She the People’s 20 for 2020 list highlights women of color organizers, elected leaders, and strategists across the country who will play a crucial role leading up to the 2020 election. Many of these women hail from battleground states—Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin, among others—where their work will undoubtedly play a key role in shaping the results of the election and the future of our democracy. All have bold, audacious plans for 2020, including registering hundreds of thousands of new voters, knocking on millions of doors, protecting every vote, flipping state legislatures, and electing more women to public office.
Here, we recognize the very women whose contributions have been historically overlooked. Women of color have long been a driving force for social change. It’s time that we give credit where it is due. Come 2020, this will be the key to creating a world we imagine. When we lift each other up, we can bring light and joy into the necessary work ahead for all of us.
Guilford, Connecticut/Washington, DC — Community Change Action
Lorella is a tireless leader who draws inspiration from working alongside others. The experience of growing up as an undocumented immigrant from Peru with one leg shaped her path as an advocate for immigrant justice and in-state tuition for undocumented students in her home state of Connecticut. She was a national leader of the immigrant youth-led movement that won DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) from the Obama administration, providing protection from deportation and work authorization for 800,000 Dreamers. She is now the first woman and woman of color to be appointed co-president of Community Change Action and vice-president of Community Change, an organization working to make sure that communities of color and immigrant communities have the resources and power they need to thrive.
Community Change Action is powering their state partner organizations to turnout three million voters across the country by building state and local infrastructure and directly contacting voters through door knocking, text, and social media.
Washington, DC — Emerge America
A’shanti is passionate about women having a seat at the table to shape the direction of our country. Her career has been dedicated to making sure women are engaged in politics, working in leadership positions at the Democratic National Committee, United Way, and working as a political appointee to the U.S. Department of Labor under the Obama administration. She is currently the political director at Emerge America, the only national organization which recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office. In her role, she works with Emerge’s partners and affiliates to recruit women to run for key seats. She has trained and cultivated a network of leaders, many of whom will be on the ballot in 2020 at the local and state level. She especially identifies and supports women of color.
To elevate the voices of women of color and make sure they are well-informed, A’shanti also founded The Brown Girls Guide to Politics, which has been named one of the best political podcast to prepare people for the 2020 election.
Miami, Florida — New Florida Majority
Andrea wants to create the kind of democracy where everyone is valued and belongs. As the executive director of New Florida Majority, Andrea works to engage historically marginalized communities and expand their participation in politics. But the work is about more than candidates and voting—their mission is to bring justice and equity to all and “create institutions where we all have a voice and an opportunity to advance the things we believe in.”
In 2018, New Florida Majority worked with other groups in the state to pass Amendment 4, which restored the voting rights of over 1.4 million people with felony convictions. They plan to register 100,000 voters by the 2020 election and engage in races from the presidential to state, county, and city commission levels. At their recent People’s Assembly, their members voted to endorse Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president.
New York, New York — TransLash
As the creator of TransLash, a docu-series about the lives of trans people of color, Imara aims to connect those stories to what is happening in society today. Her work is about honoring the humanity of trans people and saving their lives at a time when the community is experiencing increased backlash and violence. By telling their stories, Imara hopes to advance understanding, empathy, resilience, and courage. An Emmy and Peabody Award winner, Imara recently chaired the first ever United Nations meeting on gender diversity and non-binary identities with over 600 participants in attendance.
In 2020, Imara will be focused on civic engagement for trans people, specifically trans people of color. Her goal is to get as many historically marginalized people to vote as possible, including the nearly 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people who are not registered to vote.
Richmond, Virginia — New Virginia Majority
Deeply rooted in her community, Tram’s work comes from a place of love, where people and their needs come first. Instead of engaging voters in a transactional way, Tram’s organization works with communities of color and young people to find out what’s important to them and encourages them to vote in order to create a better world for all of us.
As co-executive director of the New Virginia Majority, Tram is focused on community building for the long-term. Their organizers have knocked on the doors of over 1 million potential voters and have registered more than 200,000 voters since 2015. Her goal in 2020 is for New Virginia Majority to turn non-voters into voters and voters into leaders in their communities. They will do this by deepening their relationships in communities, turning out voters, and meeting with elected officials to advocate for voting rights, a living wage, and fair housing.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — Philadelphia City Council Member
Helen is a champion for underserved communities and got into politics because she wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives. She says all too often democracy for immigrant communities, communities of color, and young women is not rooted in love, justice, or true belonging. And as a Philadelphia City Council member, she wants to be a part of a large-scale grassroots movement for change.
A former teacher, education activist, and the first Asian-American female elected to the council, Helen co-sponsored legislation last year which raised the city’s minimum wage to $15 and required certain employers to provide predictable schedules for retail, fast-food, and hotel workers. For 2020, she wants to engage people in civic participation beyond voting.
