PICTURED: Top row, from left: Rose Banuelos, Kristen Decas, Kate English, Monique Gonzalez. Bottom row, from left: Regina Hatcher-Crawford, Zuleima Jimenez, Ruth Luevanos, Hannah Yale.

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

nshaffer@timespublications.com

Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
— text from the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

When the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was certified for adoption on Aug. 26, 1920, it granted the right to vote to some 26 million women across the nation. It was a long road to ratification, requiring over four decades of tireless activism on the part of suffragettes since its original introduction to Congress in 1878. And it had major limitations, such as a failure to address citizenship or voting rights for people of color, or allow women to serve on juries. Despite its faults, however, the importance and value of the 19th Amendment can’t be overstated.

And just as it gave many U.S. women the opportunity to make their voices heard at the ballot box, the Ventura County Reporter is celebrating the amendment’s 100th anniversary by giving local women space for expression in these pages. We asked several women — of different ages, cultures and spheres of influence — to share in their own words something about their lives today, the issues that concern them and their hopes and aspirations for the future. We at the VCReporter have found much to reflect upon and be inspired by in their stories, and hope our readers will, too. (Note: Interviews have been edited for space and clarity.)

Rose Banuelos
Resident Services Coordinator, Oxnard Housing Authority

Rose Banuelos, Resident Services Coordinator, Oxnard Housing Authority Photo submitted

As resident services coordinator for Oxnard’s Housing Authority, Rose Banuelos has spent much of her career — 26 years to be exact, since graduating from community college — supporting and advocating for members of low-income communities, particularly in the La Colonia neighborhood. From farmworkers to victims of domestic violence to children in the foster care system, she’s the go-to person for people living in public housing that need help . . . of nearly any kind. She’s not just dedicated to making sure her residents enjoy safe, attractive, well-maintained housing (the Housing Authority’s mission); she’s adamant that they receive the services and support they need to live better lives.

What particular hurdles or barriers have you had to face in your career?

Being a Latina, a woman and an advocate for our families that reside in low-income communities in positions that were dominated by males. Since entering my career, all of my supervisors until recently have been males. 

What is something that most people don’t know about the work you do?

My work has always consisted of assisting our low income communities to empower themselves and speak up to make their communities a safer and better place for their children and families. I have been the voice for those who go unheard. The farmworker who needs assistance with paperwork who doesn’t understand or speak the language. The mother who is in a domestic violence relationship with no way out. The family whose child got murdered. The mother who lost her children due to substance abuse etc. The teenagers who do not have anyone to listen to, or the children who go through Children Protective Services and are placed in foster homes. The hungry, the elderly who have no one else to go to, the children and the adults who continue to suffer from childhood traumatic experiences. For the last 26 years, the people know that I am the go-to person in La Colonia and I am always willing to assist to better their lives and that of their children. 

Who are your role models, and why?

I have several female community role models. Ana Carrillo, an artist who has brought her beautiful talents and heart-sent messages into our community through art. For the past several years, Ana has worked with our youth to create a summer mural program. The murals bring beauty and meaning to our communities. Socorro Gamboa has been another strong female community warrior/advocate who has also educated me throughout the years, to continue to empower our underserved communities.

What do you see for the next 100 years in terms of women in the workforce/politics/activism?

Within the next 100 years, I can see the first female president of color be elected to the presidency. I see more women in positions that males have dominated and women getting the same or better pay. We have more women being elected into city government positions on the city council and board of supervisors; they will be the voice of our next generations. My hopes and dreams for our future generations of women is for them to continue to empower themselves and continue to be the voice of reason. We are mothers, fathers (for those who are raising their children by themselves), school teachers, educators and want a better future for our children who one day will become our leaders. Gender equality is something that I am hoping will change.

Any advice for your younger self? 

My advice is for the younger generation. Get educated, get the right information before fighting/marching for all the injustices, do not follow the trends and make public policy change the way.

