Womxn + Politics: The Experience of Womxn in the Political Sphere
By Alexis Richards
One week before the 2020 US election, NYU Wagner Womxn’s panel explores what it means to be a womxn in the political sphere. They discuss identity politics, the importance of women’s engagement in politics, and what NYU Wagner students can do to get out the vote in our own community.
Panelists include De’Ara Balenger, co-founder of Maestra and former director of engagement for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign; Jen Bendery, senior political reporter at HuffPost; Charlotte Clymer, activist and writer; Dianne Morales, candidate for Mayor of New York City; Kunoor Ojha, chief of staff for the Green New Deal Network and Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign alum; and Christina Reynolds, vice president of communications at Emily’s List; moderated by Professor Katherine Grainger, co-founder of Supermajority.
[0:00] Introduction by Alexis Richards, an NYU MPA Candidate, President of Wagner Womxn, and staff writer for NYU Wagner Review,
[01:15] Katherine Grainger begins moderating and asks the guest speakers to introduce themselves,
[02:47] Kunoor Ojha introduces herself and discuss her role as an organizer,
[04:09] Dianne Morales, the first Afro-Latina candidate for NYC Mayor, introducers herself and discuss her role as an educator,
[05:10] Christina Reynolds briefly discuss her years of professional experience,
[05:47] Charlotte Clymer briefly discuss her past experience, and her role in the upcoming elections,
[06:42] Jennifer Bendery describes her role as a journalist, and topics she has covered,
[07:10] Katherine Grainger begins asking the panelist questions,
[36:03] De’Ara Balenger joins the group of panelist, introduces her past professional experience, and continues the conversation on voting.
Katherine Grainger has over 20 years of policy, legal, and advocacy experience Katherine Grainger is a leading thought leader on gender, race and sexuality. She spent several years working in New York state government, which she describes as a master class in learning how to build, harness and generate power. She now uses that knowledge to help clients come up with solutions to disrupt systems and generate transformational change. As assistant counsel in civil rights to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Katherine was responsible for crafting and implementing several major legislative initiatives, including the Marriage Equality Act. One of Katherine’s greatest honors is teaching the next generation of policy makers, as an Adjunct Professor at Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.
Charlotte Clymer is a writer, LGBTQ activist, communications consultant, and military veteran. She was most recently the Press Secretary for Rapid Response at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) equality. Her day-to-day work involved running the organization’s messaging in response to the White House and federal policy. She is a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Class of 2019. She was named to the 2020 Forbes 40 under 40 list in the “Politics & Government” category.
De’Ara Balenger (USA) is co-founder of Maestra, a creative impact agency. She previously spent over a decade in public service: she worked in the criminal justice system in South Florida, ran the Philadelphia Youth Commission, worked on two Presidential campaigns, and was a political appointee in the Obama Administration at the U.S. Department of State, primarily serving as Special Assistant and then Senior Advisor to Cheryl Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. De’Ara was also a National Organizer and Strategic Advisor to the Women’s March and named a 2017 Glamour Woman of the Year for her role in the Women’s March. She is co-chair of the Board for the Lower Eastside Girls Club and fundraiser for progressive political candidates. De’Ara is also a host of Pod Save the People, a podcast that explores news, culture, social justice, and politics.
Dianne Morales, the first Afro-Latina candidate for NYC Mayor, was born in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, to two working-class Puerto Rican parents, who believed that the American Dream was not just a promise that success was possible for everyone – but a promise that those who were finding success made to lift others as they climb. From a very early age, Dianne watched her parents practice what they preached, serving as a support system for neighbors and family who the city’s safety net failed. This fueled Dianne’s life-long commitment to fix the broken systems that block millions from the American Dream. She was a founding board member of Jumpstart, a 25-year-old national nonprofit that prepares preschoolers for kindergarten. She earned her undergraduate degree from Stony Brook University and graduate degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Columbia University.
Jennifer Bendery is a senior politics reporter for HuffPost. She has covered Congress and the White House for HuffPost since April 2011. She previously covered Congress for four years for Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent four years covering the Texas Legislature in Austin, TX. She is the president of the Washington Press Club Foundation. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her wife, toddler and a literal heap of baby products that she’s happy to offload onto whoever is reading this.
Kunoor Ojha is Chief of the Staff for the Green New Deal Network, a diverse coalition working towards a just and green economic recovery. She recently served as the States Organizing Director for the Elizabeth Warren campaign, where she oversaw in-state direct voter contact, community organizing programs, grassroots leadership development, and more. She’s also worked for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Indivisible, and for numerous other organizations and causes. Kunoor previously worked for Bernie 2016, and eventually, Hillary for America, leading both campaigns’ youth/student organizing efforts. She is originally from Illinois, but has travelled and worked all over the country building power with volunteers and organizers.
Christina Reynolds is EMILY’s List Vice President of Communications, following two decades as a communications and research strategist. A lifelong fighter for progressive causes, she has managed large-scale press operations from the campaign trail to the White House. In addition to work at two strategic communications firms, Christina served as deputy communications director at Hillary for America. She also previously served as White House Director of Media Affairs and Special Assistant to the President, director of rapid response at Obama for America, research & policy director at the DCCC during the 2006 midterms, senior roles in several presidential and Senate campaigns, and deputy research director at the DNC.
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Links for Resources mentioned:
- Motivote — A community platform made by Wagner grads that is a one-stop-shop for voting accountability and resources
- Take the VOTE 2020 pledge
- Fill out the fellowship interest form
- Visit Vote.org for any questions about voting by mail/ absentee voting
- VOTE 2020 Website
- Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or Alexis Richards (email@example.com) and Abe Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions!