Kimberly Peeler-Allen’s Guide to How Nonprofits Can Engage Audiences to Create Change

About This Episode

To understand the true meaning of #FollowBlackWomen, tune into this interview with Higher Heights Co-Founder, Kimberly Peeler-Allen. Kimberly shares the roadmap of how she and her co-founder built a movement that yields power and influence in the political realm. This interview provides a step-by-step guide to help nonprofits engage audiences in creating change. The organization’s ability to amplify the voices of black women offers a powerful example of what is possible for organizations who can create an emotional connection to their audience that catapults them into action.

About Kimberly Peeler-Allen

Kimberly Peeler-Allen has been working at the intersection of race, gender and politics for almost 20 years.  She is the Co-founder of Higher Heights, a national organization building the political power and leadership of Black women from the voting booth to elected office.

Kimberly and her Co-Founder Glynda Carr have built Higher Heights from an idea on the back of a placemat, into a network of over 90,000 members, donors and activists across the country that have helped elect 10 Black women to Congress, 1 Black woman to the US Senate, growing the number of Black women in state wide executive office and leading our nation’s largest cities.

A highly skilled political fundraiser and event planner, Kimberly was the principal of Peeler-Allen Consulting, LLC from 2003 to 2014, the only African American full-time fundraising consulting firm in New York State. Kimberly served as finance director for Letitia James’ successful bid to become Public Advocate of the City of New York and the first African American woman elected citywide in New York’s history.

In 2018, Kimberly was selected as one of the Roddenberry Fellowship’s 20 incredible established and emerging activists to devote an entire year to projects that will make the U.S. more inclusive and equitable through their inaugural cohort.

In addition to her role at Higher Heights, Kimberly recently served as the Co-Executive Director of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Transition Committee. In this capacity, Kimberly oversaw the recruitment and retention of key staff in the New York Attorney General’s Office, the execution of the Attorney General’s inaugural events across the state and worked with the 42 person Transition Committee to develop policy areas for enhancement within the Attorney General’s Office.

Kimberly also serves as a board member of ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equity.

In her words…

“People are following your lead, so be as certain as you can be of the things  you say online, because there are folks who are looking for that validation for their thoughts or looking to be informed, and you don’t want to be the purveyor of false information or half baked ideas.”
 
“Obviously, there’s a long way to go, but I think there is definitely an active conversation and recognition that if you don’t have women of color, or particularly black women, involved in decision making in social justice work, activism, in the nonprofit space- you are missing out on properly serving that demographic group so many organizations are trying to properly serve. If you don’t have the voice at the table, if you don’t have diverse life experiences at the table, how can you be sure that you are properly serving them?”
 
“I heard a story on NPR yesterday morning about a nonprofit that is in the process of revamping itself because they had diversity by numbers, but it wasn’t necessarily diversity and inclusion whereby the voices and opinions of the people of color on staff were a part of the decision making process. So, they are in the process of taking that into consideration and changing the corporate culture of the organization to be more inclusive.”
 
“It’s not always going to be that viral moment that’s going to have 3 million views in the span of 10 minutes. It’s the constant conversation that also helps move the needle.”
 
“We’ve seen between 2015 and today, how much has changed when we have taken a concerted effort of just talking about it and talking about it and talking about it. Others start to pick things up, and it changes the mindset of what leadership looks like, it opens people’s minds to the possibilities that exist.”
 
“We were just two women that had an idea, but it was because of the commitment of our network, and now our network’s network, to move this needle forward that we have been able to accomplish that. So it is challenging because there’s so much to be done, but it is also really exciting because we are very reliant on our members and our activists to help push the conversation forward, as well.”
 
“It was really the precipice of being in the trenches for so long, raising money and working on campaigns and seeing how the black women donors, the black women activists, the black women elected officials were being treated and marginalized and often ignored or pushed to like, “Oh, you should just go and do field. Can you organize some voters for me?” Instead of saying, ‘This woman has means. She wants to be engaged, she is very savvy about the issues. Let’s bring her in to be a thought leader and a thought partner about how she can get her network to be supportive of this candidacy in this campaign and really engage with her. Maybe we have her sit on a task force for something,’ instead of just saying, ‘Oh you can pass out flyers or help us knock on doors.'”