Kristin Decas
CEO, Port of Hueneme

Kristin Decas, CEO, Port of Hueneme Photo by Luis Chavez

Originally from New York, Decas has been the first woman to serve as port director at two ports on opposite coasts. With a bachelor’s degree in economics and philosophy from the University of Vermont, and a master’s degree in environmental policy and the law with a concentration in natural resources, Decas says, “There is no [bachelor’s degree] in ports, no Port 101 class, most of us in this business learn on the job and love the maritime industry.”

How did you come into your current position?

After six years in New Bedford, I thought it might be a good time to explore options for career growth.  I saw the port director/CEO job posting at the Port of Hueneme and decided to go for it. I was the first woman to lead both the Port of New Bedford in its more than 50-year history and the Port of Hueneme in its 84-year history.  I also was the fourth woman to chair the Association of American Port Authorities, an advocacy association representing the nation’s ports, in its 106 years. 

What hurdles or barriers have you had to face in your career, and how did you overcome them?

Self-improvement strikes me as the most important challenge, to constantly grow as a professional and leader. I strive to hone and enhance my leadership skills. Every year I participate in a CEO summit hosted by Yale in my home state of New York . . . Another very important challenge is being effective with how you foster the best in your workforce. At the port, we initiated a team-building program. I feel this kind of training makes me more respectful and understanding of my team members and guides me in how to best support the great individuals working at the Port of Hueneme.

What is something that most people don’t know about the work you do? 

I think in general people have no idea what port directors do. It involves oversight of port operations, a balanced budget and business development and growth. It’s influencing public policy at the state and federal level around regulation in the pipeline such as trade and tariff policy, a most relevant discussion today. It’s understanding infrastructure, transportation, goods movement and the supply chain and how to prosper that network.  

It’s about commerce and, particularly important, it’s about supporting community, pursuing environmental stewardship and being on the cusp of technological advancement. It’s about running an organization and creating a healthy and prosperous work environment.   

Who are your role models, and why?

The best role models in my life have been men, starting with my father.  In my professional life,  two men gave me the opportunity to thrive and succeed. Richard Armstrong, executive director of the Governor’s Seaport Council in Massachusetts, elevated me to deputy director and taught me everything about the maritime industry, from policy to infrastructure to politics in my early days in the maritime industry . . . Mayor Lang, of New Bedford . . . literally would have me make fists in his office. He was telling me to believe in myself and position my mind in such a way that I was always in the correct boxing match and could win. This little piece of wisdom has come in handy and helped me through many challenges.

What do you see for the next 100 years in terms of women in the workforce/politics/activism?

Gaining access to the highest level positions in our society as the norm, including president.

What are the most important issues that you think need to be addressed?

My greatest hope is that we come together and respect diverse views. I feel leaders have a civic responsibility to be pivotal in creating social justice. Sustainable business development, job creation, environmental protection and embracing innovation and technology to create pathways to bridge real opportunities for our youth and our community. 

What trends/shifts have you noticed related to women in prominent positions in the area/your sector… in society in general? 

Women in leadership roles can trailblaze for other women, but more importantly help others be heard, reinforce a good idea and give credit where credit is due. Hard work and taking advantage of opportunities is key to success, with one more secret ingredient, women need to have the confidence to go for it. This can help steer the paradigm shift of a world with more female CEOs. I feel it is so important to apply for the big jobs. I was the only woman that applied for my current job out of 60 applications and guess what?  I got the job! 

Any advice for your younger self?

Make sure to take time to enjoy every moment and always be present. Hard work pays off, but make sure you take time to embrace the most important things — those that will touch you forever . . . Don’t fear technology . . . but always keep the human touch.

Kate English
Executive Director, One Step a la Vez

Kate English, executive director at One Step a la Vez. Photo by Luis Chavez.

Working at the forefront of where the struggles of growing up intersect with the fight for equal rights for all — LGBTQ+, poor, disabled, people of color — Kate English, 43, is leading the charge with a Fillmore-based nonprofit to help carve out a permanent space for young people from all marginalized groups to show up as part of a supportive community and be heard. 

