feminism

Travels through Oklahoma

My recent Power in Place (PiP) travels through Oklahoma spanned from Valentine’s Day to Presidents’ Day (extremely fitting since PiP was conceived from my passion for political parity).  In 5 days with much driving in-between, I was able to photograph and interview 9 female politicians and 4 nominees.

I was moved by the overall support, and respect they all shared for one another, regardless of party affiliation.

Booking the various electeds, I sent invites to a diverse group of female politicians. I was aiming for a range of age, race, party, and geographic settings. Not only was my vision fully realized by the Oklahoma women I featured, but I was moved by the overall support, and respect they all shared for one another, regardless of party affiliation.  Often, the legislators would ask who signed onto the project and when I recalled the list, they would recount virtues rather than cast aspersions on character.  To me, this is a hallmark of what makes women in politics so necessary.  We are not weaker, or less scrupulous– –rather we are (on the whole) apt to appeal to civility over disparagement.  During this polarizing time, I see the potential of women in politics as a beacon of hope pointing to a more measured dialog at the governing table.

 Power in Place enjoys spotlighting “firsts”––women electeds achieving historical milestones ––like Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, the first woman of color from Massachusetts to go to Washington.

 

Here are the PiP Firsts this month:

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Cherokee Nation Councilwoman Mary Shaw

PHOTOGRAPHED by the stream that runs into the lake near her home in Broken Arrow, OK

FIRST shoot of 2019 and my first Cherokee Nation woman featured.

SHOOT HIGHTLIGHT was learning from Mary that she taught Chief Wilma Mankiller (the first woman elected to serve as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1985) how to use a cell phone.

 

Cherokee Nation Councilwoman Janees Taylor

PHOTOGRAPHED at the Saline Courthouse by the Spring House, Locust Grove, OK

FIRST participant to bring along 10 other women (now that’s devotion) to her shoot wearing the most brilliant traditional Native American dresses.

SHOOT HIGHTLIGHT was being surrounded by the swirl of colors from women of the Pocahontas Club and feeling the love and support the women share for each other.

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Tulsa City Councilwoman Crista Patrick

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PHOTOGRAPHED at Tulsa State University

FIRST whimsical portrait in a theater costume department, where a rainbow of clothing options hung above us & they doubled as a lively backdrop to match Crista’s personality.

SHOOT HIGHTLIGHT was when Crista and her nominee, Stasha, told each other why they appreciate the other during the interview. Their relationship is clearly built on trust, respect and mutual gratitude.  So beautiful to witness this amongst women of different generations.





State Representative Carol Bush

PHOTOGRAPHED at the cycling trail head of the Gathering Place in Tulsa, OK

Not my first shoot that incorporates bicycles into the office holder’s place of special meaning but my FIRST attempt to capture the spirit of will, dedication and strength of Rep Bush, who started an all-female cycling club, which has grown over the years to 200+ riders.

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SHOOT HIGHTLIGHT was witnessing the friendship that Carol engenders.  Two cycling girlfriends showed up to lend a hand (and their bikes) on a damp, cold and dreary afternoon.  They were more than accommodating and happy to help, even though their fingers were frozen to the bone throughout the shoot. 

Norman, OK Mayor Lynne Miller

Photo: Steve Sisney

Photo: Steve Sisney

PHOTOGRAPHED at the Bizzell Memorial Library at Oklahoma University

FIRST shoot conducted entirely in whispers.  The Mayor chose the library’s Great Reading Room as her setting. It’s one of those traditional “old school” elegant study halls where any minor sound reverberates tenfold. So I had to be extra quiet directing Lynne while photographing her. 

SHOOT HIGHTLIGHT was the admiration I felt for Lynne for entering public service after retiring from teaching.  She is able to serve her community with wisdom and experience.

 

State Represent Ajay Pittman & (Mom) State Senator Anastasia Pittman

PHOTOGRAPHED at the Oklahoma State Capital Building

FIRST mother & daughter elected duo for Power in Place. What a treat!!! Often legacy politics is a father-to-son hand down, but these two courageous souls bucked the national trend. 

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SHOOT HIGHTLIGHT was realizing that these two women are not only mother/daughter, but they are each other’s best friend, to the point where they would finish each other’s sentences.  What made me chuckle the most was how physically they were in sync. Without any prompting from me, they would cross arms at the same time.  In addition, when they first walked into the building, I mistook Anastasia for Ajay.

