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With the help and support of our members, Engage Her is doing amazing things around the country!

Visit our website http://www.engageher.org/ to find up-to-date information on our leadership conferences, read blogs from our diverse group of regular contributors on health, education, jobs and the environment and learn how to become a part of this fast growing community.

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As President Barack Obama talked about people getting involved during his campaign and now that he’s in office, we need to take his words to heart. It’s one thing to say “Yes we can!” and it’s another thing to figure out “What’s next?”   I get invited to a lot of community organizing events that people are developing because we have this overwhelming desire to get involved and make things happen.

For women, I think it’s time that we “Step up our game” and truly take charge and figure out what we can do for our families, communities and the country as a whole. Even as our economy is tanking, people are being laid off by the thousands in all our communities, we can take the initiative and figure out how we can improve our own personal situation and the broader community around us.  If you’ve been laid off or your spouse, of course we have to scramble to pay our bills, take care of our families and continue to manage our lives as successfully as we can.  We may not have the same kind of disposable income to afford the things we could even two months ago. However, money is not the only capital we have going for us.  If we don’t have the money because we’re not being paid, we have something even more important…..time!  We now have more time to look around and see how we can improve our families, communities and friends lives by participating, helping out and volunteering with groups that help to improve people’s lives.

Instead of rushing off to work everyday, picking up your kids, putting dinner on the table, helping with homework, etc.  why not squeeze in an extra hour or two to volunteer with your local school and help kids to read.  How about helping out an elderly neighbor who can’t drive or asking someone within your family or community if you can help take care of their kids for an hour or two while they can take care of other things they never have time for?

We’ve created a whole culture based on paying for services, and oftentimes paying a lot for those amenities.  Why not move to a culture of sharing, volunteering and bartering for services?  At Engage Her, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re creating a lot of opportunities for women to join us by volunteering for activities and helping others out. We’re bartering for services instead of paying for them. For example, we have a wonderful woman who lost her job and wants to become a web/graphic designer. Her skill set was in the print media where she laid out content for a large newspaper. So she’s taking classes in Dreamweaver and web based software to learn new skills so she can compete with the younger web designers.  We had a need to create a new extension to our website, so I proposed if she could apply her new skills and help us develop our website, we would help expose her to some brand new technology that would teach her website skills, shortcut her learning path and give her a client that she could apply her skill to.  We also could lead her to other clients who are willing to do something similar and help her build a strong portfolio of clients.

Why not explore bartering for services with your friends, neighbors, associates, co-workers and families?  If you have experience, skills, and a desire to learn something new, try bartering with people and learning a new skill along the way. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to paint or quilt but never took time to learn it. How about finding someone with the skills you want to learn and bartering for services you can provide in exchange for them teaching you things. You can be their apprentice and they can ask you to help with their marketing, or business plans, babysitting, who knows?  You could put an ad into Craig’s List and find a dream match for yourself.  You’ll find you’re connecting with people in a totally different fashion and when you take money out of the equation, you’ll be amazed how eager people are to learn something new and to give back to others. It works for us, try it yourself.  Mable

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This morning as I was sitting in the auditorium at Jefferson Elementary School with hundreds of excited children, teachers, parents and friends, it was an amazing experience.   I watched my children sitting in the audience while the whole Inaugural process unfolded on a big screen. Listening to all the children’s excited chatter validated that it was the only place I wanted to be on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration as our 44th President.  Tears streamed down my face as I thought about how significant and amazing this victory was. Born and raised in Berkeley, CA I never thought I would see the day when an African American multicultural man would become the President of the United States. People think that Berkeley is this ultra liberal city and it certainly is today. It wasn’t like that when I grew up in the “flatlands”. Where immigrants and minorities were allowed to buy homes but “red lined” out of the prestigious properties in the Berkeley hills where only the non-minorities were allowed to live.

Yes, while I attended public schools I met and befriended children of all nationalities. However, I encountered a lot of racist comments.  Labels like  “Ching Chong Chinaman” and “slant eyes” were something that I was called. I’ll never forget the feelings of being labelled something demeaning or some one  to be ridiculed and made fun of because of the color of my skin and the shape of my eyes. I learned to rise  above those situations and to fight back. I vowed to educate people who made fun of us, not contribute to the dialogue of cultural racism.

When my twin boys were born 5-1/2 years ago, I had the stroke of luck to meet our nanny, Carolyn. She is an incredible woman who had been a nanny for decades and raised a number of children in several families.  She is loving, affectionate and an important member  of our family. My children only know and love her as their nanny. They don’t notice that she’s an African American because they only know her as Carolyn.  They aren’t “color blind”, they just don’t think about the color of people’s skins as something important.

