Meet the #SheVotesNow CWM Women Suffragist Team.
Several months ago, in the midst of the chaotic Covid summer of 2020, three motivated and inspiring young women contacted CWM with an idea to feature through social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) the untold story of the Black women who supported and worked for women’s suffrage, whose work was often unrecognized by the White women around them. These young women knew we would be celebrating the ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 2020. And they rightly pointed out there was so much more to learn than what we were all taught (or even NOT taught because who was taught much at all about women’s suffrage) in our high school and college history courses.
Jacqueline Dinh of Olympic High School and Jordan Henderson of Myers Park High School became acquainted through their activist work for the environment in youth-led Extinction Rebellion Youth Charlotte. They were part of the group who invited Greta Thunberg to Charlotte.
Lanvy Phan, of Olympic High School, joined the team more recently. While environmental justice is still a leading cause for these young women, they realized in the summer of 2020 that this election season was monumental. Black Lives Matter goes beyond today’s activism with roots in the powerful work of these Black Women Suffragists. In their own words, we invite you to meet Jacqueline, Lanvy and Jordan, below:
Question: What brought you to this moment in September 2020, where you find yourself celebrating not only women’s right to vote, but highlighting Black women’s right to vote?
Jacqueline: Being a woman and an immigrant of color in America has shaped me into who I am today. I often hear that my organizing work is a choice, but it was never a decision I made. I was born into the generation with the burden of reversing years of government negligence. Growing up and experiencing the inequity within this country has put the significance of voting in my mind. But Black women are suppressed by the system and are in a continuous struggle to vote. I can use my privilege to reserve the platform for Black women and highlight the fighters who gave us this right.
Lanvy: Before I was introduced to this team, I was stuck at home on the lookout for new hobbies. After wanting to make a graphic once I was inspired by BLM and other related graphics on social media, I created a short series of simple graphics I would post on my Instagram to inspire my peers to educate themselves by providing them with starting points. Jacqueline Dinh, another member of this team, saw my posts and reached out to me asking if I’d like to join the CWM. Excited about an opportunity where I could learn more about making graphics digitally and help out a wonderful organization, I gladly accepted.
Jordan: I’ve been passionate about topics like this one for a while, from striking with youth climate groups and volunteering at the 2020 Women United March. More recently, with BLM, I have been advocating my best on social media about important topics surrounding racial injustice. All of these interests come together to feed into this project.
Question: What have you learned in doing research for this project that surprised you?
Jordan: One thing I learned about this project that surprised me is that the 19th amendment didn’t necessarily give women the right to vote, but only made it so that they cannot be discriminated based on sex when attempting to vote. This is why black women still had to fight for their vote, because they could still be discriminated based on race, as we’ve highlighted in the series. So much of history like this has been simplified, and it hides a lot of the injustices of our past, as well as our present, but we hope to teach more about the different figures who fought for these voting rights through this social media campaign.
Lanvy: Learning about the beautiful efforts of Black suffragists has really changed my outlook on the Women’s suffrage movement entirely. Finding out that there was an entirely other group of people beyond the efforts of Susan B. Anthony and so many other relevant names that could’ve passed my eye if I hadn’t delved in deeper shocked me and pushed me to make sure that their names would be known to others too. Even though some names were familiar to me, they weren’t so common in the history textbooks I would read in class or they were simply briefly mentioned in one of my teacher’s lectures. That had to change, so I committed myself to make sure that I would work hard on this project.
Jacqueline: The amount of accomplishments each Black suffragist has achieved surprised me. The school curriculum barely teaches Black suffragists in the first place, but the intelligence and hard work of these women was severely understated.
Question: What are the most important issues that you would vote on today? What issues are you talking about most frequently with your peers?
Lanvy: The most important issues that I would most certainly vote on today are issues surrounding the Black Lives Movement, environmental issues, issues surrounding our education system and community. Some issues that I’ve been talking about most frequently with my peers are the injustices of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), people, what it’s like to live as a POC myself, not ignoring the LGTBQ+ community, and the environment.
Jacqueline: Climate change is the most important and all-encompassing issue humanity faces today. It is a crisis that compounds on all other injustices, including racial, economic, and migration injustice. We need politicians who will bring real change and combat the crisis from the root level. Today, my peers and I discuss racial injustice most frequently. Following the murders of George Floyd and countless other names, the time to act has never been more apparent among the youth than now.