Herself identifying as a queer woman (pronouns she/her), English grew up in Camarillo and has lived in Santa Paula for 20 years. 

When and how did you come into your current position?

I was lucky enough to be invited to sit in with a trio of dynamic women (the self-named Crohn’s Coffee Klatch): Lynn Edmonds, current Fillmore City Councilmember, founder and then executive director of One Step A La Vez; Dr. Cynthia King and local rancher Ellen Birrell . . . Lynn invited me to apply to be her assistant at One Step A La Vez . . . She trained me for a year in all things related to the nonprofit. When she did retire in 2015 . . . I was honored to be chosen for the position.

What particular hurdles or barriers have you had to face, and how did you overcome them?

I certainly got in my own way a lot. I left high school at 16 even though I was a good student, obtaining a diploma two and a half years early with a California high school proficiency exam and moving off to Santa Cruz to live on my own for a time. I was in a huge hurry to be an adult. This meant my education took me a long time and I had to work multiple jobs along the way, but all of my experiences contributed to where I am now.

Adapting is one of my natural gifts. Sometimes I do not notice until much later when I am adapting to oppressive gender norms. I tend to over-apologize. I often present my ideas as if they are questions or possibilities when I know they’re just damn good ideas.

What is something that most people don’t know about the work you do? 

I thought working with youth who are dealing with all of this trauma and poverty was going to be really tough, and in some ways it is. But if you’ve lost faith in human beings, and you start to work with teenagers you’ll come to see that they are eradicating the old ways, there is nothing but truth. The old guard is dying out. These youth are coming for the old “isms” and old systems. If you work around youth you very quickly see they are not going to hold these patterns in place, they are being actively dismantled. It restores your hope.

This does not mean we do not have our role to play. The youth need us to stand by them and teach them what we know. We have our gifts to offer as well, generationally. They are the vision carriers and we need to be their accomplices handing them the tools.

Who are your role models, and why?

So, so many! I come from a family of strong women, on both my mom’s side and my dad’s side. My mother, Patricia English, taught me as a girl how to walk door-to-door to get petitions signed. My aunt Simeon Robins was a hospital administrator and my beloved Aunt Gail was a jazz singer. I grew up listening to the songs of my cousin Holly Near who has been writing about social justice in her music for decades. And it didn’t hurt that the men in my family love strong women, they were not emasculated by strong women! All my family seemed to glorify this idea of strong women, and I wasn’t expected to fit into society’s version of a girl. I was allowed to be a leader without being told I was bossy. I was allowed to dress how I wanted without being categorized as a tomboy. 

All of the generations of women that fought for my rights, my right to vote, my right to get a divorce, to leave a violent relationship, my rights over my own body . . . They are my heroes. Those women who heal and wake us up and illuminate with words, like Mary Oliver, Toni Morrison, Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde . . . I could really go on for a long time.

What do you see for the next 100 years in terms of women in the workforce/politics/activism? 

Can we get to 50/50? . . . Can we just mandate that? . . . We represent half the population, we are holding up half the sky, can we get half of Congress? [And] we need to mandate that gender-expansive folks’ voices are represented in our government as well.

What are the most important issues that you think need to be addressed?

Racism, transphobia, dismantling oppression everywhere it exists.  Feminism will not go where it needs to go without simultaneous anti-racism work. We need to codify the rights of plants and animals to live according to their nature. We need to evolve democracy beyond capitalism.  We need a radical kind of co-liberation across all peoples.  To paraphrase Lilla Watson, we are bound up in each other’s liberation.  

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future — for yourself, or for women? 

That healing will take place, that we become more interdependent as a people. Now we are at a reckoning moment. We will also need the healing that comes after reckoning. . . . We need a broad commitment to the deep work of healing in both individuals and systems to heal the great schisms of our time. 

Any advice for your younger self?

You don’t have to save everyone, just show up, do the work.