These are all the thoughts and images that flash through my mind as I watched Barack Obama proudly state his inaugural oath.  What a glorious time to be alive and to see that we are all people…all united….and that deep down inside, it is about how we treat each other as human beings that truly counts.

It was wonderful watching the millions of people in Washington DC. But nothing could be more magical than to be with my children to share in their wonder and belief in seeing our new President Barack Obama being sworn in. They will grow up in a time when an African American will be their President, a woman will be their Secretary of State, the Cabinet members will be competent men & women who happen to come from all the different communities that make up our country.  This is a moment to savor forever.  Mable

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2009 is a very exciting year for a lot of different reasons. An exciting new President, people coming together to work for a new America, voices of people engaged for the first time.  Something very cool coming from Obama’s election:  People wanting to volunteer and work together to “do something positive”.  It’s been amazing to hear of so many people who have been energized by the Obama campaign wanting to continue to contribute and volunteer to make a difference and have an impact.

While the reality is that we are faced with a serious recession that affects all of us: loss of jobs, loss of homes, budget cuts that slash services, teachers being laid off, cost of goods skyrocketing we historically have weathered the storm and emerged stronger and better.  Yes, it will be painful and it affects all of us deeply, but it also will teach us to “do more with less”.  It’ll teach us to work together, barter for services, buy what we need and not spend beyond our means.

Last year we created our documentary and discovered a movement. We never intended to create a movement or online organization…..we found women demanded it. So for the past few months we’ve been  planning what 2009 will entail for Engage Her and we are close to announcing some very exciting events, opportunities and partnerships that many of you have asked for.  Stay tuned…more to come.  Enjoy the inaugurals and then let’s get down to some serious work and develop our own solutions to the problems we all face.  Mable

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Yesterday was a historic day for millions of people all over the world. Not only Americans, but people who are globally affected by the United States.  I’m sure everyone was experiencing a wild range of emotions over Barack Obama’s win to become the next President of the United States.

For my family, watching Barack Obama deliver his speech I sat on the sofa with my two sons, Scottie & Kyle cuddled together and my husband Craig listening intently. It’s hard to describe our feelings but I thought about the future of my children and what the world will look like moving forward. It was fascinating seeing the crowds in Chicago waiting for Obama and for the crowds in Arizona listening to John McCain’s speech.

No matter who you voted for or wanted to win the White House, today is the first day of a new beginning. A new era when people of multi-cultural families and communities will play a critical role in the development of this country. The ability of all our citizens and guests to come together, leverage our contributions, listen and respect each other and move forward will be the foundation for our country’s ability to continually innovate, lead and promote equality for all. I think everyone will remember where they were when they first heard that Barack Obama won the vote to become our President of the United States.

Congratulations to everyone who voted, participated and now our collective work really begins. It is the dawn of a new beginning and we want to thank everyone who helped out to make this a collective victory.

Our Engage Her team is excited and looking forward to working with everyone to make sure we participate and get our voices and actions heard.  Mable

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As we’re fast approaching the elections, there may still be a lot of people out there who are unsure, undecided or haven’t made up their minds whether or not to vote.  Maybe you’re voting but you want to know what else you can do to get more people to vote. Or maybe you’re thinking of voting, but you’re confused or unsure of the voting ballot. A couple of ideas:

1. Vote for your choice for our next President.  If you’re unsure of all the issues on your voting ballot, don’t be discouraged. Just vote for the things you know about and skip the rest. People don’t seem to know that you don’t have to know everything about all the issues. Just vote about what you care about.

2. If you’re at the polls and you’re running into problems or hassles with your name on the polls, ask someone for help. Ensure that you get the right to vote. There are more people going to the polls and monitoring to make sure everyone who is registered has the right to vote. So don’t get discouraged, don’t give up, ask for help and demand that you get to cast your ballot.

3. If you’ve already made up your mind to vote….great!  Why don’t you call your family and friends and make sure that they are voting and if they need any answers, or help getting to the polls, offer to help them out. A trusted family member, friend, member of the community offers a lot of encouragement and trust to women voters.

4. How about taking your kids to polls with you on election day? The White House Project is encouraging people to Take Their Daughters/Kids  to the Polls and I’m going to do that myself. I’m taking my twin boys who are 5 years old to come with me to my voting location since they’ve been hearing me talk about this election for the past year now. They will remember and they will get to see their Mom participate in the electoral process. It’s establishing a new tradition for our family. Something my parents never did, since they never voted and I missed out on all that education and awareness.

