Women of color forum held in Silver Spring

women of colorPanelists pose together following their Montgomery County Women Candidates of Color forum in Silver Spring. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAKSILVER SPRING — Seventeen women of color who are running for local political office urged those attending a panel discussion at the Silver Spring Civic Center June 7 to elect minority candidates so that members of County Council, school board, judicial bench and Democratic committee will be more representative of the population at large.

“When you look across the table, you see all beautiful women, of all shades,” said Brandy Brooks, a candidate for County Council at large. “Then think who’s on council now,” she said at the two-hour forum.

Of the nine Council members, six are white males. 

“Our party has a problem,” said Michelle Ngwafon, who is running for Democratic Central Committee at large. “We need to work on more inclusivity.”

The event was organized by Showing Up for Racial Justice MoCo, Progressive Action Montgomery County and Takoma Park Mobilization. 

The 100 people in attendance were asked not only to vote, but also to knock on doors and help elect more women of color. “We really want to change who is in positions of power in our County,” said Laurel Hoa of SurjMo. 

“Bring diversity from a color perspective. Organize, engage people, get voters to the polls,” urged Pam Luckett, candidate for Democratic Central Committee District 20. 

Moderator Yanique Redwood, president and CEO of Consumer Health Foundation, called it “wonderful” that so many women of color are running for office in Maryland. 

By speaking out against discrimination and inequality, “Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be able to say we were on the right side of history,” Redwood said.

Transportation, bringing Amazon to the County, housing, the minimum wage, opioid abuse and other topics central to other political forums were barely touched upon. Instead, the women spoke about the difficulties of being taken seriously and raising money.

Lorna Phillips Forde, a candidate for County Council at large, said she has been told that her physical attributes were more important than her intellectual ones.

Women must “make sure that we insist on being respected,” she said. Women tend not to step up to the plate unless they believe they have 98 percent of the necessary credentials, while men believe the opposite, she said. 

Marylin Pierre, candidate for Circuit Court Judge, stressed the need for social justice, noting, “We all know, if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” 

Added Luisa Arevalo, candidate for Democratic Central Committee District 17. “Right now is not the time to remain on the sidelines.” 

She called minority representation in the County “unacceptable,” noting, “there are too many barriers keeping us from the decision-making table.”

“Little boys, little girls of color need role models,” said Garciela Rivera-Oven, candidate for County Council At Large. In the media, Latinos “are just maids.”

Nancy Navarro, who is seeking re-election on County Council in District, talked about “the challenges that remain” even after winning. Representing the Latino committee, as well as all residents, “that’s a balance that weighs very heavy,” she said. 

Those on the panel have roots all over the globe. Some are the first in their family to graduate from college. 

Also on the panel were Tiquia Bennett, County Council District 2; Shruti Bhatnager, County Council At Large; Cherri Branson, County Council At Large; Jill Reid Cummins, Circuit Court Judge; Kenge Malikidogo-Fludd, County Council District 5; Julie Reiley, Board of Education At Large; Karla Silvestre, Board of Education At Large; Brenda Wolff, Board of Education District 5; and Loretta Garcia, County Council At Large.

Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, who is running for County Council District 1, did not attend but was represented by her staff member Marlene Rivas.


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