Questions Answered on this Episode

Higher Heights has more than 90,000 members. What have you and Glynda tapped into to create such a powerful movement?

I like to trace the patterns of movement building and think about how influencers and celebrities shape what’s important to the broader audience of stakeholders. Have you seen specific actions from well-known personalities or celebrities that have helped raise more awareness for Higher Heights? Have you had any instances where it has had a negative impact?

As you think about the ways you’re creating urgency around more inclusivity for communities of color and the opportunities for women, are there any specific steps that you have seen that have really helped to move the needle?

What are the top three goals for Higher Heights for the 2020 Presidential election? What is required to achieve them?

We’ve seen the power of black women in the political process, as well as in numerous social movements. Do you think that we are making any progress in the way of intersectionality?

Higher Heights is the only national organization dedicated to harnessing the power of black women to elect black women, influence elections and advance progressive policies. What’s been the most challenging aspect of this work?

Do you think the organization has influenced how others look at black women, as it relates to not only our political power but our potential to lead, to create change and to shape the world that we live in?

Prior to co-founding Higher Heights, you owned a fundraising consultancy for a number of years. How does that experience compare to fundraising specifically for black women?

What do you see beyond the 2020 election as it relates to your work?

Transcript

Vanessa Wakeman:  Welcome to The Social Change Diaries, the show that looks behind the curtain at everything you want to know about the social justice and nonprofit landscape. I’m your host, Vanessa Wakeman. Today we are speaking with Kimberly Peeler-Allen, the co founder of Higher Heights. This is my first time speaking with Kimberly, and I’m really excited to learn more about what’s happening with Higher Heights and just asking her some questions about influence and what’s been helpful to her and her partner, Glynda, around just raising the profile of the organization.

Vanessa Wakeman:   Kimberly has been working at the intersection of race, gender and politics for almost 20 years. She is the co founder, as I mentioned, of Higher Heights, a national organization building the political power and leadership of black women from the voting booth to elected office. Kimberly and her co-founder, Glynda Carr, have built Higher Heights from an idea on the back of a placemat into a network of over 90,000 members, donors, and activists across the country that have helped elect 10 black women to Congress, one black woman to the US senate and grow the number of black women in statewide executive office and leading our nation’s largest cities.

Vanessa Wakeman:  A highly skilled political fundraiser and event planner, Kimberly was the principal of Peeler Allen Consulting, LLC. from 2003 to 2014, the only African American fulltime fundraising consulting firm in New York state. Kimberly served as finance director for Letitia James’s successful bid to become public advocate of the city of New York and the first African American woman elected citywide in New York’s history. In addition to her role at Higher Heights, Kimberly recently served as the co-executive director of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ transition committee. In 2018, Kimberly was selected as one of the Roddenberry Fellowship’s 20 incredible established and emerging activists to devote an entire year to projects that will make the US more inclusive and equitable through their inaugural cohort.

Vanessa Wakeman:  All right folks. So, I promised you that this season was going to be fantastic, and our guest for today is Kimberly Peeler-Allen from Higher Heights of America. Thank you for joining me, Kimberly.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  Thank you so much for having me.

Vanessa Wakeman:  Thank you. I have so many questions about the work that you and Glynda have been doing of… and I guess I want to jump in just with your base; Higher Heights has more than 90,000 members, what do you think that you in Glynda have tapped into to create such powerful movement?

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  I think it was… When we drummed it up back in 2011, we were just thinking like, “If we build it, will they come? I don’t know. Let’s see.” And they absolutely have. I think when we initially launched, our members were primarily black women in our network, the two degrees of separation for black women across the country. And really, women were coming to us because they were looking for a space to have political conversations, to be supported, whether they were candidates or elected officials, but really just a political home where one had not previously existed. And it wasn’t something that they necessarily knew that they wanted or needed until they were in a room with other black women or watching a webinar or reading some emails or scrolling through our social media feed and realizing that they needed a space where it was just talking about the power of black women as voters, as activists, as elected officials and how affirming that has been for them.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   And it has really just wrong by word of mouth. And then really, after the 2016 presidential election with the way black women performed there and then immediately following in the 2017 special election for the Alabama Senate seat, there was really this wave that came to us of a lot of allies from across the country, people we didn’t even… had no personal connection to, where people were just saying, “Okay, it’s time to really invest in black women.” And when we see those investments, whether they’re as candidates or as a voters or activists, this is what happens.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   So we really grew exponentially off of those two events, and have been able to continuously sustain that growth and continue to grow it, to really be able to say that we are the political home for black women and our allies who support having diverse voices and life experiences around decision making tables and making sure that black women’s voices, votes and leadership matter in the political discourse.

