2017 was not a good year for racial justice, abortion rights, economic equality, the environment and peace, causing many to feel discouraged about the future. But if we adjust our lens, positive indicators for life getting better can be found among this year’s strong women-led efforts.
Progressive women’s actions were on the ascendent in 2017. Women are on a roll: from January’s DC Women’s March to the year’s end #metoo movement and the impressive turnout of African-American women voters in Alabama who sealed Doug Jone’s victory, women stood up for justice.
I want to honor some of the remarkable women of 2017, whose courage and leadership offer hope for 2018:
Black Lives Matter founders, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi
Cullors, 33, is an LA-based community organizer and artist; Garza, 35, is the Special Projects Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in Oakland, Ca.; Tometi, 32, is the Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration in New York City. The three joined forces over their outrage at the police killing of Trayon Martin in 2013 and coined the term, “Black Lives Matter,” which overnight became the rallying cry for justice for blacks.
Tarana Burke, founder of #metoo.
Burke started “metoo in 2016 as a response to the sexual abuse of African American girls and women in her community. This year the actress Alyssa Milano adapted “Me too” as an Internet hah tag in response to accusations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein and other public figures. Time magazine named #metoo as their person of the year for 20l7, although Time’s editors lose points for not including Burke in their cover group photo of women instrumental in the movement.
A Handmaid’s Tale female production team
Reed Morano, director, actress Elisabeth Moss, costume designer Ane Crabtree, and production designer Julie Berghoff forged a brilliant adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian story, A Handmaid’s Tale for Hulu. This series inspired women protesting rollbacks on abortion rights to march in handmaid-inspired red capes and white caps.
Ann Wright, peace activist
Wright, a former career diplomat and long-time peace activist, has been on the front lines for peace and justice causes for decades. In August Ann was awarded the US Peace Memorial Foundation’s 2017 peace prize “for courageous antiwar activism, inspirational peace leadership, and selfless citizen diplomacy.”
Muriel Bowser (Mayor, Washington, D.C.) climate change leader
In March Bowser announced plans to set aside $7 million for the District’s first city-wide green banking effort to support building improvements that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Lynn Nottage, playwright
Her plays typically depict the lives of African- American women and the working class. Nottage’s play, Sweat won the Pulitzer Prize for drama this year. Sweat, set in Scranton, Pa is about steel workers whose jobs have disappeared after the town’s steel production dried up.
Rev. Traci Blackmon, activist minister
She is the first woman pastor in the 159-year history of Christ The King United Church of Christ, Ferguson, Missouri. Blackmon emerged as a spokesperson for black rights following the police killing of Michael Brown. Blackmon toured the nation with Rev. Dr. William Barber, originator of “Moral Mondays,” speaking on social justice issues. Along with Rev. Barber she is a key organizer for next year’s revival of Martin Luther King’s “Poor People’s Campaign.”
Abby Martin, progressive journalist
Founder and host of The Empire Files, investigative news program on the satellite network teleSUR. Martin is among those millennials forging a new, brave journalism that challenges the mainstream media.
Rebecca Solnit, essayist
While Solnit has been in the limelight for a while for her probing, thoughtful essays, in a year when official lies became the order of the day, Solnit’s direct, honest writings have taken on new meaning; she writes regularly for Harpers and The Guardian. Solnit’s 2004 book, Hope in the Dark, has been a balm for activists.
Here’s a favorite passage of mine from Hope in the Dark:
To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet on your futures, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.
To start your 2018 with a bang, consider attending Las Vegas’ Women’s March on January 21st, themed, “Power to the Polls.” It’s being organized by the same team that planned last year’s successful DC Women’s March.