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Nominate your favorite local feminist superhero: Women Who Dared 2020

Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sendy Soto accept their awards at Women Who Dared 2019

Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sendy Soto accept their awards at Women Who Dared 2019

The Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women is seeking nominations for Women Who Dared, our annual awards gala celebrating feminist superheroes dedicated to making our city and state a better place for all women and girls. Each fall, we honor one elected official and one community organizer working to serve and uplift women and girls in our city and beyond. This year’s event will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Know of a badass Chicago shero who’s fighting to transform the lives of women and girls? Nominate her for Women Who Dared! Please include her name and a brief summary explaining your nomination by July 15.

Join us in the fight for equality and justice for all women and girls. Nominate your favorite feminist superhero for Woman Who Dared today!

Update: Chicago NOW Calls for Swift Reform and Toni Van Pelt’s Immediate Resignation – We Will Not Be Complicit

Today, Chicago NOW joins the state and local chapters of the National Organization for Women calling for President Toni Van Pelt’s immediate resignation. Further, we call for swift reform of NOW’s bylaws to decentralize power at the national level and empower the hundreds of grassroots chapters nationwide to take immediate action during times of crisis.

Last week, we called for transparency and concrete answers from President Van Pelt regarding several recent news articles claiming a disturbing pattern of racist behavior among NOW’s national leadership. As of now, we have not received any official response from the national board about these allegations. Today, we realize our previous demand is not enough. We no longer have confidence in President Van Pelt’s leadership, and we do not believe she can effectively speak for the thousands of women in this organization.

We believe women of color. It is now evident that the allegations of racism at NOW reported in recent news stories were merely the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, we see that this is not a new problem, but that our national leadership has allowed a toxic environment to fester for far too long. We have driven women of color out of our organization by turning a blind eye to their pain. To that end, it is not possible for those who were silent and complicit while the cancer of racism spread throughout our leadership to continue to helm our organization as we take steps to root out this toxicity once and for all.

Our members deserve leaders who will take immediate action to rally behind their sisters. To that end, we reiterate our call for a transparent, comprehensive investigation into all racism allegations at all levels of leadership within NOW, and for the results of this investigation to be provided to local chapters. Should this investigation confirm the widespread pattern of racist behavior suggested by these allegations, we believe that allowing all those currently in power to continue to steer the course would be a conflict of interest that would further erode the faith our members should have in their national leadership. However, we are constrained by NOW’s archaic bylaws from taking further necessary drastic action to root out corruption. We call on our fellow grassroots organizers to join us in demanding we overhaul a system that has allowed racism to thrive for far too long.

We meant it when we said that no form of feminism is legitimate unless it is intersectional, that we trust the experiences of women of color, and that we take all allegations of racism seriously. We fear the current leadership of NOW cannot advocate for our mission in an inclusive way. As such, we call upon our fellow grassroots chapters to join us in demanding legislative reform and calling on our leadership to listen to women of color, drive change, and earn the trust of all of our nation’s women.

Chicago NOW Denounces Racism and Calls for Investigation Within NOW Ranks

Chicago NOW has reviewed several recent news articles claiming a disturbing pattern of racist behavior among NOW’s national leadership.

We call for transparent and concrete answers from President Toni Van Pelt. We also call for a comprehensive investigation into all allegations at the national level, and for the results of this investigation to be provided to local chapters.

As one of hundreds of independent local chapters of the National Organization for Women, we do not have the facts surrounding the allegations made at the national level. Chicago NOW affirms that no form of feminism is legitimate unless it is intersectional. That means trusting the experiences of women of color and taking all allegations of racism seriously. We must denounce racist acts within our own organization before we can effectively advocate for anti-racism in our communities.

As intersectional feminists, we must reckon with some hard truths: the feminist movement has a long, storied history that includes many racist practices, and the city of Chicago has its own racist history. It is on every one of us to recognize these realities and take active steps to improve them. We demand the same from our leaders and look forward to a full and transparent investigation into allegations of racism among our ranks.

CNOW Calls on YOU to be a Co-Conspirator in the Black Liberation Movement

Dear Chicago NOW Community,

The mask of community has been further tattered as nefarious systemic racism reveals itself during our pandemic response. Breonna Taylor was murdered in her home by police. A former police officer and his son cornered and murdered innocent jogger Ahmaud Arbery. And we all watched in horror as the police drained the life from George Floyd as others stood by in silence and inaction.

At Chicago NOW, we are examining how to be better. Not just as non-racists, but as anti-racists. It is important during this time for our white and non-black community members to listen and watch with open hearts. We must take this inquiry further by also examining how our personal inaction supports an inherently unjust system and perpetuates violence against men and women of color.

We must do more. Our collective action must be urgent, intentional and unambiguous. We invite community feedback as to how CNOW can be a stronger community partner in the march for justice as we affirmatively stand in solidarity with our black sisters and brothers.

This is the fight of our lifetimes. We cannot stand idly when justice requires action.

Last Friday, we released a call to action for critical change. You can read that statement on our website.

Please read on for links to local organizations on the frontlines that you can support at this time, as well as some recommended reads for further education.

Local Organizations to Follow & Support:

Recommending Reading & Other Resources

Anti-Racism Resources for White People” | Forbes
Six Simple Ways White Women Can Be Feminist Allies to Black Communities” | Ms. Magazine
Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup” | Pretty Good

What CNOW Board Members Are Currently Reading

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement by Barbara Ransby
How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo
The Death Gap by David Ansell

Consider ordering books from Semicolon Chi (515 N. Halsted St.), the only Black woman-owned bookstore in Chicago!

Again, we welcome community feedback as to how CNOW can be a stronger community partner in the march for justice.

In Solidarity,
Chicago NOW

Action Needed: CNOW Demands Racial Justice​

Racial justice is one of CNOW’s core issues. Grounded in our belief that human rights are indivisible, CNOW is committed to identifying and disabling barriers to equality and justice that are imposed by racism. We aim to combat systemic racism through intersectional feminism. We know racial justice is important to all members of our community, but we also must recognize that we do not all experience that deep-rooted fear that we or our loved ones could be harassed or killed simply while jogging, while in their homes, while bird watching in a public park or while interacting with law enforcement over a non-violent incident. Accordingly, we cannot look away. We must continually repeat the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Christian Cooper and George Floyd.

Your feelings of rage, fear, devastation, despair, and anxiety are justified. Let’s channel our anger into collective action.

It is not enough to stand next to each other advocating for justice when tragedy based in racism goes viral and ripples through our communities. Relentless action must be taken through voting, legislation, policy, funding, education, criminal justice reform, economic equality, and access to justice. CNOW is active in these fights and will join in yours. There is power in numbers. For the sake of our humanity, this is our call to action for critical change.