Vanessa Wakeman:   That’s fantastic. And we have a lot of conversations in our work just about inclusivity and making sure that in the nonprofit sector, that there’s a good representation of people of color and women of color. And I think a lot of what you just shared speaks to the need to create those safe spaces and looking for allies, and really giving people an opportunity to have a sacred space so that they can do their best work or they can be in their power. And so I just think there’s a lot of transferable information that you shared that could be really helpful to some of our audience. Thank you for that.

Vanessa Wakeman:  And thinking about what you said about allies and people that you didn’t even know were allies, some of what we talk about and think about a lot here is about the patterns that helped to create movements. Like, what needs to happen for a movement to take shape and how do influencers and celebrities help to create that awareness for the broader audience of stakeholders? And thinking about your allies and people who you’ve been surprised at their support, have you seen any specific actions from well-known personalities or celebrities that have helped to raise more awareness for Higher Heights, and have any of those instance had a negative impact versus what has been really positive and valuable?

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  I think there are two things that immediately come to mind. I’m not quite sure exactly when it was. It was sometime during the 2016 election cycle. We were retweeted by Issa Rae, and she had just said… someone had asked her, “What’s one of your favorite nonprofits, and what is the work that they’re doing?” And she tweeted back, “Oh, I love the work of Higher Heights and their work to elevate black women’s voices.” And we were absolutely shocked and didn’t even realize that she had been following us on social media. And that mention was a huge validator. That really helped bring in a broader audience of black women to our work.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   And we’ve been working to encourage and support more engagement of that level from celebrities who may be just following us just because we’re out there and we’re talking about things that are relevant to them. So in their quiet moments when they’re scrolling through their own feeds, they are following the work of Higher Heights and the messages and the articles that we’ve been putting out. And that was really, really amazing and really helped serve as like a validator where there were people who had been following us or we’d been trying to talk to who hadn’t necessarily been as responsive, but there were like, “Oh, I saw that Issa Rae tweet.” So that was helpful.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  It’s very interesting. I think it was… I wouldn’t call it a bad thing, but after… actually immediately as the polls were closing in Alabama, there was a gentleman out on the west coast who said, all on social media, “I want to start… Look at what the black women in Alabama did. I want to start pulling together a list of all black women candidates that you know of, crowdsourcing this list.” And then he ended up putting it into a Google document and a Google spreadsheet and called it the black women lead something. And that’s one of our programs. We have tee shirts that say hashtag black women lead, because we know that black women are the largest users of social media.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  And so we’ve been working in that space for a while, and the clap back on Twitter was… I have saved some of the screen grabs from that time, and he was just… He just wanted to be supportive of black women. And the clap back was swift and profound and went on for a two or three days. People saying, “Oh, have you ever heard of Higher Heights? They’ve been doing this work since 2011,” and that, you’re late to the game, that you need to fall back and all of this. Though it was a little contentious and a little… Like, we were just sitting there like, “Okay, all of this is going on around us. We have not said anything.” But it also helped bring awareness to the work where our supporters and our allies were very vocal in supporting us and correcting the record.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   And that gentleman has now become a supporter of ours. We now hold that list on one of our websites. If you go to HigherHeightsforAmericapac.org, it actually needs to be updated to reflect the 2019 and going into 2020 elections, but it is a running list of black women that are on the ballot, and that was an amazing opportunity. It could have gone horribly wrong, but it was a growth moment and really showed us as two people who sat at a Brooklyn cafe and sketched this organization out on the back of a placemat, that there really is… If we weren’t sure before, there really is a need and a desire for space for black women to be politically engaged. And that was really an affirming and amazing moment.

