Tamika Mallory (253322)

“Powerful” is the word activist Tamika D. Mallory says sums up what 2017 means to her. This year, the 37-year-old was thrust further into the spotlight for her work as national co-chair for the Women’s March and continuing the fight for social justice.

“Within a year we were able to have one of the most historic moments for women in U.S. history, which was incredibly powerful,” she said “People didn’t believe that we could keep the movement going from the march. We have been able to do that.”

It was Jan. 21 when Mallory stood before an international audience as the African-American face of the Women’s March on Washington. She spoke before more than 1 million people in Washington D.C. and a total of 5 million worldwide who witnessed the power of women coming together in the aftermath of the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

The moment is now documented as the largest single-day protest in U.S. history and Mallory was at the forefront. Her face has graced the covers of magazines, including Essence and Glamour. She was also named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

“This year was full of power struggle and we’ve been extremely committed and victorious in so many ways,” she said.

Mallory’s own history dates back to her 14 years working with Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. She served as executive director of the civil rights organization for four years. During that time, she was at the helm with Sharpton on issues from the NYPD shooting of Sean Bell, the Trayvon Martin case, the Troy Davis case and the 2012 killing of 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan Jr. Her parents were two of the first members of NAN.

Mallory left NAN in 2013 to pursue her own goals and aspirations. She started her own company, Mallory Consulting.

Fast forward to the 2016 presidential election, when Trump was elected and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton lost. Many women who fought so hard to make another historic moment in American feminism were left in a dark place. Mallory received a phone call from Carmen Perez, executive director of The Gathering for Justice, to join her and national co-chairs of the Women’s March, Vanessa Wruble, Linda Sarsour and Bob Bland.

“When we were questioning the goals of the march and putting together such a gathering, it was clear so many white women were involved,” Mallory said. “Around 53 percent of women who voted in the election cast their ballot for Donald Trump and there were serious concerns.”

Unlike other feminist movements in American history, Mallory said this one would be different, giving Black women not only a seat at the table but also a place to talk about issues all of Black Americans were facing. The idea, she said, was met with some resistance.

“I’m most proud of the work that made people uncomfortable,” she said. “When you are planning something, you work to make everyone comfortable and feel safe in this space. We were doing quite the opposite. We had to talk about racism.”

Mallory made it her mission to ask the tough questions to white women who were so adamant about being part of the movement she co-chaired to the point that some decided to leave.

“We had to ask white women ‘where you have been?’ and that was tough,” she said. “They didn’t want to look at the march through a racial lens. They wanted to come under the auspice of ‘can we all get along.’ We were unable to do that and we lost some women along the way. We wanted to create a feminist movement that women of color could rely on.”

On the day of the march, millions around the world watched as women descended on Washington D.C. and other cities across the country after the inauguration.

“I had a lot of mixed emotions that day,” said Mallory. “I felt fulfilled. We were able to accomplish something so beautiful. We worked 22-hour days under extreme pressure. We were in the a basement with police dogs and security everywhere because we were getting heightened death threats. There were Trump supporters in the same hotel we were staying in and it was tough space.”

Since the Women’s March, Mallory has worked to bring chapters for the movement around the country. Her days consist of conference calls, speaking engagements and media appearances. Her newfound fame hasn’t changed her too much, she said, but she’s more conscious about how she presents herself.

“I have great responsibility and anything I do and say, even talking to friend or another people, could become news and could impact my career in a positive or negative way,” said Mallory.

The Women’s March held the Inaugural Women’s Convention in October in Detroit as a follow up. Mallory was again one of the key organizers, giving tangible tools to women to take back to their communities.

Later that month, Mallory received unscheduled media attention after a seating dispute on an American Airlines flight, where she contends she was the victim of racial discrimination. The situation, involving a white pilot and resulting in Mallory being ejected from the plane, allowed her to turn the negative situation into a force for changing the airline industry’s treatment of Black travelers.

“In the beginning, I had to decide whether or not go into a lawsuit that would place me under a gag order or use this opportunity to be able to push it to a broader audience of all airlines,” she said. “That doesn’t mean I won’t seek legal resolution, but I was more inclined to go inside the company to help them make changes that will benefit Black and Brown customers spending their money.”

Not only did American Airlines change its policies but also the company implemented bias training for all employees. American Airline plans to use minority-owned firms to work with them around diversity and inclusivity.

After a monumental and memorable year, Mallory said 2017 was just the beginning and that 2018 will see her doing more work to move the Women’s March and further the reach of her message.

“People can look forward to two books I’m working on and registering tens of thousands of people to vote in 2018,” she said. “The anniversary of the Women’s March will focus on voter registration.”