Monique “Mo” Gonzalez
Founder, Get Loud Movement

Monique “Mo” Gonzalez, Founder, Get Loud: A Queer Artist Movement Photo by Luis Chavez

This “lover of the arts and the youth, a poet raised in Oxnard” created Get Loud: A Queer Artist Movement three years ago to provide space for Ventura County’s LGBTQIA+ artists to express themselves and share their gifts. The movement has grown, and now reaches artists of all disciplines throughout Southern California. Gonzalez, 30, currently lives in Fillmore, and recently joined Diversity Collective Ventura County as assistant program coordinator and youth facilitator.

How did you come into your current position?

I think really everything I do now career-wise has to do with being involved in the very city I grew up in. During my internship with the Coalition for Family Harmony in 2017, I connected with so many leaders in the community and we worked on creative projects together that inspired me to start Get Loud. Just recently, I was asked to join the Diversity Collective team and I am very excited to grow more and build together with them.

What particular hurdles or barriers have you had to face in your career, and how did you overcome them?

Ever since I was about 18, I have always been in male-dominated and sales-driven spaces. I noticed I was never taken seriously and came off as “too” friendly, so I always felt like I had to prove myself a lot more and be serious. I definitely had leadership characteristics in me and I would always take the initiative to learn and grow in my work spaces. Once I started studying communication and organizational leadership, that really helped me to overcome conflict as well. 

I feel like even though I am now pursuing my passion work, I still carry this very structured and committed attitude into my work today. I have to remind myself that it’s ok to be playful and I won’t be criticized for it.

What is something that most people don’t know about the work you do?

An aspect with Get Loud Movement most people don’t know about is the planning process and how long it actually takes for us to prep for our larger production events. For example, our annual event Loud & Queer typically starts its process almost a year out. I think maybe the fact that I have only been organizing for about three years would surprise others. People assume I have been doing this work a lot longer and it’s super humbling to hear that. 

Who are your role models, and why?

My mother. She is a single parent who raised me and my sister on her own and I definitely carry a lot of her strength and independence in me. She is the most supportive person in my life who has always accepted and encouraged me to live my authentic life and I am so grateful for her. 

What do you see for the next 100 years in terms of women in the workforce/politics/activism?

I want to know our LGBTQ+, especially our trans womxn of color, are thriving in leadership positions and having protection rights in ALL states. I see us deconstructing the idea of what it means to look or act like a “woman,” especially for those in positions of power. If I am being real ambitious, I see a future where nonbinary and gender fluidity is normalized in the workplace. 

What are the most important issues that you think need to be addressed

While I know there are so many issues that need to be addressed, and I am sure you will get many different answers to this question, I will always protect our LGBTQ+ youth and our Trans community first and foremost. Conversion therapy is still an issue in the U.S. (30 states are not protected) and violence against our transgender community (mostly trans womxn of color) is at an extremely high rate. They need and deserve their protection rights in our country, especially in living and work situations. (And when I say “work,” I mean sex work, too, because sex work is work.)

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future — for yourself, or for women?

All of my hope and faith right now is in our young leaders today. I am so honored to be in the presence of many of them in the community and lately on the front lines of the most recent protests. Ultimately, my aspiration is for young girls and womxn to pursue their passions even if it doesn’t align with society’s standards. If you are not fulfilled with what you are doing, change it. If you don’t see an opportunity for a career that you think you would thrive in, create it!

What trends/shifts have you noticed related to women in prominent positions in the area/your sector… in society in general?

It’s been about three years now, and I am really happy to see more womxn of color in prominent positions, especially within the community, many of whom I admire very much. I could not honor my growth as a community leader without honoring these womxn first: Sandy Gomez, Genevieve Flores-Haro, Loni Kate English, Lucy Cartagena and Cynthia King. 

Any advice for your younger self? 

You are worthy and enough. 

Regina K. Hatcher-Crawford
President, Ventura County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Regina K. Hatcher-Crawford, President, Ventura County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Photo by Luis Chavez

A protest with the National Farm Workers Association when Regina Hatcher-Crawford was 5 years old would start a life carrying forward a family legacy of activism rooted in three generations of civil rights work, passed down from her grandfather, father and mother. 

