ITHACA, N.Y. — For Activist Shawna Black, the drive to run for Tompkins County Legislator can be traced back to how she felt right after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in November.
“The reason I’ve decided to run is…I believe my generation has been passive in the political process,” she said. “The most recent presidential election was a huge awakening to us all.”
Soon after Trump’s election, she saw a Facebook event for the Woman’s March on Washington D.C. and ended up being a key organizer in arranging buses to take people to the march.
“For us, it was really a way after the election to do something positive and do something — a way to have an impact,” Black previously said. “I feel like everyone has different reasons why they are marching.”
Black is a lesbian who has been married to her partner for 21 years. The two women have three half-Chinese children.
“I feel like my family has a lot at stake,” she said, adding that many people feel the same way.
Since the Women’s March in Washington D.C. — which prompted localized marches throughout the world — thousands of women have made inquiries about running for political office.
Fortune.com reported the following on Feb. 7:
On Monday, Emily’s List, the political action committee that supports pro-choice Democratic women, released some hard numbers to back up that anecdotal evidence. Since Trump won the White House on November 8, more than 4,000 women have reached out to the organization to say they may want to seek elected office—that’s quadruple the number of women Emily’s List had heard from in the past 22 months combined and includes 1,660 inquiries since inauguration day alone.
And women haven’t just been leading the charge for running for office. According to a poll by Lake Research Partners, women have made 86 percent of the anti-Trump calls to Congress.
For Black, knowing that the resistance to Trump’s policies has been primarily from women is heartening.
“I think it’s absolutely incredible, and I think it’s powerful,” she said. “I love the fact that my daughters are watching me do this…My daughters are writing postcards to (Supreme Court Justice) Ruth Ginsburg.”
“I think we are raising a whole generation of feminists that are powerful and strong and beautiful women,” she said.
If elected as District 11 legislator — which represents the town of Ithaca — Black said three key points of her focus will include the availability of affordable and accessible childcare, the housing crisis and reliable public transportation options throughout the county.
“Whenever I would look for childcare, just for my three kids alone — infant child care can make it up to $1,900 a month,” she said, which is unaffordable to a lot of families.
And the wait for childcare, in some case, is more than a year long, she said.
Black said more of an effort needs to be put in place to encourage childcare facilities to open or existing facilities to expand, and to incentivize people to open home daycare facilities. She said that working with the Child Development Council to address those concerns will be among her priorities.
Long wait lists for affordable options is also a major factor in the Tompkins County Housing Crisis.
Black said that while there are many facets to the crisis, one of the concerns she has is about the availability of affordable housing for seniors.
She was previously employed at Brookdale Ithaca, a senior assisted living facility.
“I saw many seniors that were on the waitlist for quite a while just to obtain senior housing,” she said.
And one of her elderly neighbors recently had to move out of Ithaca because the person could not find accessible senior housing.
As for public transportation, Black used to be a bus driver recruiter for the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, or TCAT.
She said she experienced first-hand some of the struggles the company faces to keep skilled workers and knows how out-of-date TCAT facilities and equipment are. She said most of the TCAT ridership are Cornell University students or employees and said there has to be a collaboration with the university to find more funding to keep buses running.
Black said, “We should work with the biggest employers in the are to provide more funding…”