Vanessa Wakeman:  So I think that all speaks to the power of what you’ve built. And when I think about influence, I would absolutely, positively put you and your co founder, Glynda, into the category of influencers. You’re yielding power in a really positive way. I think that you all have influenced many of us to think about what’s possible and also reminds us of our power in this process. So thank you tremendously for that. But what do you think are the responsibilities of influencers and celebrities as it relates to social or political issues, if any?

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  Well, I think their responsibility or our responsibility… thank you for considering me an influencer, is that people are following your lead, so be as certain as you can be in the positions the things that you say online, because there are folks who are looking for that validation for their thoughts or looking to be informed, and you don’t want to be the purveyor of false information or half baked ideas. Just take it very seriously, the message that you’re carrying, that you’re pushing out to the world because people are definitely looking for A, either someone to tell them what to think, or validation for what they already think, and in the rare, and I wish it would happen more, the opportunity to be persuaded to think otherwise.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  I think there is a need for dialogue and conversation and discussion, so that we all have an evolution in thought overall. And one of the things that… One of the expressions I always hold in my mind is that I do not know all there is to know about what I know. And keeping that in mind as an influencer and also someone who follows influencers. Always do your own due diligence, but as you’re putting things out there, make sure that they’re correct.

Vanessa Wakeman:  And thinking about just black women in the political process overall, throughout history, whether it’s been properly documented or not, we know that black women have played a role in so many different social movements. Do you think that we are making any progress today in the way of intersectionality?

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   I think we are. I think it is… Obviously, there’s a long way to go, but I think there is definitely a active conversation and a recognition that if you don’t have women of color or particularly black women involved in decision making in social justice work, activism, in the nonprofit space, you are missing out on properly serving that demographic group that so many organizations are trying to properly serve. So if you don’t have the voice at the table, if you don’t have diverse life experiences at the table, how can you be sure that you are properly serving them?

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  And I think there is an awareness now. It’s slowly coming into practice across the board. But I think there’s definitely an awareness that having boards of directors or organizational leadership that is predominantly white, predominantly male or just predominantly white is not going to be effective, and they’re missing out on a tremendous, tremendous wealth of information and life experience. I think going from the awareness of, “Okay, we have this shortcoming,” to the practice of really bringing people in to fill that void and then also making sure that they’re not just placeholders to say, “Oh, we have people of color,” or “we have black women involved,” and that they are actually part of the decision making process, and they can have as equal voice as anyone else to say, “No, that’s not going to work, and here’s why,” and that voice is actually listened to. I think that is… there, we have a lot of work to do.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   I had heard a story on NPR yesterday morning about a nonprofit that is in the process of revamping itself because of that very same principle of they had diversity by numbers, but it wasn’t necessarily diversity and inclusion where the voices and opinions of the people of Color on staff were a part of the decision making process, so they are in the process of really taking that into consideration and really changing the corporate culture of the organization to be more inclusive.

Vanessa Wakeman:  Yeah. There’s a lot of conversations going on in the nonprofit sector now about inclusion, and I think that’s definitely a necessary step. And I think we also need to be thinking about equity because until we get there, then we’re still going to have a… We’ll have different problems, but there’ll still be problems.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   Right.

Vanessa Wakeman:  So I want to switch gears to the 2020 presidential election. What are the top three goals for Higher Heights for the election?