“An Air Force brat” born in Savannah, Georgia, Hatcher-Crawford today lives in Oxnard. Over the course of her life she heard stories of the Jim Crow era from her father, who was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. “When I am unsure of the steps I may take or some challenges I may face, I think and I say to myself, ‘I am my father’s daughter.’” 

How did you come into your current position?

I was elected president at the age of 14 to the Ventura County NAACP Youth and College Division. While serving in this capacity, I was elected to the NAACP Southern Area Youth and College President at 18, representing seven states, California, Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Utah. I was the first female to serve in this position. Later . . . I served in several leadership roles in the Ventura County NAACP chapter and in 2017 became president after my father, John R. Hatcher III, passed. 

What particular hurdles or barriers have you had to face, and how did you overcome them?

Given the challenges and hurdles that Black Americans face in America, just being a woman in the society is hard, but now add being Black to the equation. The barriers for women are already unfair but it is amplified for a Black woman who is already discriminated against for her gender. As a woman, and specifically a Black woman, you must work harder than your counterparts. In the workplace, you can have equal or more education and work experience and you are still subjected to less pay and seniority. In my current role I have had to work overtime just to prove my worth and ability to be an effective leader in my role as Ventura County Chapter NAACP President. My leadership skills as a Black woman are continuously being challenged. 

I have had to adapt in order to move forward to change implicit biases. I often view these challenges or situations as a game of chess in my mind. Each case being situational, we learn to pick our battles, by setting and establishing an expectation of the end results. 

What is something that most people don’t know about the work you do?

The one thing that might surprise most people is at the local level of the NAACP we are volunteers. I spend countless hours studying the law and meeting with community stakeholders and leaders, law enforcement and people in the community. I do this because I feel this was my calling and the work I do is strictly in the spirit of giving back to my community, to be a voice for those who don’t have one.

Who are your role models, and why? 

My role models are my father and my mother [Joanne E. Hatcher], who is 90 years young. She is my biggest supporter and confidante. She still works actively in the NAACP as the membership/voter registration chair. She encourages me and advises me when sometimes I cannot see things clearly.

I credit my activism, philosophy, and ideology to my father. He instilled in me the purpose of giving back and being of service. A week before his passing, he still persisted in teaching me to lead and in one of our last conversations he told me, “Regina, stop and listen. Let your community and the people you serve guide you.” 

What do you see for the next 100 years in terms of women in the workforce/politics/activism? 

I believe that women are the core foundation in the United States and in the world that can effect change. Women are stepping into roles that are traditionally men’s roles. Women are taking more leadership roles, such as CEOs, politicians, police chiefs and in the medical fields. 

We see the rise of women activists in the NAACP and as well in other organizations such as the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, both organizations founded by women. 

Due to these movements I envision that in the next few years we will see more women in prominent leadership roles. I believe we will see the first woman president in my lifetime.

What are the most important issues that you think need to be addressed?

The intent of the 19th Amendment was to give women the right to vote but is also meant to help women achieve an equal position in the workplace through equal job opportunities, fair wages, compensation and educational opportunities. And it took another 45 years for Black women to be granted the right to vote. Yet, in 2020 we still face these same challenges of protecting our rights to vote, institutional and systemic racism. These issues continue to plague the Black and Brown communities.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future — for yourself, or women?

I am encouraged and proud of the future leaders I have met. Women young and seasoned from different backgrounds, races and ethnicities sharing a common goal of ending racism and disparities. Every one of them secure in their beliefs of making change. They are not afraid to take a stand.

I believe in the transformative power of change. My hope and aspirations are that the next generation of leaders are empowered to continue this fight for the things that we could not finish. 

I have watched my daughter, my nieces and their friends and other young ladies I have met evolve into phenomenal women. I am hopeful because I know that it is their moment in time, for them all to be beacons of light for the disenfranchised and underserved community. 

What trends/shifts have you noticed related to women in prominent positions in the area/your sector… in society in general? 