Oklahoma State Representative Nicole Miller

PHOTOGRAPHED at her home in Edmond, OK

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Even though Rep Miller was the 2nd person on our Oklahoma roster with the last name “Miller,” she earned her individual distinction of being PiP’s FIRST female office holder to pull off a flawless mid-air split. She requested to be photographed with her son (who also inherited Nicole’s athletic prowess).  So I suggested they jump around on their backyard trampoline. 

The shoot was also, PiP’s sweatiest portrait session due to all the physical exertion.  I had Nicole and her son repeat many of their airborne poses, so I could get the framing just right.  Bar none, the SHOOT HIGHTLIGHT was beholding the joy that Nicole’s son brings to her. 

 

Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert

PHOTOGRAPHED on the steps of Oklahoma County Courthouse

It wasn’t the first time I’ve shot in front of a courthouse, but it was the FIRST shoot on which an elected official brought along her sister to personify their shared passion for criminal justice reform. As children, Carrie and her sister experienced first-hand the whims of a system that punishes those with metal health and substances abuse issues. Luckily their family received the support they needed, but they’ve seen too many people fall through the cracks.

SHOOT HIGHTLIGHT was being in the presence of a newly elected woman public office holder, who is absolutely energized by the possibilities of her new role as a public servant.  Carrie’s positive disposition and dedication to the job makes one believe in the possibilities of government to change lives for the better through dedicated advocacy.

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Oklahoma City Councilwoman Nikki Nice

PHOTOGRAPHED at her alma mater, Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City

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Not only is Rep Nice genuinely nice, she is an ardent champion for her community.  Her ward has always been her home, and, as a young woman, her high school was the center of her world.  Nikki is the FIRST in her family to attend Northeast Academy, a school whose court-mandated integration in the 70s led to a racially diverse student body.  As her mom always suspected, Nikki flourished magnificently at Northeast, even though initially she didn’t want attend a magnet school.

SHOOT HIGHTLIGHT was getting to know a humble, genuinely honorable soul.  She does not put on any pretenses and her radiant smile makes one feel at ease.  I also enjoyed hearing about her days as a radio personality before she ran for office.

 

Izzy Barry interviewing Commissioner Carrie Blumert, CK Morris interviewing Representative Nicole Miller, Stasha Cole interviewing Councilwoman Crista Patrick and Emily King interviewing Representative Carol Bush

Izzy Barry interviewing Commissioner Carrie Blumert, CK Morris interviewing Representative Nicole Miller, Stasha Cole interviewing Councilwoman Crista Patrick and Emily King interviewing Representative Carol Bush

When I left Oklahoma, I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  Not only was I impressed by the women office holders, I was also inspired by the amazing young female nominees.  So a big shout-out to PiP’s Women on the Rise, who not only assisted me during the portrait shoots but who also posed insightful interview questions to their nominators.  It is these young female students that will help bridge us toward a more equitable society.  So THANK YOU-- Izzy Barry, CK Morris, Stasha Cole, and Emily King--you are the BEST!!!!

 

Regina Bateson: Candidate for California's Congressional 4th District

Photo: Katrina Hajagos

Photo: Katrina Hajagos

I was talking to one of my former high school teachers trying to get him to run. He flipped it around and said you should actually run. You got the local roots, you got the national and international experience . . . But I said no.
I thought it was outrageous because her whole question was about being valued in society and being respected and all he did was disrespect her . . . That’s what pushed me over the edge, I went home and made my very first website. I used a tool called “CROWDPAC,” which makes it easier for normal people to start running for office, without having the infrastructure, consultants . . .

I hope they remember ordinary people stood up and were able to make a difference… Something that motivated me to run for Congress is the fact that I have three kids. I know in the future they’re going to look back and say- what did you do?

There was an article recently about women who ran for the House of Delegates in Virginia, particularly looking at women with young children who ran there, so I read it with great interest. I was a little disappointed to see that …


Living History with Washington State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos

Before my interview with Washington State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, I admit I wasn’t completely knowledgeable about the tragic history of the Japanese incarceration camps. I knew the incarceration was a great stain upon America. As a nation, we denied 120,000 people of Japanese heritage (the majority of them were citizens) their constitutional rights of due process and equal protection. Naively, I thought everything was neatly sorted out: reparations were made, the government officially apologized and the Supreme Court must have ruled it unconstitutional to incarcerate Japanese Americans without due process. However, as I dug deeper, I found that the story is far more complicated, especially the Supreme Court component.

Washington State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos at her place of special meaning  –  Keiro Nursing Home, Seattle.

Washington State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos at her place of special meaningKeiro Nursing Home, Seattle.