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  The number one goal is for black women’s voices and our priorities to be discussed at the forefront by all of the presidential candidates, and for them to be able to really message, not just the platitudes of things that sound nice, but back it up with real policy of how their presidency will help make sure that black women and their communities and their families don’t just survive in this country, but actually thrive. Because we know that arise and tide raises all ships, and when black women are at the bottom of so many socioeconomic indicators in this country and have been for generations, that if we really work to support the least of ours, the nation will thrive.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   So that is our number one for 2020, we want to make sure that black women are mobilized to the polls. Every cycle, we run our black women vote campaign, which is powered by our sister organization, Higher Heights Leadership Fund, where we give black women the tools to mobilize their networks, whether it is making a vote plan and understanding when, where and how to vote in their jurisdiction, to what are the pressing issues? How do you assess the candidates that are on your ballot, where they stand on these issues that our membership has told us are the priorities, which is economic security, high quality, affordable health care, high quality, affordable public education, access to transportation and the like.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  We’re giving you the tools to be able to make those decisions for yourself, because we know that black women are not a monolith, so we’re not going to say that this is the end all and be all. We want to make sure that the black women have the tools to make their own decisions, and also then empower their communities and their networks to cast their vote as well. So those are the priorities, as well as wanting to foster an environment that is supportive of black women candidates. Because we know across the board, women are not covered in mainstream media the way male counterparts are.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  I saw an article, I think it was in Politico earlier this week, where the mainstream media is ignoring the women that are running for president-

Vanessa Wakeman:  Yeah. I saw that.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   … and so how do we create a space, using social media platforms and speaking with reporters about uplifting these candidacies? It’s not just the black woman who’s running at the top of the ticket, but there are likely going to be countless black women running all the way down to city councils and school boards. So how do we create an environment where the electorate is demanding, “What is the coverage? Why aren’t you talking to these people, these other people who all happen to be running,” as well as making sure that when we’re going on record, we’re trying to bring in as many black women as we can into the conversation and also uplift the work that they have already been doing.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  Because so many of them have been in the trenches and really been champions for all sorts of priorities and issues, but they’re not getting the coverage, or if the issue is being covered, they’re not getting the accolades that they so richly deserved. So we’re really helping to push the narrative, mobilize the voters, and making sure that our issues are front and center in the 2020 presidential election.

Vanessa Wakeman:  And are there any specific steps that… Let’s say listeners who are interested in supporting this process, what can someone do to support this? Because these are very important issues.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  I think the number one thing is to talk about them. Because we’ve often… I think we’ve gotten into the thought of like… I’m parroting what I’ve heard on mainstream media. Do your own due diligence. Follow us on social media to learn about other candidates or learn about issues and how black women are being covered and uplifted in the media and talk about those issues with your network and share with your network, because what we have really found is that everybody’s looking for that viral moment. Well, it’s not always going to be that viral moment that’s going to have 3 million views in the span of 10 minutes, but it is the constant conversation that also helps move the needle.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  And we’ve seen just between 2015 and today, how much has changed when we have taken a concerted effort of just talking about it and talking about it and talking about it, and others start to pick things up, and it also changes the mindset of what leadership looks like, it opens people’s minds to the possibilities that exist, to the issues that, “Oh, I hadn’t really thought about what their position was on x because it wasn’t necessarily in my conscience. But now that I’m talking to you and you’re telling me about how important this is to you, let me look at these candidates through that lens as well.”

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   And I think that is when we have a very vibrant and engaged democracy, when we are having these… We’re not just talking about our personal priorities, but the priorities of the nation overall.

Vanessa Wakeman:  And Kimberly, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of the work that you and Glynda do through Higher Heights?

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  I think there is… I think the biggest challenge is there’s just so much that needs to be done. There is so much need out there. Each of those three priorities, we could shut down the entire rest of the organization and focus on one and still not be able to do all that we want to. I think it is just meeting this moment with the energy and the growing focus on black women’s leadership, being able to have a presence and be able to touch as many people as we possibly can, that is, I think, probably is the biggest challenge, but it is also the biggest opportunity because we have… We’ve grown to 90,000 members and activists across the country on word of mouth. This has been really about a movement powered and built for and by women, and they have taken their job very seriously.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   As Glen and I always say, we were just two women that had an idea, but it was because of the commitment of our network and now our network’s network to move this needle forward that we have been able to accomplish that. So it is challenging because there’s so much to be done, but it is also really exciting because we are very reliant on our members and our activists to help push the conversation forward as well.

