In an editorial, Eiko La Boria, the founder and CEO of The Flow Initiative, United State of Women Ambassador for Gender Equality in New Jersey, and co-founder of Jersey City Women, explains why Amy DeGise “has proven herself to be an ally and friend of regular people.”
When former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin was selected by the late John McCain to run as his running mate for the vice presidency, she was quickly labeled dumb, unelectable, and clueless by the masses.
Most of it stemmed from a Katie Couric interview, the same Katie Couric that is currently embroiled in controversy over her recent book release.
When then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton ran for the presidency of the United States, she spent more time fielding questions about her husband’s actions and what he did or didn’t do, then she did about her own actions or her vision for the country.
When Vice President Kamala Harris, accepted to be Joe Biden’s vice presidential candidate, although she had been the attorney general and a current senator of California, she was besmirched with calls that she — slept her way to the top.
On a national level, all these women were educated, had been elected or selected for prominent positions, and regardless of party affiliation had led in some capacity, but that wasn’t good enough to run with the boys.
They were quickly demonized for having the nerve to run for the highest office in the land.
On a local level, this election season has demonstrated the belief that women have to know their place to run for elected office and that they are not worthy to run because their political bloodline renders them inept to anything beyond the accomplishments of their father.
Only 32% of all mayoral and municipal council seats held throughout the 11 cities and towns that comprise Hudson County are occupied by women.
In all of Hudson County, there is only one woman elected mayor, Mayor Dina M. Grilo of East Newark. And Mayor Grilo is only 1 of 2 women (former Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer) elected mayor in 180 years within Hudson County.
The top two demographics of people living in poverty in Hudson County are women 25-34, followed by women 35-44 and yet the largest voting bloc and the largest growing voting bloc are women.
On September 14th, during the Jersey City Women’s Town Hall, Ward D Council Candidate Danielle Freire alleged that she had been accosted without provocation, cut off in the middle of the street, by a member of the Ward D incumbent’s team who told her that she had to “ask for permission to run” and in so many words, she wasn’t doing things the way they are done in Jersey City and in Hudson County.
However, Ms. Freire throughout her campaign has shown herself to be poised, passionate, and powerful when delivering her message of inclusion and representation of those who, in her opinion, have for far too long been neglected and ignored.
Of the 21 County Democratic Organization Chair seats throughout the State of New Jersey, only 6 seats or 28.5% of those seats are occupied by women. One of those seats is occupied by Hudson County Democratic Organization Madam Chair Amy DeGise, who many know simply as Amy.
Recently, there was an Op-Ed penned offering reasons why Amy should not be elected by the Jersey City voters. I respect my fellow Jersey City neighbors enough to not tell them who they should or shouldn’t vote for, but I can share with you my experience working with Amy and why I believe her to be a friend to ordinary people.
The notion that Amy has never leveraged her power to help everyday people is a falsehood.
There are many things that are the Jersey City Way, native to those who have spent their lives here; one of those things is doing the hard work, with our nose focused on the mission ahead and not seeking the spotlight for adulation or applause.
Sometimes, this is good, sometimes this is bad, because folks can have you twiddling your thumbs purely because you are not seeking a pat on the back. For the past 2.5 years I have been working with Amy, shoulder-to-shoulder, in elevating and amplifying the voices of girls, women and all menstruators.
For the record, I am not a political crony, I am not seeking a contract or money for the work that I do, and I am not a political insider. Without ever speaking with Amy, meeting her or her father, family, friends…I wrote Amy an email telling her that I wanted to end period poverty (lack of affordability to period products) in Jersey City and Hudson County.
She immediately agreed to meet. When she learned that we had no funding and were just getting started, she made a personal donation to get the mission rolling and secured resources to assure that we could share our mission throughout the county.
She did this because she believed in what we’re doing and wanted to help those most affected by period poverty, which include students, low-income residents, the working poor, artists, immigrants and the homeless. Period.
This mustard seed has now grown to a movement that is recognized nationally, coast-to-coast; Jersey City is seen as an innovator in ending a crisis shrouded in silence and shame.
After statistically surveying girls and women, we learned that period poverty was a substantial and overlooked problem. Amy rolled up her sleeves and helped us through sheer goodwill and gumption to evoke impactful transformative change.
Through period product drives, workshops for young people, education and shared ideas and vision to push the mission forward, we have produced a collaboration between Jersey City libraries who are now carrying period product kits for those that cannot afford products but need emergency access.
We have implemented a pilot program in P.S. 34 (in one of the most destitute areas of the city), which will provide all the students with free period products.
The P.S. 34 Pilot Program. will be used as an example as we lobby for a state-funded bill that will put period products in all public middle and high schools. Amy has been there every step of the way and has worked tirelessly for those most afflicted.
Currently, we are working on policies to address issues which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Covid-19 has decimated women and exposed our societal frailty.
Together we are working toward creating a new normal, one where women are stronger and more self-sufficient post-pandemic then they ever were pre-pandemic.
Amy has proven herself to be an ally and friend of regular people. I believe that comes easy to her, because she has always considered herself to be a regular person.
Women in elected office are treading water in New Jersey, but I admire how women like Amy and Danielle tackle sexist tactics and semantics thrown their direction, with a renewed fervor.
Without question, this will lead them to be characterized as difficult for not doing things the way others would like them to do it, for doing things their way, but in the words of Jane Goodall,
“It actually doesn’t take much to be considered a difficult woman. That’s why there are so many of us.”
Eiko La Boria
United State of Women Ambassador for Gender Equality, NJ and Founder, The Flow Initiative