The most recent prominent shift for women is Joe Biden’s announcement to choose

Kamala Harris as his running mate for vice president. Not only did he choose a woman, but he chose a Black woman.

Any advice for your younger self? 

1) Listen to your parents because they can see things further than you can. 2) God first and Family, love yourself. 3) My dad would tell me to humble yourself and learn to laugh at yourself, because if you don’t, others will. 4) Know everything you do is a mindset and how you perceive things; nothing is ever that serious. 5) Stop and smell the roses, have fun and enjoy life.

Zuleima Jimenez
Manager, Ventura Bike HUB
Coordinator, Community Roots Garden

Zuli Jimenez, Manager, Ventura Bike HUB; Coordinator, Community Roots Garden Photo by Luis Chavez

When it comes to helping others, Zuleima “Zuli” Jimenez doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty — with dirt from Community Roots Garden, where she serves as garden coordinator; from bike grease at Ventura Bike HUB, which she manages; or from paint while installing art in La Colonia as a volunteer for the Youth Summer Mural Project. In all her endeavors, the 29-year-old Oxnard native (who, by the way, is also a doula) is sowing the seeds of community, hoping to harvest a brighter, greener, safer world for everyone. 

How did you come into your current position?
By continuously being a student as well as passing down all gained knowledge and wisdom. Learning from the community, creating with the community, all in relation to what community means in order to address our true needs.    

What hurdles or barriers have you had to face in your career, and how have you overcome those challenges?

I have had to face a multitude of systematic and structural barriers — from racism, sexism, ageism, sexual harassment, privilege/entitlement and other forms of oppressive classism — to personal barriers that stem deeper due to generations of ancestors having had to overcome these same oppressive barriers.

What is something that most people don’t know about the work you do?

I think the misconception that my work is quick, easy and fun. It most definitely is those things. But it, of course, comes with a flip side to the shiny coin. Sometimes it’s mostly the not-so-nice things, emotions, and occurrences one faces on the daily, as well as the time investment that needs to take place in those spaces, all while balancing one’s self, mind, body and soul.

Who are your role models, and why?

I have so many souls I look up to in my life. I have truly been blessed with nothing but the best examples of life and expression through them. They all range in age, race, astrological sign (haha!) but one being in particular would have to be my grandmother. I look up to her the most because I came from her and she is the reason I am who I am today, as well as the reason for who I will continue unfolding to be. She has guided me through life in various ways as well as nurtured my being for simply being. A true unbound love. 

What do you see for the next 100 years in terms of women in the workforce/politics/activism? 
I see women continuously providing time and space and connecting key points throughout the workforce, politics and life (activism), allowing us to heal collectively. The most revolutionary thing we can do is heal. I see us obtaining healthy lifestyles, following our true callings, listening to our gut feelings again . . . sharing and connecting with one another, growing and expanding with the land, as we allow ourselves to thrive and get to a place where we don’t have to fight anymore because we are whole.

What are the most important issues that you think need to be addressed?
Anti-Blackness alongside the patriarchy. The denial of Black humanity and the negation of Black life is what I mean when I say anti-Blackness. Not just the racism and prejudice against Black people. An African American studies professor, Frank. B. Wilderson, argues that in American society, Blackness is tied to “slaveness,” making Blackness and humanity irreconcilable. When I say anti-Blackness I mean it in the sense of how our systems and ways in which we move as a society position Black people as less-than or subhuman. We need to address the issue of how white people and non-Black POC measure humanity through a Blackness metric. All of this also ties into misogyny/patriarchy. Womxn and womxn-identifying people experience both interpersonal and systemic misogyny. I also don’t want it to come off as a problem only men have to fix, either. There’s layers to this; interpersonal misogyny is experienced within intimate or familial relationships where it can be perpetuated by womxn who project their own internalized misogyny onto other womxn — followed by the structural violence created, justified and sustained by patriarchy. 