Jordan: There are so many issues that are worth voting on, but my top three for our current time would be surrounding racial justice, climate change solutions/Green New Deal, and women’s rights.
Question: What women have most inspired you to become an activist?
Jacqueline: My mom will always be my number one inspiration. Not only does she raise me and support me in all my endeavors, but growing up and witnessing firsthand the injustices immigrants of color experience in America is what sparked my interest in social justice. The friends I’ve met through my organizing journey also inspire me. We encourage each other to grow in our activism.
Jordan: I’ve been inspired by so many people, from climate activists like Greta Thunberg and Jamie Margolin, to other feminist activists, but mostly I have been inspired by my own friends and peers. When I first got into activism, I felt very helpless, but as soon as I met other youth activists I began to feel empowered. Seeing other people like me making change was so inspiring.
Lanvy: Many women have inspired me to become an activist. One woman that I have always been inspired by is Malala Yousafzai. I remember reading an article about her when I was much younger and feeling so inspired and empowered to focus on worldly matters that can help our society. That was probably during a time where I first started thinking about doing activist and humanitarian work. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has also inspired me and I enjoy listening to her powerful and impassioned words. She has definitely helped me to become more active with my voice and I admire her a lot.
Question: For young activists, not yet old enough to vote, what recommendations do you have?
Lanvy: I think something that all of us can do if we have the inability to vote is to inspire and motivate our family members to vote. Despite not being able to vote (because we’re not yet 18), we still have the power to influence others who are old enough to use their right to vote. Another thing we can do during this time is to continue to learn more about our society, so when we are able to vote, we clearly know what we support and believe in. For teenagers who are 16+, you can also sign up to be a poll worker!
Jacqueline: Join organizations that are politically focused! I organize with Sunrise Movement Charlotte and I’m able to support different progressive candidates across the country. Become a poll worker, volunteer for a phone bank, and most importantly, educate others. Send reminders to your friends and family to vote, provide resources, and inform them on different candidates. Any help goes a long way!
Jordan: My recommendation as a young activist who still cannot vote is to have the conversations with your friends and family members who can, because often their vote is framed in a different context and it is easy for them to take it for granted. To talk to them from the perspective of someone who does not have that ability can encourage them to use it.
Question: Do you get a sense that those around you have a plan to vote? Our sense is that this is the first election ever where we all need to make a PLAN to vote. As your campaign emphasizes, we cannot take voting for granted. What are you hearing?
Jordan: I know that my family and most of my friends (who are able to vote) are planning on voting, but there is still uncertainty with the means of voting, whether they will mail-in ballots or go in person. It is confusing with all of the variables regarding COVID safety, as well as what’s going on with the USPS right now. I 100% agree that voting is very important, in general as well as right now, and that it cannot be taken for granted.
Jacqueline: I hear the powerful chants of teenagers as we strike and protest. I hear the mass mobilization of youth as we seize power and influence elections. I hear the 14-18 year olds running phone banks. The crises and issues created by the older generations are exponentially exacerbating. While I and millions of other people cannot vote, we’ve made plans to support and impact the election in any way we can. I hear hope, passion, and determination- the three virtues I hold on to as November 3rd comes closer each day.
Lanvy: I definitely do feel something different about this year’s election especially since it’s being talked about a lot. Since our voting right has been emphasized so much this year, I do believe that it’s so important to have a plan to vote. I’ve seen a lot of graphics encouraging people to vote, and I hope that by spreading the message not only in conversations I have with family and close friends, but also through this campaign, we’ll be able to to create real change in our country.
Question: What is the first election in which you will be able to cast your own ballot?
Jacqueline: I can vote for the first time in 2022! I will be able to vote in the midterm elections.
Jordan: I turn 18 in mid November 2022, so I will miss out on the 2022 Midterms by just a few days, but I will be able to vote in local elections and the 2024 General Election.
Lanvy: The very first election that I’ll be able to cast my own ballot will be the Election of 2024!
Thank you for reading about the work and leadership of these three remarkable young women. We invite you to view the full campaign on our social media channels (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter). New posts will be posted each Tuesday until November 3. Charlotte Women’s Movement is inspired by their passion and creativity. There is much work to be done in the US, and these women have demonstrated there are so many ways to support GOTV (Get Out the Vote) efforts. We encourage you to follow their campaign on our social media channels, and most importantly make a plan to VOTE! #SheVotesNow