VOL. 132 | NO. 218 | Thursday, November 2, 2017
Run Women Run
By Don Wade
In 2018, Shelby County voters will be presented with a long ballot as candidates compete for most county offices, many school board and suburban government positions and congressional and legislative seats.
To Bettye Boone, immediate past president of the Memphis chapter of the Coalition of 100 Black Women, that means opportunities for women to lead, serve and make an impact on issues that matter.
“Poverty, crime, education, domestic violence, health care,” Boone said, ticking off some of those issues. “The wage gap between men and women is significant and for African-American women and Latino women, it’s even more.”
Those issues and how women in political office, or at least actively engaged in politics, can make a difference, will be the focus of a nonpartisan training and networking event called “Run Women Run” to be held Saturday, Nov. 4, at Buckman Hall at Rhodes College from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Tips on how to fund and shape a political campaign will be offered.
Deborah Clubb, executive director of the Memphis Area Women’s Council, is a leader behind the Run Women Run organization that inspires, recruits and trains qualified, pro-choice women to seek elected and appointed office. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
The event is being organized by the Memphis Area Women’s Council, League of Women Voters of Memphis and Shelby County and the Coalition of 100 Black Women chapter. Several women’s groups are supporting and endorsing the project.
“We want to do this training to tell them why they should run and share some training on how they should run,” Boone said. “And not only run for office, but be part of the political process – what it means to be a campaign manager or a volunteer. Everybody may not want to run, but they might want to help a candidate be successful.”
Deborah M. Clubb, executive director of the Memphis Area Women’s Council, says they held a similar event back in 2010. Then, there were three women serving among 13 members of the Memphis City Council and four women were on the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, Clubb said. Today, there are still three women on the city council but only one woman on the county commission.
Presently, Shelby County districts represented in the state Legislature in Nashville include one female state senator (Sara Kyle) and four House members (Raumesh Akbari, Barbara Cooper, Karen Camper and Johnnie Turner) in a delegation of 19. Nationally, women hold 83 of 435 seats (19.1 percent) in the House of Representatives and 21 (21 percent) of 100 seats in the U.S. Senate.
The number of women governors today is six – the same as in 2010. Among the 100 largest cities in America, 20 have female mayors – up from 11 in 2010. Memphis has never had a female mayor and none serve as mayors in Shelby County; the last woman to serve was Sharon Goldsworthy as mayor of Germantown.
“It’s not enough,” Boone said.
“We want to do something to involve women and encourage them to join the process,” Clubb said, adding that they will have two panels at the forum: one to explore the “why” of running for political office and another to discuss strategies on “how” to run a campaign, including information on financing a campaign, communications and administration.
Registration is $25 and begins at 8:30 a.m., and includes a light breakfast http://www.eventbrite.com/e/run-women-run-tickets-38663896756 to register in advance.
Among those confirmed to participate on the panels: Shelby County District Attorney District Amy Weirich, Shelby County Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos, County Commission Chair Heidi Shafer, state Rep. Karen Camper and attorney Jocie Wurzburg. Beverly Robertson, former president of the National Civil Rights Museum, will moderate the panel discussions.
Boone, 67, has not held political office and says at this stage of her life she is not interesting in running.
“I don’t have the time or the energy,” she said.
But she is engaged in this event and in the political process. She is encouraged, she says, by what she sees from younger women of color.
“They’re beginning to look at the political arena differently than women 50 and over,” Boone said. “As an older black woman, I want to get behind those candidates.”
Clubb says they never did any surveys to determine how many minds they have changed among women who attended the 2010 event, perhaps moving some women from bystanders to political volunteers, to becoming paid campaign staff, to even becoming candidates themselves.
But she is hopeful this year’s event does spur action and inspires some women to decide they are “ready” for the next step.
“We think we can help them with some of the tricks of the trade, or should I say, the tools,” Clubb said. “You don’t have to be uninformed.”
Nor do they want women to assume running for office is a bridge too far.
“All politics is local,” Clubb said. “We want to foster women to take part in the conversations and the policies.”
Which Boone points out, probably matter a great deal to them anyway.
“All women are concerned about similar issues,” Boone said. “And for women of color, we’re behind the curve on pay gap, housing and economic empowerment like businesses. We’re behind in those political areas.”
The best way to catch up? By running, of course.