Vanessa Wakeman:  And do you think that the organization has influenced how others look at black women as it relates not only to the political power, but our potential to lead, to create change and to shape the world? I think that you folks have created such a powerful narrative and given a strong example. I’m just curious about your thoughts if this has influenced other people’s thinking about other opportunities.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  I think so. Humbly, I say I think so. I think the biggest change in mindset that we are most proud of is how black women are seeing themselves, and really seeing themselves as the leaders within their community, that they are the deciding factor in closed elections, that their vote, their voice really does matter. One of our programs that we’ve been doing almost since inception is our sister to sister salon conversation, where we bring together small groups of black women to talk about the challenges and opportunities to expand their civic engagement or their political leadership.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  And one of the questions that I always start and end my full on conversations when I facilitate them is, you are a black woman who leads because? And so often, at the beginning of the conversation, the women are like, “I don’t lead anything. I feel like I barely leave my house.” And then by the time we’ve gone through this whole conversation about sharing the statistics of the influence that we have and seeing them evolve in their thought over the span of two hours, you ask that question at the end of the conversation, you are a black woman who leads because? And they’re saying things like, “Because I organize my child’s class to revamp the Black History Month curriculum. I am a black woman who leads because I’ve been feeding the homeless out of my basement, or I’ve been empowering my daughter to raise her own voice.”

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   All of these things that we just do because the stakes are too high for us not to, but we don’t see ourselves as leaders. So that, I think, is one of the things that I’m most proud of, and the influence and the change of mindset that our organization has created. And then I think the offshoot of that is because all of these women are really stepping into their power, that they’re making others sit up and take notice. And we have now had conversations with so many majority organizations, the press. We’re starting to have conversations with the presidential candidates about how can we best serve, how can we best support, what are the priorities of black women and how could we best be allies in this work for them to realize that this is something that is not… to quote Ayanna Pressley, that, “We are not a trend, we are not a fad. We’re here to stay,” and really taking this moment and saying, “Well, this is how you can do it, and this is what it means to be a good ally and be supportive, and this is when we need to use your privilege to advance our goal and use your megaphone and your platform to help bring more black women into the fold.”

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   And it’s been really an exciting time to be in this moment between the Black Lives Matter movement, Say Her Name, Me Too, all of these things, and for black women to be centered so often. So much of that work is really empowering, and I feel like we’re at this point where we can’t go back and we’re on the cusp of really seeing transformative paradigm shift.

Vanessa Wakeman:  Yeah, I agree. We can’t go back. And it’s been so encouraging and exciting to be having conversations with black women. I feel like Higher Heights has given everybody a little bit more space and some permission to just think about things differently and having more candid conversations and understanding how power… and I just can’t say enough how meaningful that is. Prior to co-founding Higher Heights, you owned a fundraising consultancy. How does that experience compare to fundraising, specifically for black women?

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  Actually, part of the reason that we founded Higher Heights was because in my work as a political fundraiser, I prioritized clients who either served communities of Color, were candidates of Color and particularly women. And I saw, up close and personal, the challenges that were out there in being able to garner the resources to be able to do the work. So it was really like, “Okay, we need to double down in this space because it’s not just getting people to write checks, it is changing the hearts and minds of why this investment really matters.” And as a fundraiser, you’re like, “Okay, what do I need to tell you, give you to, convince you to write this check?”

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  We’re then taking your work a step further to Higher Heights to building Higher Heights out. It was like, “Okay, yes, we need the check, but we also need to completely change how you view a black women’s leadership.” Because we know overall, historically, women candidates received smaller donations than they would from a man. The same donor would write a smaller check to a woman than they would to a man. So how do we call that out and then shift your behavior so that it is more equitable? And then also empowering to be able to really change the sphere of influence, the gatekeepers, and be able to move things along so that we can have a more representative democracy?

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  So that was.. It was really the precipice of being in the trenches for so long, raising money and working on campaigns and seeing how the black women donors, the black women activists, the black women elected officials were being treated and marginalized and often ignored or pushed to like, “Oh, you should just go and do field. Can you organize some voters for me?” Instead of saying, “This woman has means. She wants to be engaged, she is very savvy about the issues. Let’s bring her in to be a thought leader and a thought partner about how she can get her network to be supportive of this candidacy in this campaign and really engage with her. Maybe we have her sit on a task force for something,” instead of just saying, “Oh you can pass out flyers or help us knock on doors.”

