurgence of historic evils including violence against black and brown women and men. Physical hate crimes and violence are rising in direct response to words of hatred and verbal attacks on race, ethnicity and gender.
At its best, the Women's March is an international movement of hope, resisting this hatred with repeated emphasis on loving our neighbors, and acting in that love to stand with our neighbors, particularly those most vulnerable or under attack. The Women's March started as a visceral response to the arrogance of power, to the ugliness of the 2016 election, to the misogyny and hate fed by a broken, corrupt, cynical patriarchy.
From Houston to Hong Kong, from Austin to Argentina, all across the globe, women stood up with their allies and said, "Enough is enough!" This ugliness does not represent us. We are better than this.
The Houston Women's March rejects hate speech and ethnic discrimination of all kinds. Our first values statement as an organization was saying "No!" to the hate-filled menace of white nationalism erupting in America. Our recognition and support of the worth of all persons also led us to say "No!" to the actions earlier this year of national Women's March activist Tamika Mallory in conjunction with Louis Farrakhan, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as an anti-Semitic extremist who repeatedly appears on SPLC's "Hate Watch" alongside white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan.
We categorically stand against the anti-Semitism, racism, LGBTQIA attacks and misogyny Farrakhan promoted in the event Mallory attended and publicized.
Recent actions taken by Mallory have raised new concerns. The context? Mallory opposes the inclusion of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as one of the contributors to coffee giant Starbucks' emerging anti-bias training, describing ADL as "constantly attacking black and brown people" and calling for a boycott of Starbucks until ADL is removed.
We are appalled that two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks while sitting peacefully at a table yet not ordering. We agree that Starbucks must demonstrate that it values all persons of every ethnicity and must train managers and employees in recognizing bias and how to act without discrimination.
We do not agree with Mallory's description of the ADL which — similarly to the NAACP — has a long history of working for justice including designing anti-bias training. Like the SPLC, the League maps hate crimes, spearheads hate crime legislation and intensified a 50-state initiative after what ADL described as the "heinous" mass shooting at a church in Charleston. We wish that Mallory instead had used her voice to encourage Starbucks and its anti-bias advisors (including the NAACP, ADL, Equal Justice Initiative, Demos, former Attorney General Eric Holder) not only to design powerful anti-bias and anti-discrimination training, but to designate their materials as "open source," making them freely available for every other corporation and organization in the world to use and to improve. That is a call to action worthy of a leader with the Women's March movement.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time a figure with the National Women's March has prioritized personal activism over the generous and good-hearted international movement that millions of women and allies have built through personal sacrifices and volunteer sweat equity. The unifying work of the Women's March is too crucial to let the world wonder whether its national leaders are anti-Semitic and racist or whether they're unwilling to rise above personal agendas to serve all the women and allies of the March.
Together we rise, together we will overcome. To this end, the Houston Women's March calls upon national, state and local Women's March leaders for the following specific actions.
1) We call upon national Women's March leaders to refocus and articulate who we really are. We include the Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sufi, Native American, agnostic, atheist women of Houston, of Texas, and of America. When you stand with those who incite hatred against Jewish and LGBTQIA human beings, when you ally yourselves with racism and misogyny, you do not represent us. We need to hear and see your commitment.
2) We ask other city, state and international Women's March organizations to join us in our call to the national group: "If your definition of 'my people' does not include all of us and if you won't denounce hate speech and ethnic discrimination, you can't lead the Women's March."
3) We call upon Mallory and the national leaders to go beyond their initial statements in this matter of Farrakhan's hate-mongering and to name and reject Farrakhan's hate speech. Mallory has spoken of the commitment Farrakhan's organization shows to disenfranchised and incarcerated people and communities and of her personal connections and relationships. We say to Mallory: Yes, we can support community leaders while naming and rejecting anti-Semitism, racism, LGBTQIA attacks and misogyny. Join us and do just that.
4) We call upon the national Women's March to reorganize and better serve the grassroots leadership in American cities and states, re-aligning mission and values with the autonomous local organizations, who are separate legally and financially from the national group. Our city and state marches are connecting and empowering women and girls to take action for themselves and their communities, investing in diverse leadership teams, building progressive networks and registering and inspiring voters.
If you've marched with us in Texas, you've seen the signs held by women and men representing our values: health care, immigration, children, racial justice, gender equality, education, empowerment, voting, gun safety and more. Some signs use humor, some are intensely personal, and almost all capture an enormously significant component of the Women's March: us. We the people. We rebuke hate and hate speech, we stand with love. We stand with women of every race, every ethnicity, every faith orientation and gender description, those who have marched with us and those who haven't marched with us yet. We love our neighbors, and we're in this together.
Here in Houston, we are building a regional Women's March nonprofit led by volunteers who are black, white, Latina, Asian, Middle Eastern. In our faith we are Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other. Here in Houston, Muslim and Jewish women gather together as part of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, building relationships of trust and integrity. Here in Houston, women lead for equality, equity, dignity and justice for all, and the Houston Women's March is a part of this larger movement that empowers each individual woman while being bigger than the personal agendas of any individual leader.
Wake up, National Women's March. Wake up and set aside personal agendas. We women will all rise together, or we won't rise at all.
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