Elections at the 2017 Forward Feminism Conference
The 2017 Forward Feminism Conference will be an extra special one–we are electing a new President and Vice President! We hope that you will join us in sunny Orlando to choose the next leaders of our organization.
The following is the report of the Nominating Committee: Resolved, that having received full-ticket submissions from two tickets, and having reviewed the eligibility of the candidates on both tickets, the Nominating Committee declares the following candidates for the offices of NOW President and Vice President:
- Toni Van Pelt, candidate for President and Gilda Yazzie, candidate for Vice President
- China Fortson-Washington, candidate for President and Monica Weeks, candidate for Vice President
The Election Committee has adopted the 2017 Election rules.
Candidate tickets are listed in alphabetical order by last name.
China Fortson-Washington and Monica Weeks
Rise Up NOW
China Fortson-Washington brings a wealth of grassroots organizing and global feminist experience to NOW. China also brings an unparalleled strength and determination to her feminist activism.
China’s 20+ year-passion is ending domestic violence and sexual assault. She has stood strong in helping victims become survivors. She has refused to back down—whether from abusers who targeted her or from government agencies and courts who failed abused women—even at great cost to herself.
China is who NOW needs to stand up to Trump and his cronies in Congress, the courts, and culture!
China designed and implemented a victim-and-survivor legal services program, and co-wrote and co-coordinated a federally-funded exchange between Tacoma and South Africa. In South Africa, China met with women of parliament about women’s rights and domestic violence.
China served as secretary and vice president for Tacoma NOW. NOW activists twice elected China as Northwest Regional Director and National Board member. China served as Tacoma Co-Chair for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Campaign and Barack Obama’s 2008 Campaign. China received the Outstanding Contribution Award from the Pierce County Minority Bar Association and the Pierce County Bar Association Young Lawyers Award, especially impressive for a non-lawyer.
In all these roles, China has recruited, inspired and encouraged others. She has given countless speeches, organized phone banks and canvasses, written grants, and built coalitions with allies. China asks for your vote to bring her in-depth grassroots organizing, fundraising, and communications experience to NOW’s presidency.
Monica Weeks currently serves as DC NOW President and a National Board member. As president, she successfully organized for DC to pass the country’s most progressive paid family leave policy in the US. She was previously DC NOW’s Membership Director and mobilized young women of color to join the organization.
Monica joined the Hillary Clinton campaign in the 2016 Iowa caucuses. Monica understands how critical it is to have strong NOW leadership in light of the threat posed by the outcome of the 2016 elections.
Monica is a first-generation Cuban American, raised in Key Largo, FL. Although Monica is only 29 years old, she brings more than 15 years’ work experience to this role. As a child of a immigrants, Monica has worked since she was ten and developed a solid work ethic and time-management skills.
Monica has worked as an administrative and program assistant at the Council of the Americas and a grants and finance coordinator at the World Resources Institute. Currently she runs her own photography and interior design business. Monica’s work ethic and drive are well suited to the job of Vice President, where collaboration and flexibility are needed to get the job done.
Monica holds a BA in Political Science, specializing in International Relations, from the University of Central Florida and a master’s in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, with a graduate certificate in women’s studies from Florida International University. Monica is eager to bring this expertise and interest in global feminism to the role of Vice President of NOW.
Monica has been featured on Voice of America’s Noticias and International Edition, NPR, and Marie Claire and her work has been featured in the New York Times and ImpactoNY.
Toni Van Pelt and Gilda Yazzie
All Feminists United NOW for Women’s Lives
Like most of us Toni Van Pelt came to NOW for a reason. She had an illegal abortion in 1968. Assisting another woman, she later was arrested and jailed on a felony charge for aiding and abetting an illegal abortion. After the Supreme Court Webster decision, Toni was fired up when Florida Governor Bob Martinez decided to be the first to place limits on abortion. She joined NOW. She’s been a member and fired up ever since!
Her leadership includes continuous chapter and state office holder and national board Southeast Regional Director. She serves on the National Combatting Racism Committee, since 2010, and is State and Chapter Action Chairwoman.
As a NOW leader Toni has:
- Joined chapter leaders in Pensacola in 1994 after abortion provider Dr. Britton and escort Jim Barrett were murdered she was instrumental in establishing the first buffer zones around women’s clinics.
- Worked with Equality Florida for the rights of the LGBTQIA community was foundational to her activism. “I am honored to be an active and outspoken ally.”
- Co-founded Floridians Representing Equality and Equity (FREE), a state-wide coalition to fight Governor Jeb Bush’s efforts to end affirmative action.
- Initiated a Florida NOW mentoring program, resulting in the development of three high school chapters.
- Flew to DC to meet with a top advisor to President Clinton to give advice on the political climate in Florida as he was gearing up for his re-election campaign.
As a long-time business-owner, non-profit founder, and board member, she knows what it takes to lead a well-run, multi-million dollar organization. Toni has been a registered Congressional lobbyist since 2006, advocacy she continues today. A passionate, feminist activist and successful coalition builder she is committed to women’s self-determination & ending racism. She has been a registered Congressional lobbyist since 2006, with a long record of working in coalition with major national progressive organizations and individuals. The personal and professional relationships she developed continue today.
Toni is determined, persistent, tough; she is the storm of Resistance. She will be an unwavering leader pushing back hard against the far-right’s anti-equality initiatives and spearheading the drive to finally add the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Gilda Yazzie joined NOW when she realized that working with a national grassroots and feminist organization was essential to moving a progressive agenda forward. She has been active with NOW since 1996 as a Lifetime member. First elected to the national NOW board in the early 2000’s, Gilda’s strong leadership skills took her to positions on both the Budget and National Conference Committees.
Other NOW roles include Chair of the Structure and Modernization Committee, part of NOW’s Modernization Campaign, and as principal organizer of the 2005 Women of Color and Allies Summit. Currently, a member of the 2016-2018 national NOW board, representing the Western District, Gilda serves on the Budget Committee and the Structure and Process Committee. She is also hard at work facilitating the formation of new chapters.
Gilda plans to continue assisting with NOW’s leadership towards intersectional grassroots activism and is committed to mentoring feminist activists in growing their leadership skills and experiences. For Gilda, as an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, it’s natural to be a feminist leader. About her heritage, Gilda says, “Feminism is in our DNA; we are a matrilineal society.”
Gilda resides in her beautiful ancestral home on a Navajo reservation, while working between two worlds: indigenous and contemporary. She has always been an advocate for racial justice and civil rights. In addition, she continues her activism as an advocate for tribal and indigenous issues by keeping well informed about federal and state issues as they relate to native concerns.
Gilda has a Bachelor’s degree in business administration, and has been self-employed in various business enterprises throughout her professional life. As an entrepreneur, she has worked with local, state and federal government agencies as well as with native sovereign native nations.
Growing up in a family of 11 siblings, Gilda learned to be self-sufficient while providing for others. She has gained strong problem-solving skills, is able to think and act creatively, embraces diversity, and always strives to understand the “bigger picture” before making important decisions. These are all critical qualities needed to lead a large, complicated and nationally important feminist activist organization.