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future — for yourself, or for women? 
My hopes and aspirations for the future are to see our people thriving and not just striving to survive . . . and that we as people take accountability for the actions we have taken, accountability for the history that has been ignored and overlooked in order to create a better today and tomorrow. We cannot move to a better future if we haven’t looked at our true past.

I hope and aspire to keep learning, growing and connecting to the land, plants and womxn through the continuation of birthwork and my bicycle.  

Hopes and aspirations for womxn is for us to heal. Truly heal. To support one another in order to bloom into our fullest potential without trying to limit each other’s growth by comparing theirs to our own. 

Any advice for your younger self? 
You are enough, share your art and if you slow down . . . you’ll get there faster. 

Ruth Luevanos
Simi Valley City Councilmember

Ruth Luevanos, Simi Valley City Councilmember Photo by Luis Chavez

Elected in 2018, Ruth Luevanos became the first woman of color and “progressive” candidate chosen by voters to serve on the Simi Valley City Council. She quickly made waves with a video about the legal rights of immigrants. Her experience being diagnosed with cancer led her to become an advocate for a full cleanup at the toxic Santa Susana Field Lab site, while her work as a history teacher and mentor with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts helps her remain calm and polite when tensions heat up. 

What particular hurdles or barriers have you had to face in your career, and how did you overcome them?

I  have had to face a lot of barriers in my career as city councilwoman.  I have faced censure and a recall because certain people in the community were upset that I dared to advocate for those who have not had a voice in our community, including youth, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ, Jewish, homeless, cancer survivors and BIPOC.  I have funnelled the patience and trauma-informed training that I have as a teacher into my career as a city councilwoman because everyone has circumstances that we may not be aware of. 

What is something that most people don’t know about the work you do?

I don’t think most folks know that I don’t have any  personal staff that returns phone calls or emails or handles my schedule for me.  

Who are your role models, and why?

I am a history teacher so it’s really hard to pin it down to one person. I admire the courage and fortitude that Alice Paul had to fight for women’s rights despite all the humiliation, abuse and degradation that she had to endure. I am inspired by all of the obstacles that Maya Angelou had to overcome in her personal life to channel all of that pain and trauma into her writing and inspire so many generations. I am in awe of Sojourner Truth and Sacagawea as mothers who fought for their children to have a better life and risked their very own existence to make sure that they created a better future. And seeing women like Dolores Huerta and my own mom, who are in their 70s and are still fighting for better educational opportunities for Latinas, farmworkers and our families, just reminds me that we are never too old to keep fighting the good fight.  

What do you see for the next 100 years in terms of women in the workforce/politics/activism?

I don’t see that we will have any easier of a fight now than we did 100 years ago when we fought for the right to vote, but I do see a younger generation, like my daughter’s generation, that is much less willing to accept the status quo.  I see so many more women . . . who are realizing the power that we do have and building coalitions to support each other in running for office, being involved politically, taking leadership roles and giving ourselves the space and place to take those roles. 

What are the most important issues that you think need to be addressed?

We need to address the issues of misogyny, bigotry, racism and discrimination . . . we truly need to have those difficult and uncomfortable conversations so that we can grow, we can learn and we can become a better community. We need to remember that our children are watching what we say, what we do and how we act. So we need to make sure that our daughters see us in positions of leadership, standing up for them, and showing them that anything is possible, if not always easy, because we women are strong . . . and we will shape the future of this country and our communities.  

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future — for yourself, or for women?
That we leave this community, this county, this state, this country and this planet better for the next generation, for our daughters and nieces and granddaughters.  We need to support them in their endeavors to dream. My hope is that we finally pass the Equal Rights Amendment and recognize the pivotal role that women play in our society by ensuring that we all have equal pay, equal rights and equal treatment in terms of healthcare, workplace environment, economic opportunities . . . and educational opportunities.