5.  Why don’t you call up a friend or a group of friends and watch the election coverage and results together? This is a historic election and there will be a lot of exciting coverage and commentary to hear about. It will give you an opportunity to share the enthusiasm and excitement with others and feel connected.

6. If you’re thinking of sitting out the elections because you don’t like the candidates, etc. think about your parents, grandparents or other family members who sacrificed a lot to bring your family to the U.S. to enjoy the freedom of speech and the right to vote for elected officials. In many countries, people still don’t have the right to vote and participate in democracy.  So let’s use our vote and the privilege wisely.

7. How about thinking of the kids and people who can’t vote? Your vote for candidates who represent issues that affect all Americans is a critical one. How about voting for the people who can’t vote or who don’t currently have the right?

This is an exciting time and November 4, 2008 is right around the corner.  Mable

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Who Isn’t Voting?

I wanted to share an article where I was interviewed about Engage Her on the Feministing.com site about the upcoming elections. As more people hear about our film, Engage Her and our organization, we are discussing many issues surrounding minority women and our impact on this election. More to come:
Mable Yee: Who isn’t voting?

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Through EngageHer.org and documentary film Engage Her: Getting minority women to lead and vote, founder and CEO Mable Yee is working to get women to the polls — especially women of color — millions are registered to vote but don’t cast their votes. So why do all those undecideds get so much attention?

Just 10 days to go till the big vote for the next prez. Here’s Mable…

With now less than two weeks to go until the big election day, it seems like every major news network has their own special Ohio independent voters’ focus group. But according to your documentary, Engage Her: Getting minority women to lead and vote, millions of women of color are registered to vote, but aren’t not voting. What are the latest statistics and why do you think the mainstream media is not drawing more attention to these registered voters who don’t feel like they should even vote?
In the 2004 general elections, from the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • 47% (1.5 mil) of Asian-American U.S women citizens did not register & vote.
  • 40% (3.3 mil) of Latina U.S. women citizens did not register & vote.
  • 28% (3.7 mil) of African-American women citizens did not register & vote.

Total: 8.5 million citizens who are women of color could have registered and voted but didn’t.

I think the mainstream media doesn’t cover nor care about these huge populations because women typically are ignored or invisible to the media. In this election cycle first with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, there was a lot of attention paid to women, but it was primarily white women. When the coverage turned to Barack Obama, it was about African Americans/black voters but they covered primarily the men. If they spoke about an African-American woman, it was Michelle Obama and they heaped a lot of negativity and criticism on her, oftentimes ignoring her strong qualities. Oprah is another big factor, but it was all about the celebrity factor.

When you look at the press coverage, it’s about the black voters vs. the white voters. More increasingly they talk about the brown vote, but no major women are discussed. The Asians receive virtually no attention along with the Native Americans, who are routinely ignored.

Yet if you look at the changing multicultural landscape of this country, with California leading the way, we can’t continue to ignore these populations. So called “minorities” collectively comprise the majority in California. By 2042, the Census Bureau is predicting “minorities” will become the majority nationwide.

The impacts and ramifications upon our society will be widespread and far reaching.
We all know that the majority of mainstream media outlets is controlled by white, majority men who dominate and control the news topics, content and distribution. The critical factor is the rise of “multiculturalism” which replaces the term minority and communities of color and how blended or people with multiple ethnic and cultural backgrounds will impact the needs of our country.

Engage Her discusses the different histories and contexts of where many women of color are coming from when deciding whether to vote — racist anti-suffrage tactics in the U.S., corrupt democracies in many women’s home countries, language barriers, sexism — just to name a few. It’s amazing many women even vote in the first place. Can you give some examples of how these contexts play out in real life, and what you think get-out-the-vote groups should keep in mind when trying to mobilize women of so many different contexts?
We learned that women are very focused on the issues that affect their everyday lives. In their 24 hour day “window,” women have to deal with taking care of their families, work, going to school, health, paying the bills, feeding their children and more. The politicians and political campaigns do a terrible job of telling these women how they are going to provide solutions and make their personal lives better. Women care about issues that are immediately on their daily radars:

  • “My child is sick, he can’t go to school, I don’t have childcare, if I stay home from work, I’ll get fired because I don’t have sick leave, what do I do?”
  • “My husband got laid off from his job, we’re not going to make ends meet, how will we pay our bills, how will we feed our kids?
  • “My mother just got diagnosed with cancer and she doesn’t have health-care coverage, how will we seek treatment and how will we pay for it?
  • I just graduated from college, none of my friends can find jobs in their fields with their degrees and we have huge student loans to pay off.

