“Your fight is my fight” was Maria’s commitment to Aimee as the HowWomenLead community gathered last week to hear Maria Lemus, Executive Director of Visión y Compromiso — a community organization training “promotores” and community health workers — interview Aimee Allison, founder & President of SheThePeople.
Aimee and Maria met in early 2018 when they both attended How Women Lead’s 2018 Women Leaders for the World (WLW) program — an intensive deep dive into leadership in the hills of Marin County, followed by a year long fellowship.
Aimee had studied Education & History at Stanford and spent her early career in TV and Radio educating and engaging the community on social and economic issues. She then went on to research changing demographics, was on the ground working on voter protection with Stacey Abrams and struggled to write a book on women of color in politics.
According to Aimee, from the very beginning, Stacey Abrams “knew that future of the state and the country depended on solidarity and a strong multiracial coalition; activating and expanding the Black vote, Asian, Latino and progressive white vote and for each of those slices, she relied on women of color who led the organizing.” It was “less about party — red vs blue — and more about democracy.” And then the 2016 election happened and Aimee knew that the old way of winning elections no longer worked.
Six months before the WLW program, How Women Lead held a leadership retreat in Cuba and when Aimee arrived in Havana, she “knew in my heart” that “there needed to be a new story about whose voice and whose vote was needed to lead the country through the crisis…And yet like a lot of women, I never took that leap to set out with my own vision and step up with my own leadership. It was risky, scary, I didn’t know if I could raise money, I wasn’t sure I could build my own organization.”
Be unabashedly visible — Why are you on this planet?
During Women Leaders for the World (WLW), the most valuable exercise according to Aimee was the question: “what is your biggest goal in service to your mission? Why are you on this planet and what is the biggest thing you want to get done in the next year?”
Courtesy: USA Today
WLW “forced me to look beyond the confines of what I thought was possible.”
With little knowledge of how, but with a heart full of courage, Aimee went on to organize and host the first presidential forum focused on women of color.
She held it in Texas, a swing state where 26% of voters are women of color and she located the event “in the legacy of the amazing women of color who came to Houston, Texas in the 70s as part of the first national women’s conference.”
She had just 4 months to get it done and with an organization of just 2 people on staff, 2000 women from 23 states showed up to hear 8 Presidential candidates. Her “strategy was declaring it — I’m doing it! — and I put the intention out so powerfully that things lined up and it became the viral moment that ended up putting women of color in political stories for two solid years..”
Say yes to helping each other — Find your People!
“I went all in — this is what the future looks like for this country, this is what a governor looks like expanding the imagination of the leadership that was needed for the country, this is a strategy to win… this is what the playbook should be…”
“Very early on, people like Julie (founder of How Women Lead) just rolled up their sleeves” to support Aimee and she spoke to many experts trying to figure out the language, as well as finding the people who deeply believe that multiracial democracy is the end game.
Quite often, politics will leave a lot of people cold and indifferent. However, values of love, justice, belonging and democracy quickly bring people together. “SheThePeople is not about women of color for women of color. It is about women of color leading a broader coalition, relationships and vision in order for us to create a multiracial democracy; in order for people to live lives in dignity; for everybody.”
Aimee’s advice: “Put yourself amongst women who love you no matter what, who believe in you and who say YES! to you… Be allergic to people — friends and family alike — that tell you that cannot do something. Believe that you and your network have everything you need.”
“The people in your network are the people, which is why HWL is so valuable. You basically know everyone you need in order to begin the path to realizing your dream. I know some incredible women and they know some incredible women and people got behind the vision and donated time, money, expertise and in the end we launched with a room full of 600 people and an online audience of 100,000 and we started getting the attention of the nation’s political reporters.”
Reinforce her voice — and listen to yourself closely!
Fear and doubt are always in the wings and leadership is a lonely trek, but Aimee remembers “one of my good friends saying there is no such thing as failing — you succeed or you learn and you have been learning for decades… Feeling the fear, looking around and leaning on those who were on my team… I was afraid, yet I moved forward in faith because I had people who helped and believed in my leadership…”
When Maria asked what Aimee had given up, she admitted to giving up balance (and the resulting health implications) and “what I let go was a smaller vision of myself as a person… maybe I need to dream bigger for the next phase of my life in terms of what is possible…”
“You know you were born for a unique contribution to humanity. You know what that is.” And if you are not sure, “you put yourself in a thoughtful environment, you put down your phone, you go on a retreat, you have silence, you meditate, you have conversations with people who believe in you… you will come to what that is for you.”
“Being able to put away the limitations has allowed me to open up a whole world I did not even perceive before I joined the How Women Lead trip to Cuba with Julie and Noni and just 2 days later attended the 2018 Women Leaders for the World program. The world is really big and I have an important role to play and I did not perceive that before. That self awareness has allowed me to have much more confidence in myself. If I listen to myself .. instinct.. gut.. spirit.. I know that is true for me.. before that I never ever listened that closely to me.. and because I have more confidence now… I know what’s right.”
Power, Purpose, Passion & The Credo In Action
*Be fierce advocates for each other. *Be unabashedly visible. *Say YES! to helping each other. *Reinforce her voice.
Four principles that form the How Women Lead credo — not just words on paper, but powerful, purposeful, passionate collective actions transforming How Women Lead and Women Leaders for the World.
A serial entrepreneur, Monica Pal has been co-founder, CEO, and CMO at B2B startups in cyber intelligence, enterprise security, messaging, and big data. Monica is Co-Founder & CEO of Monarch Mavens, a startup consulting firm propeling founding teams of early stage B2B SaaS startups to rev-up revenue, while reducing risk, and raising resilience. She is a frequent speaker on cyber security, big data, entrepreneurship, diversity and leadership. Monica is a CEO coach and her passion for women’s leadership and gender justice have led her to support women leaders and entrepreneurs as they scale their companies.