News · 01.9.19

Movement Mujeres Offers A Two-Year Fellowship To Women Of Color

43779032_335076747290168_1067521746026557927_n (1)

Wendy Davis, founder of Deeds Not Words, and Cristina Tzintzun, executive director for Jolt Initiative, have come together to create Movement Mujeres, a fellowship program to support women of color in Texas who are passionate about being heard in politics. This year, a diverse array of 25 women from all over Texas will be selected for the two-year program. Throughout the two years, the candidates selected will attend conferences that will help them develop their expertise, give them an opportunity to network, and provide them access to any resources they might need to gain political presence. The program’s goal is to educate women of color in order for them to obtain positions of leadership in social justice organizations, philanthropy, and government. At the end of the two years, both Davis and Tzintzun hope to see a portion of their women running for office.

“In some ways Movement Mujeres is a very basic program. It’s a program that’s trying to make our democracy reflective. It’s a program about investing in diverse leadership,” Tzintzun says. “But at the same time, in this state, it’s a radical proposition to say we are going to invest in the people who have been ignored and underestimated, because we believe that they are the ones that are going to transform our state.”

I’m speaking to Tzintzun at the Jolt Initiative office in East Austin. Behind her is a colorful hand-painted poster pinned to the wall. It reads: “Our family. Our community. Our Texas brings us together.”

Although the 2018 midterm elections included numerous wins for women of color in Texas, (such as Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia becoming the first Texas Latinas in congress), both Wendy Davis and Cristina Tzintzun believe there’s still work to be done in making Texas more representative.

“How would you tackle Latinos and education if there weren’t Latino voices? How would you tackle the issues of maternal mortality that impact the women of color more if you don’t have women of color there helping shape the policy outcomes? At the end of the day, I don’t care if you’re right or left. At the end of the day, our democracy is stronger if you have diverse voices represented in tackling those issues, because they bring different perspectives and understanding through their lived experiences,” Tzintzun says.

Movement Mujeres is accepting applications for all women of color, regardless of age, sexual orientation, or political views. However, the women they choose must be passionate about representing those who are overlooked in politics.

Both Wendy Davis and Cristina Tzintzun are deeply experienced in standing up for those unheard. In fact, when asked about the most rewarding moments in their careers, their answers were very similar.

“Sitting in a committee hearing room behind, both physically and in spirit, the young women who are testifying on issues that matter to them, is really the pinnacle of pride for me,” Davis says. It’s easy to see the truth in what she’s telling me; at the end of the interview, I ask to take Davis’ picture, but instead she insists on a group picture with her team, which is made up entirely of girls who appear to be in their early twenties, (as well as the office dog, who appears happy to be included). For Davis, building a community of young women is key.

Tzintzun’s “pinnacle of pride,” as Davis puts it, took place at a town hall meeting, when a 22-year-old woman who worked on Jolt’s endorsement committee announced that she “never felt powerful before in her life.” Tearfully, the young woman thanked Jolt for letting her feel that way about herself–for giving her the ability to recognize her own power.

“When you look at the climate for young women of color in our state right now, there’s been so much directed hostility at their opportunities to realize their full potential,” Davis says. That’s why Movement Mujeres is strictly for African Americans, Latinas, Native Americans, and Asians.

Davis explains that lately she’s had to give a lot of thought as to her role as a white woman. The biggest thing, she explains, that white women need to do to support women of color, is to show up. Showing up means adding your voice to theirs. Showing up means thinking of things that don’t touch your life, but touches theirs. Showing up is engaging women of color in conversation, asking them about their experiences, and listening, listening, listening. (Men, we suggest you take this advice as well.)

A lot of women, especially those of color, have grown up feeling incapable, not because they actually are, but because that’s what they’ve been told; it’s a narrative that seems to be woven into our DNA. Movement Mujeres is set on changing not only the male-dominated narrative that we see in our government, but changing the narrative women tell themselves.

“One thing I think many women suffer from is self-doubt. We believe that we’re never capable enough, or never qualified enough.” Tzintzun says. “And I want the people that go through this fellowship program to know that there is actually no one more qualified or capable than them.”

To apply for the fellowship, click here. Note: Applications must be submitted by Jan. 9. Missed the deadline? In 2021 the fellowship program will continue with a new set of 25 candidates.


Keep Reading

Next Post.