Atlanta, Georgia — New Georgia Project
Nse is on a mission to reshape the political landscape of Georgia, one voter at a time. In her role as the executive director of the New Georgia Project, she leads an ambitious effort to register 800,000 new voters of color and young people while cultivating civic engagement through an innovative blend of technology, art, and culture. In November, the organization hosted Game Jam, a 72-hour video game contest focused on voter protection and engagement. By combining gaming and voting, they hope to increase black and brown youth participation in the civic and electoral process.
In 2020, New Georgia Project plans to register 100,000 people of color to vote, help Georgia flip the State House from red to blue, and make sure there is a full and accurate census count in the state so that hard-to-count populations have their needs met.
Phoenix, Arizona — One Arizona
Montse’s work is guided by a deep love for her family, friends, and home state of Arizona. She became politically engaged in 2010 when the state passed Senate Bill 1070, the immigration enforcement law nicknamed “Show Me Your Papers” because it allowed law enforcement officers to detain or arrest anyone without a warrant if they were suspected to be undocumented immigrants.
Nearly ten years later, Montse’s work includes immigrant rights, registering voters, increasing the minimum wage, and building political power for communities so that they can determine their own future. She is the executive director of One Arizona, a coalition of community groups which focus on Latino civic engagement. The organization has set an impressive goal in 2020 to coordinate 250,000 new voter registrations throughout the state between January and October and to facilitate the biggest voter turnout in Arizona history.
Madison, Wisconsin — Freedom, Inc.
Born in Laos, Kabzuag came to the United States as a refugee. For over twenty years, she’s been doing violence prevention work and was recognized as a Champion of Change at the White House during Domestic Violence Awareness month in 2011. She is the co-founder and co-executive director of Freedom, Inc., an organization working with low- to no-income communities of color that focuses on ending violence against women and youth. Freedom Inc.’s model is based on investing deeply in people and their needs. In addition to their violence prevention work, they host educational activities with children, provide culturally specific programming, and engage in community organizing around issues related to injustice and inequality.
One of their goals for next year is to work with partner organizations to target infrequent and non-voters to help them understand the issues in their communities and turn them into lifelong voters. They aim to reach 10,000 voters and get more Southeast Asian women elected to office in the next five years.
Albuquerque, New Mexico — Advance Native Political Leadership
Anathea embodies a profound love and sense of responsibility to Indigenous people. An enrolled member of the Acoma Pueblo tribe, her work is about harnessing the spiritual and political power of everyone in Indigenous communities across the country—drawing inspiration from past generations and thinking forward to the needs of future generations.
As a senior advisor to Advance Native Political Leadership, Anathea works with community leaders, organizations, and their allies to ensure that Indigenous people are reflected and included in the American political process in meaningful ways. In 2020, their goal is to build a system for national organizing that ensures Indigenous people have a voice and representation in national politics while also recruiting more Indigenous candidates to run for office.
Brooklyn, New York — MPower Change
An activist and community leader for nearly two decades, Linda says she’s guided by a radical love for her community and the belief that we are deserving of a democracy that works for all of us. She has been part of some of the most visible national movements in the last several years. A former board member of Women’s March, Linda joined a lawsuit filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations against Donald Trump to stop the Muslim ban and was arrested last year while protesting the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Linda is the executive director of MPower Change, a digital advocacy organization made up of diverse Muslim communities around the country. In 2020, she will be working with partner organizations to build the power of Muslim voters and get them excited about voting in seven states that could determine the outcome of the presidential election. Through the My Muslim Vote campaign, they will work to educate and engage Muslim voters and make sure their voices are heard. Linda’s book about her experiences as a Palestinian-Muslim American organizer and justice seeker, We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love and Resistance, will be released in March 2020.
Washington, DC — Service Employees International Union
Maria is the national political director at Service Employees International Union and oversees the program dedicated to building political power to improve the lives of SEIU’s two million members and their families. Maria says good jobs, decent wages, humane immigration policies, and healthcare are among the most important issues to working people, and candidates will need to meaningfully engage with voters to convince them to show up at the polls.
SEIU’s strategy for next year includes working with a multiracial group of partners to invest early in voters of color through face-to-face conversations and texting while also challenging candidates to provide economic solutions which benefit working people, including the right to join unions.
Detroit, Michigan — Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for less than one year, but she’s already made a significant impact. She is the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. You probably know her as a member of the “Squad,” the fearless group of progressive freshman women of color in the House who have been vocal opponents of the Trump administration and its policies. In public and private, she has shown up as a woman with the courage and integrity to speak truth to power in the name of justice for the most vulnerable people among us.