What trends/shifts have you noticed related to women in prominent positions in the area/your sector… in society in general?
I have seen a trend of women in prominent positions who are not willing to put up with the status quo anymore.  Elected officials are calling out the misogyny, the inequality and the intersectionality of race and gender and we are supporting each other through our struggles.  I have had a Holocaust surivor, senior citizens, elected officials, high school students and mothers come and defend me at city council meetings. I see support and mentorship across generations for empowerment of our daughters and the younger generation to take leadership roles and it is truly inspiring. It’s like a cohort of empowered women are emerging in Ventura County and we are being guided and supported by the generation before us.  

Any advice for your younger self?

Remember that your actions of compassion and courage will inspire those who most need to have hope that there will be a better future.

Hannah Yale
College student, activist

Hannah Yale, College student and activist Photo submitted

Just 17 years old and a recent graduate of El Camino High School, it would be easy to say that Hannah Yale represents the future — of activism, policy, the next generation of voters and decisionmakers. To do so, however, would be to discount the years she’s already put in advocating for human rights, an end to gun violence and dismantling rape culture. Now a student at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, she is double majoring in public policy studies and English with the hopes of one day making an even more impactful difference.

What are some of the experiences that have shaped your current outlook and activism?
When I was 4 . . . my father was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called pemphigoid. From a very young age, I was exposed to disparities in the American healthcare system and the dire effects that these inequities can have on patients and families . . . My social awareness and empathy for issues that others were facing grew into an unstoppable drive to help others and advocate for human rights.

What particular hurdles or barriers have you had to face, and how did you overcome them?
When I was in high school, there were a lot of people who disliked me because of my activism . . . I have had to learn to listen to criticisms in a constructive way, but not let the negativity or hatred of others affect my work. Helping people and fighting for equality is more important than anything people could say to try to deter me.

Who are your role models, and why?
One of my biggest role models for activism and policy is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her work both as a lawyer and as a judge has had a massive impact on American law, especially in regards to gender equality. Her work for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project fundamentally changed the way that the law applies to women’s employment rights, education rights, criminal justice rights and violence against women. Most of the rights that women gained during that key part of the movement can be accredited to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is especially inspiring to me to know that it is a Jewish woman like myself who has created all this change.

I would also like to mention that my parents and my two older sisters have always been the most important and influential role models in my life. My family taught me to be kind and empathetic and to care for all others. My dad and my oldest sister work for the International Pemphigus and Pemphigoid Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps patients with the same rare disease that my dad has. My mom and my second oldest sister are both teachers, and my mom specifically teaches special education for students with learning disabilities. Helping people is our family business.

What do you see for the next 100 years in terms of women in the workforce/politics/activism?
There is a new energy around passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and guaranteeing gender equality under the Constitution . . . I really hope that as we progress into the future that we specifically continue to focus on sexual assault and harassment, by supporting and believing survivors and making sure that perpetrators face justice.

What are the most important issues that you think need to be addressed?
Rape culture is very prevalent in the U.S. and very harmful to people’s understanding of mutual respect and bodily autonomy. Reproductive freedom is also very important, especially as many states around the country are trying to implement unconstitutional restrictions on access to reproductive healthcare. It is also crucial to practice intersectionality and to recognize that sexism and misogyny are connected to other forms of discrimination and hate. We must push for acceptance and equality for people of all genders, sexes, races, sexual orientations, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future — for yourself, or for women?
The Equal Rights Amendment, and personally doing work to help get it ratified. I want to continue to do my part in this world and to advocate for human rights . . . One day, I would like to create a nonprofit organization or expand an existing one to provide affordable or free legal services to sexual assault survivors around the country.

What trends/shifts have you noticed related to women in prominent positions in the area/your sector… in society in general?
I am only 17, but in the past few years I have seen a lot of crucial change in Ventura County. In Ventura, we have just last year elected a Latina woman as deputy mayor [and] all of our state and Congressional representatives are women. In the 2018 midterms, more women than ever before were elected into positions of Congress. The ratification of the ERA by Virginia in January of this year was a huge mark of progress towards reaching gender equality under the Constitution. Generally, women in this country, especially young women, are realizing that they are worthy and deserving of love, respect, opportunities and legal equality.