With the headlines of the legality of a Muslim registry and the Japanese internment camps cited as a precedent by Carl Higbie, a Trump surrogate during his presidential election campaign, I decided to reexamine Representative Santos’s interview in 2015, when she posed for her Power in Place portrait. Her maternal family (mother and grandparents) had been forcefully relocated to an incarceration camp in 1942. As a child, Representative Santos grew up with the sense that a great injustice had been committed against her community. Sorting through her interview, I started to realize that this incredible woman was a witness to the post-incarceration rebuilding and healing of her community and the legal battles to follow. As she put it: “History unfolded and I happened to be there, like the Tom Hank’s movie Forrest Gump, where he's getting to be a witness throughout history. I was a Japanese American female Forrest Gump, in this case." 

History unfolded and I happened to be there, like the Tom Hank’s movie Forrest Gump, where he’s getting to be a witness throughout history. I was a Japanese American female Forrest Gump, in this case.
A group of Japanese-Americans arrive at the Manzanar incarceration camp carrying their belongings in 1942.   

A group of Japanese-Americans arrive at the Manzanar incarceration camp carrying their belongings in 1942.
 

 As much as her parents shielded Sharon Tomiko from the family’s economic and psychological repercussions of incarceration, she grew up feeling the continued discrimination toward Seattle’s Japanese-Americans. “People in the community were very angry about being mistreated, not heard, effectively patted on the head and told to go away.” Combined with early civic engagement and a personal call to action, Sharon Tomiko was part of a larger community discussion "about how do we get a place at the table.” It first began as a fight for redress—obtaining an official governmental acknowledgment that a great injustice was perpetrated upon her fellow Japanese Americans by incarcerating them during World War II.  "Seattle achieved renown for having organized the very first Day of Remembrance in the country. As a high school student, I was able to galvanize my fellow students to help organize and volunteer at the event. We were, collectively, as the organizing committee, very surprised at the overwhelming response we received from the greater Seattle area. We thought we would be lucky to have ten/twenty cars show up, but a caravan stretched several miles long from Seattle to Puyallup, which was the first assembly center where they assembled all the Japanese Americans,” for mass detention.

Later on in college, as a student of history and specifically governmental and constitutional history, Sharon Tomiko's senior project focused upon the coram nobis case of Gordan Hirabayashi.

Gordan Hirabayashi   was one of only three Americans to defy the U.S. government's incarceration of     Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Gordan Hirabayashi was one of only three Americans to defy the U.S. government's incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

"Since Gordon Hirabayashi is a Seattle person, his coram nobis case actually took place right downtown, in our federal courthouse.  So as a college student, I was able to watch history unfold.”

Gordon Hirabayashi’s initial case was heard by the US Supreme Court in 1943. He had openly defied Roosevelt’s imposed wartime curfew upon Japanese Americans. His resistance challenged the very premise of the executive order of exclusion, as well as deportation and incarceration. At the time, the Supreme Court’s decision focused around a narrow legal interpretation of the necessity of allowing curfew policies if our national security is threatened during wartime.

In 1982, newly unearthed documents suggested that US government officials did indeed hide evidence that demonstrated there was no true military reason for Roosevelt’s exclusion order.  Thereby, Japanese Americans were denied due process under US law when they were forcefully deported to camps.

US Supreme Court never had the opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of the policy of Japanese American incarceration. Thus, technically, the wartime exclusion order still stands today.

Using a writ of coram nobis (a legal order allowing for a correction in judgment of court cases when new information surfaces that proves key evidence was concealed during the initial court proceedings), Hirabayashi’s case was reopened by US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. In 1984, his conviction was subsequently overturned. As a result, his case never made it back to the US Supreme Court, thus the high court never had the opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of the policy of Japanese American incarceration. Thus, technically, the wartime exclusion order still stands today.

President Reagan signing the 1988 Civil Liberties Act.

President Reagan signing the 1988 Civil Liberties Act.

Sharon Tomiko and her people’s fight for redress wasn’t in vain. To compensate the victims who suffered gross injustice and hardship caused by wartime incarceration, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act in 1988 when she was in graduate school. It was a formal presidential apology to every surviving US citizen or legal resident immigrant of Japanese ancestry incarcerated during World War II. The Act also provided a provision for a public education fund to prevent a future recurrence of forced incarceration and the loss of one’s inalienable rights. Two governmental agencies were established to implement reparations payments to eligible individuals. 

Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos never forgot the lessons of her community’s trials and tribulations. To this day, she remains a vocal advocate for her legislative district’s diverse population. In particular, she holds special regard for the elderly—“the immigrant Japanese pioneers who, with nothing more than just hopes, came to the United States, like so many other immigrants and found that there was opportunity here. But because of rampant racism and discrimination, the dreams for opportunities were really not theirs to be able to reach and achieve. These elderly pioneers managed to still work very hard on behalf of their children’s opportunity. Their resilience, the lessons that they imparted to their children, and ultimately to their grandchildren, is why I've been able to succeed, and become a voice for those who are under-represented. Most importantly, I try to serve as a reminder to my colleagues about the deep meaning of the Constitution and our obligation, not just by words, but by real actions to continue to hold its relevance for future generations.” 

Thank you, Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, for imparting your family’s historic and personal narrative to Power in Place. Your story isn’t a relic of the past. It is as relevant as it was in 1942 and 1988. I’m reminded to stay vigilant and never assume that civil liberties are unassailable or guaranteed by our courts and government.  The suppressed history of transgression against freedom must always be unearthed and understood as a warning for future generations who believe in true democracy.

For further study & understanding the history of the Japanese American community and their World War II experiences, Rep. Santos highly recommends Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project www.densho.org

Proud and Honored

By: Aishwarya Cozby , Mayor Barb Miranda’s PiP’s Youth Nominee

"I want to nominate you." These are powerful words; words that hold a humongous responsibility. Whether it’s for a student government or a city council position, you are asked to be a part of something important in your life and the lives of the people around you. It’s a big decision to make: to accept the responsibility they are asking and make them proud. So, when Mayor Barb Miranda pulled me outside at Sunnyside (where I work part-time) and spoke those five words to me, a million things raced through my mind. But the thought that will continue to stay with me is She thought of me. She asked me. It will be a moment I will forever cherish.

As I drove home after our conversation, I became extremely nervous. This is an important privilege. A chance to make a difference. Questions and doubts ran through my mind. What if I am not the right person to ask? What if I say the wrong thing or present myself differently than what others know? It wasn't until I met Katrina Hajagos at the interview and photo shoot that I began to worry less. Katrina soothed my doubts and fears. She made it simple by taking things slow and one step at a time.

Gustavus Beach, Alaska

The photoshoot was beautiful. She asked me to pose on an island of sand at Gustavus Beach that was slowly being washed away by the incoming tide. I felt vulnerable, exposed, excited, and empowered all at once. All while trying to follow Katrina’s directions, the ocean was taking the island away. By the end, we were surrounded by water; we had to cross shin deep in water to shore. But Katrina captured the moment perfectly: the sunlight on my skin, the strong mountain view behind me, and the power of the ocean all in one shot. We were in the right place and the right time.

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Click HERE to view Aishwarya’s official Power in Place portrait

After drying out at Katrina’s cabin, we began the interview. I have never been more nervous. My hands were sweaty and shaky, my heart was pounding against my chest, and my brain was overloading of the different questions she was going to ask. The questions opened new doors for me to have a better understanding of myself and my role as a young female. The interview was a moving moment for me. But my interview wasn’t close to the highlight of this experience.

I have known Barb Miranda for over ten years. She started out as my neighbor, but soon transformed into a person I admire and care for deeply. Barb is a driven, nurturing, and powerful woman. A strong woman that inspires me! I had no doubt when I learned she was being interviewed as an influential woman figure in our community. I was proud. Knowing that I was coming from a community with strong females from every corner makes me extremely honored to call this place my home. And being a part of Barb’s interview and photoshoot showcased the change she will make.

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Throughout Barb’s interview, I listened to her talk about her past, how she came to Gustavus, why she built Sunnyside Market and Deli, our town’s health-food store, and why she ran for mayor. I had the privilege of learning all the steps and decisions she made that has shaped the leader Barb is today. It was an inspiring moment. One that brought me closer to Barb. A moment that made my respect for her grow. Watching her shine as she talks about her beliefs and her goals made me want to conquer the mountains. She made me beyond excited for where my life is going and the changes I will make. She gave me the confidence to start out strong and never stop fighting. I had a moment to think about what types of leadership roles I want to pursue and take, in college and in life. And as we both move on with our lives, we will always have this moment to share and look back on.

My Power in Place interview with Mayor Barb Miranda

My Power in Place interview with Mayor Barb Miranda

Power in Place is an inspirational organization. Its goal is to share the unique stories of females in politics of small towns to large cities. By sharing these stories, it gives not only the future generations of powerful women but the current generations role models.  Power in Place provides hope. It creates opportunity. It will spark change. And I am incredibly honored to be a part of the change.