In 2020, Rep. Tlaib will remain focused on serving her constituents, solving their issues while also working to push for transformative change through policy in the House. Her goal in the next year is to “make the table bigger for marginalized communities to ensure that the right decisions are made on their behalf.”
New York, New York — MSNBC
Joy is unapologetic about using her platform as an author, political analyst, and TV host to represent women of color. She knows the media can do a better job in telling a more inclusive story about this country, one in which all people are represented and seen, and she works to elevate the voices of women of color, immigrants, and other diverse perspectives on her weekly show AM Joy.
Joy says that what matters most in 2020 is dramatically increasing the number of people who are registered to vote and getting them to the polls in record numbers, especially people of color and poor people. She is hopeful that if we all do our part and vote, we can restore our democracy and end this dangerous period in American history.
Los Angeles, California — Center for Popular Democracy
Jennifer embodies what it means to get into “good trouble,” the term coined by Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. Last year, with fellow honoree Linda Sarsour, she engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and put her body on the line as one of the first protestors to be arrested in the Senate confirmation hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Jennifer is the president and co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, which works with affiliates and partner organizations across the country to build a more inclusive, equitable society and political institutions that work for everyone. They are committed to winning the White House next year and plan to engage voters face-to-face by working with their partners to knock on seven million doors and register 500,000 voters in 34 states, with an emphasis on people of color, immigrants, and working people.
Birmingham, Alabama — Woke Vote
DeJuana believes in lifting every voice and making sure that no one gets left behind. She was a director at the Democratic National Committee, worked on Senate and presidential campaigns, and was appointed by the Obama administration as an advisor to the U.S. Small Business Association.
She is the creator of Woke Vote, a program to train new organizers and engage historically disengaged voters across the South. In 2017, their efforts in Alabama helped elect the state’s first Democratic Senator in 25 years. In 2018, they helped Florida pass Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to people with felony convictions. Next year, they plan to focus on mobilizing voters in key precincts across the South and in battleground states in order to create more opportunities for people to fully participate in our democracy.
Kissimmee, Florida/Arlington, Virginia — Students Learn Students Vote Coalition
Kathryn believes we can create a culture where young people are excited to vote. She’s focused on giving students the resources and education they need to become civically engaged, especially outreach to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
Kathryn works with the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition, which aims to increase nonpartisan student voting on college campuses around the country. Through partnerships and campus voter registration days, they have helped to steadily increase the amount of students that vote. Their goals next year include increasing student voting from 48% to 60% and to close the racial/ethnic voting gap between white students and students of color. They also hope to get students 21 and under voting in greater numbers.
Durham, North Carolina — Women’s March on Washington Disability Caucus
Mia is on a mission to make sure people of all abilities participate in every aspect of society. She is a disabled Korean-American transracial adoptee who refuses to be limited by the boundaries other people set for her. A self-described endorphin junkie, Mia is an athlete who has competed internationally in wheelchair track, fencing, and adaptive cross fit.
In 2017, she dove head first into organizing the Women’s March on Washington by founding and coordinating its disability caucus, making sure information and resources existed for marchers with disabilities. This enabled 41,000 people living with disabilities to participate and have a voice in the movement for women’s and human rights. Mia’s goal for 2020 is to ensure more progressive candidates are elected to office at all levels. She is currently working as the North Carolina Regional Organizing Director for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign.
San Antonio, Texas — Texas Organizing Project
A fourth-generation Texan, Michelle is driven by a desire to make her state a place where Latino and Black families prosper. She watched her mother struggle to provide for her family, often working multiple low-wage jobs and living in public housing. Michelle carries this experience with her each day as she fights for better living conditions and a democracy that works for all Texans.
She is the executive director and co-founder of Texas Organizing Project, a membership-based organization that trains organizers and works to engage infrequent voters who are predominantly women and people of color. Their work is year-round as they fight with communities to ensure policies that create jobs, fair wages, access to quality education, and protection for immigrants. In 2020, Texas Organizing Project plans to make face-to-face contact with one million unlikely Black and Brown voters in four counties through home visits and turn new voters into regular voters.
Atlanta, Georgia — Fair Fight
Stacey believes that when you see a problem, you should fix it. She is a tireless champion for American democracy who spends her every moment ensuring all people have access to the political process to help shape our country’s future. After serving for over a decade in the Georgia House of Representatives, she made history in 2018 as the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia and the first Black woman to be nominated for governor by a major political party in the United States.
As the founder and chair of Fair Fight, Stacey’s focus in 2020 is to ensure that every eligible voter is able to cast a ballot. Fair Fight will be working to promote fair elections and fight voter suppression in Georgia and several key battleground states.
Read the full profiles on ShethePeople.org on December 18th.
Aimee Allison is the founder of She the People, the national network elevating the political voice and power of women of color. You can join She the People and these leaders by signing up at shethepeople.org.