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   So just really frustrating for me because I saw the potential that was out there. And so I said, “You know what, we need to create our own space where black women can do everything from field organizing if they want to, or be part of policy development for our community.”

Vanessa Wakeman:  I still have tons of questions, but I’m going to end with this last one. What is next for Higher Heights and for you and Glynda beyond this 2020 presidential election? I feel like there is so much work needed to be done there. But what do you see beyond that?

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  Well, beyond that, there is still so much to be done just for black women to have their proper seat at the table. Black women are 7% of the population, but we are just creeping up on 4% of elected office holders across the country. So there is a lot of growth that needs to happen there. We have yet to elect a black woman governor. We came so close last year. But we need to grow the number of black women in executive elected office. We have really grown leaps and bounds in the number of black women that are actually currently serving as mayors of our top 100 cities. There was one in 2014, and as of last month, there are now eight currently serving. So that’s huge growth in a very short period of time.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  So there’s always that work. Even when we reach the numbers that match our population, we need to continue to grow and sustain that, as well as… We have to make sure that we get the return on investment for our voting powers. So black women are some of the… We’ve outperformed just about every demographic group in the last three or four election cycles, yet we’re still at the bottom of so many socioeconomic indicators. How can we get that return on investment policy? Because we are such a huge voting block, how do we get our policies that will help us move out of that range of being at the bottom rungs? How do we really translate that into policy that’s going to help us all thrive? I think that is a huge piece that needs to happen and will take a lot of time across the board.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  Those, I think, are the biggest pieces, getting and sustaining electoral parity, and then making sure that the policies that are implemented are really taking into account that the needs of black women, our families and our communities.

Vanessa Wakeman:  So in translation, a lot of work. A lot of work to be done. [inaudible 00:34:45].

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  Absolutely. Absolutely.

Vanessa Wakeman:  Kimberly, how can people participate, support, get involved with Higher Heights? Please share as much information as possible to our listeners. I feel like we do have a fairly engaged group of people, and I believe some of them would absolutely, if they were not already aware or active, would definitely want to be after hearing you speak about the organization and what you’re doing.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:   Oh, wonderful. Well, the easiest way… well, there’s a couple of easy ways. One, people can go to our website, which is higherheightsforamerica.org, all spelled out, and poke around there and you go to /joinus and become a member. They can also follow us on social media, we are on Facebook and Instagram at Higher Heights, the number four. We are on Twitter at Higher Heights, and then our other sister organization, Higher Heights for America Pac, can be found at higherheightsforamericapac.org, as well as on social media at Higher Height Pac, no s on that. That’s on Facebook and on Twitter as well. We try to use all the social channels to pass as much information out to the universe as possible, but definitely going to our websites and signing up for our mailing lists and becoming a member is a great way to get plugged in, and will be a part of… You can help us continue to build and bring our nation to Higher Heights.

Vanessa Wakeman:  Kimberly, thank you so much for your time today. This was fantastic.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen:  Thank you. This was my pleasure.

Vanessa Wakeman:  What I loved most about this interview is hearing Kimberly talk about the trajectory and impact of the organization. One of the things I find is a lot of organizations get stuck and can’t seem to find momentum around getting their target audience engaged in their cause, and Higher Heights has done a masterful job of that. What they’ve done is focused on a problem, educate people about how to solve the problem, get buy in from stakeholders by getting them excited about the potential impact, and allowing others to participate in the process. As I heard Kimberly talk about their work and just thinking about what that model looks like, it really reminds me of our framework, our idea framework that we used in our She Roars thought leadership program.

Vanessa Wakeman:  And so the idea framework focuses on an idea, disruption, evolution and then activism, and all of those elements are exactly what, in their own way, Higher Heights has done. So it’s really wonderful to see how effective that can be. So well done to Higher Heights. Thank you again to Kimberly for taking some time to speak with me, and listeners, definitely take note. I think there are a lot of gems here that could be really valuable to organizations. As always, to find out more about the Wakeman Agency and our work, you can visit thewakemanagency.com. Please share the podcast widely with friends and coworkers and colleagues. And if you have a moment, we’d love it if you can give a rating and a review on iTunes. Thank you so much.