National Women Political Caucus board members were among those who gathered in Memphis. (Courtesy photo)

The year 2018 has been touted as the year of the woman with women overwhelmingly running for political office in local, state and congressional arenas. This renewed sense of optimism for the future was the perfect backdrop for the National Women’s Political Caucus’ (NWPC)annual meeting in Memphis last weekend.

“We are seeing women run and win like never before,” said Donna Lent, president of NWPC. “I believe the trend will continue.”

Women from around the country gathered at Hilton Memphis to kick off the three-day conference, attending political candidate training, board meetings and a screening of “Equal Means Equal.”

NWPC — a multi-partisan grassroots group dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political process — recruits, trains and supports pro-choice women candidates for elected and appointed offices at all levels of government.

The organization was founded by prominent women such as Gloria Steinem, author, lecturer and founding editor of Ms. magazine; former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm; and Fannie Lou Hamer, a community organizer and leader in the women’s rights and civil rights movements.

As part of the conference stop in Memphis, NWPC leadership offered local women a day-long class to learn more about the political process.

The diverse group of women, including Memphians Erika Sugarmon, former candidate for the Memphis City Council, and Danielle Schonbaum, Democratic nominee for state district 83, listened to concerns, gave critiques and tips, and shared strategies on how to successfully enter politics and maneuver through the political process. The eight-hour session ended with a challenge to go into the community and lead.

Among national leadership in attendance for the session was Memphian and political advocate Deidre Malone, who sits on the NWPC board as first vice president and vice president of communications.

“This organization is near and dear to my heart,” said Malone. “Teaching women how to soar in the political arena but also to fight for issues germane to the female experience has always been two priorities I have stressed – not only on a national level, but locally in the Memphis community.”

Malone was responsible for rebooting the Memphis Women’s Political Caucus and the Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus, which helped lead the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Heritage Trail campaign in Nashville. She was also the first African-American woman to chair the Shelby County Commission and the first African-American woman to successfully win the Democratic primary for Shelby County.

Since the MWPC has become active again, the ranks have swelled to include women and men of all ages and position on the political spectrum and socioeconomic status.

“The sacred democratic process of our country is something that our organization tries to use to empower women to take on leadership roles in politics and more importantly, to help women understand their impactful role in guiding our country toward its future,” said Latrivia Welch, president of the Memphis Women’s Political Caucus.

“We were honored and excited to have our national officers here to conduct their workshop and trainings, but now it’s up to us to take that knowledge and put it to work here in Memphis.”

On Saturday, the NWPC and MWPC hosted a reception at the National Civil Rights Museum for the Memphis community, followed by a screening of the movie “Equal Means Equal,” which takes an in-depth look at the inequalities women still face in this country and what is needed to advance the Equal Rights Amendment.

“I believe the movie continues to be a wake-up call for supporting the Equal Rights Amendment,” said Malone. “It is an in-your-face reality check of the discrimination that continues to exist when it comes to wage discrimination, female poverty, domestic violence and international women’s rights. The movie is a call to action.”

More than 100 people attended the event, including Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and a host of newly elected, re-elected and nominees for local and state offices as well as community activists and those who wanted to learn more about how to get active in the community.  The most noticeable part of the event was how many of those elected officials were women.

“This is the year of the woman,” Welch said of all the female politicians in the room. “Look around. We’re not waiting; we’re not asking for permission.”

(To learn more about how to join the Memphis Women’s Political Caucus, visit the website at www.MemphisWPC@wordpress.com.)