 

Photo By: Kim Heacox

Photo By: Kim Heacox

Aishwarya Cozby was born in Mumbai, India on April 1, 1999. At the age of two, she was adopted by a loving family. Aishwarya has grown up in Gustavus, Alaska, a remote town in Southeast Alaska that is only assessable by boat or plane, for sixteen years. Her favorite things to do is participate in sports, explore surrounding scenery, and spend time with family and friends. Now, Aishwarya is working towards a BSN at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. Her life goal is to become a traveling nurse, all while fighting for the rights of all people, no matter their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion.

"Any female leader is inherently an innovator, paving the way for others to follow"

When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to get a doctoral degree. I had just spent some time going through one of my favorite books at the time, Kiss My Math by Danica McKellar, when I noticed that by the author’s name was a suffix I had never seen before: “PhD”. I ran into my parents’ room and asked them what these three little letters meant, listening as my mom explained how they were reserved for very smart people who contributed a unique theory to their field of study.

Wanting to be like the amazing woman who wrote this book, I whipped out my rainbow notepad and sparkly pen and got to work.

After an hour of struggling through my fourth-grade-level arithmetic, the conclusion of my basic calculations showed that 1= 0. Thinking I had broken math and would surely get that coveted “PhD” for my efforts, I tucked the paper with all my mathematical scribbles onto my bookshelf for safekeeping.

Though I didn’t get that doctorate at age eight, I kept that same curiosity and determination through all of my studies. In my imagination, there was no goal too high, no ambition unachievable. Eventually, my interest in science and math led me to discover my love of astronomy. By the time I was in high school, I knew that to become a research professor in astronomy, I would need to understand physics. It wasn’t until my first day in a formal high school physics class, eight years after learning what a PhD was, that I started to doubt my abilities. As one of three female students out of more than 20 in my class, I had my first experience with the gender gap in STEM. Though I was slightly more intimidated by the journey to become an astronomer after that first course ended, I stuck with my original intentions as I graduated high school, went to college, and chose to major in physics.

The introductory STEM courses at most universities are often considered to be the “weed out” courses, designed to separate those truly interested in pursuing a subject from those who are not as serious. Research has demonstrated that this process affects women more than in does men; despite taking similar courses in their K-12 education, significantly fewer women than men graduate from almost every scientific area of study. My freshman year calculus and physics classes hit me hard, and I found myself wondering if I was cut out for STEM as I struggled to grasp the concepts in the most foundational classes our school offered.

Later that year, I became a part of the Women in Physics group on campus. As I began participating more in their events, I realized that those feelings of insecurity and self-doubt had also been felt by many of the female physicists I consider to be role models, including fellow students and professors. Finally, I had found my place as a physics major, both getting and giving support in this community of strong women, who just happened to have a love of science.

Last fall, I realized that my journey in STEM was pushing me in a new direction. As I began thinking about where I would apply for summer research or internships, I found myself searching for opportunities that would allow me to use my physics background indirectly. The idea of advocating for STEM from through public policy was not something I had considered for my own goals before but was something I immediately found interesting. Deciding that pursuing science policy had the potential to completely change my direction in college, I applied to an internship through the Office of International and Interagency Relations at NASA Headquarters for the next internship cycle available over the spring.

The challenge of being female and a leader in any field does not come from women being any less smart, talented, and capable than their male counterparts. Rather, the challenge comes from not seeing many people like you who have already undertaken the journey you are about to start.

Until I spent the last semester off from school to complete this internship in Washington, D.C., my experiences in physics came only through my classes and my research projects. Suddenly, I was involved in science on a governmental scale. My focus shifted from depth to breadth; instead of contributing to one project, I had an impact on many projects as I helped draft agreements with foreign partners and plan international seminars. I supported work in aeronautics, astrophysics, and everywhere in between, learning pieces about each program mission along the way. Immersed in my work at NASA, I realized that I don’t have to be in a lab to support my interests in science and to advocate for women in STEM. Work happening through the government to ensure the success of individual projects in STEM is just as essential as the work of scientists to push their fields forward.  

As I continue to study physics while branching out to explore science policy, I’ve realized that the challenge of being female and a leader in any field does not come from women being any less smart, talented, and capable than their male counterparts. Rather, the challenge comes from not seeing many people like you who have already undertaken the journey you are about to start. Any female leader is inherently an innovator, paving the way for others to follow and making it easier for others to create their own paths in the future. It is this idea that keeps pushing me forward. Although my future goals might change, I now can reassure my eight-year-old self, knowing that women can do anything, especially when we empower those around us along the way.

Katie is from Bettendorf, Iowa and is a sophomore Physics major at Yale University. With a combined interest in scientific research and communication, she intends to pursue a career working toward the advancement of science through policy development and public education. She is on the board of the Yale Women in Physics, and outside of STEM, she loves to plays clarinet in the marching band and train for half-marathons.