So get-out-the-vote groups have to relate the everyday issues to voting and the power of the vote. We tell women: You hire and fire the president of the United States. If you don’t like the job that this president is doing, then you fire him/her by not hiring the person who’s going to continue the same policies. You also hire the next president and you have to hold him/her accountable to do the right things for our country and fix the problems that directly impact you, your families and your communities. Vote for the person who’s going to take care of you and your family.

We also tell groups to tell women “You can just vote for the President and skip the rest.” Many immigrants or multicultural women are confused by the ballots, initiatives and are afraid to vote for the wrong person. So they end up not voting at all. We emphasize to keep it simple and vote only for the people or issues you care about.

Emphasizing that younger children help their parents register and inform them about the nominees, issues, etc. and bring them to the polls really helps. Having the encouragement, support and education from their trusted family members makes a huge difference.

Telling women to remind all their friends, families and groups to vote makes a big difference. Women are big networkers and hugely influential in their communities. When the mother votes, everyone votes.

What are some anti-suffrage tactics being used today to prevent certain groups from voting and what should someone do if they suspect their voting rights are being threatened?
We are hearing about people being purged from the polls or hearing Robo calls that can scare them. We encourage that people go to the polls with someone else in case they run into any voter intimidation tactics and they can insist on their rights. Oftentimes immigrants don’t want to raise a fuss or create a problem, but they have to know that they must assert their right to vote. The League of Women Voters publishes an easy voter’s guide that simplifies the ballots and does it in seven different languages. Other groups publish voter’s rights guides so people know to insist on voting in their balloting area.

The important thing is to go to the polls, be patient, wait in line and complain if you think you are being treated unfairly. Many people are going to out of state polling areas to monitor, watch and ensure that fair practices are taking place. Ask for help.

Some women think they shouldn’t vote because they don’t have the authority to vote — don’t have enough information and education needed to cast a vote on a given issue, let alone the highest office in the country. What do you say to women who hold these beliefs?
Vote only for the things you know about. If you only want to vote for the president, then do it. You don’t have to vote for everything and don’t feel guilty if you don’t know the issues. There are plenty of people who know less about the ballot than we do, but they vote because their husbands, church, or associations tell them to. So we tell them to go ahead and vote and ignore the rest of the issues and problems. Feel good about voting and knowing your vote does make a difference.

How did you find yourself launching EngageHer.org and later the documentary? What and/or who was your catalyst?
Having come from a corporate and technology world where I worked primarily with white male decision makers, I always wanted to change and get more women and multicultural women to step up and become leaders. When I saw the numbers about voting participation and how abysmal they were, I knew that I wanted to find out why and then make a documentary to tell the stories of why these women weren’t voting. Unlike the corporate world where there are a ton of issues to keep us from ascending the corporate ladder, voting is an activity anyone can do with virtually no barriers.

I started by finding a filmmaker and teaming up with her to create the documentary which defied all odds and timing. We were told it would take $200,000 and two years and we did it in nine months with zero outside funds, a lot of help, volunteers and supporters. Along the way, all these women wanted to join us because we were awakening a social consciousness within them and making them think about why their mothers, grandmothers and parents didn’t vote when they came to this country or when they grew up. As a result, we decided to launch an online organization called EngageHer.org to educate, activate and motivate women of all races and colors to join us and collectively use the Internet to make a difference. We have young, old, first to fifth generation immigrants, all types of women who want to join us and make a difference. It has been an overwhelmingly positive and movement whose time has come.

Do you remember the first time you voted for president? What was your context?

I first voted in 1972 when Nixon ran for re-election against George McGovern. Coming from the whole Vietnam War demonstrations, Third World Liberation, etc. you can imagine which way I voted. It was a tumultuous time. In addition, my parents both came from China and never voted, never talked about voting and never stressed the importance of civic engagement. It was not until I went to UC Berkeley in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War’s escalation that my social and political consciousness took a big awakening.

Any last words on the right to vote?
If you are happier off today than you were in 2000 when there was no Iraq war, gas cost less than $2.00, No Child Left Behind didn’t exist and we had a federal surplus, then you know who to vote for. If you are worse off, then you know who to vote for. However, if you sit out the vote, then you just voted….automatically. You voted to continue the status quo. Because change is going to require a lot of votes in one direction or the other.

Vote for your children, yourself, your families and your future.

Posted by Celina – October 25, 2008, at 12:21AM | in Activism , Election , Interviews , Personal Is Political , Politics , Women of Color , Work

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