January 8, 2021

Special: Brittany Packnett Cunningham & America Ferrera

Two of our favorite thinkers unpack the week’s news

It was a week of whiplash: the jubilation of victories in Georgia followed by the toxicity of a white-power insurrection at the Capitol. So if you’re trying to process it all—trying to figure out how much joy we can feel in the face of all this un-joyous madness—well, so are we. For guidance, we turned to two of the most inspiring activists we know, Brittany Packnett Cunningham and America Ferrera.

We have two episodes for you on UNDISTRACTED this week: first up, Packnett Cunningham’s response to the attacks on the Capitol, and then a celebration of the historic Georgia wins with actress and activist Ferrera.

So while Wednesday’s darkness lingers, listen in as these two smart women shed a little light.

Packnett Cunningham and Ferrera cover a lot of ground in their discussion—from cultural revolutions to multicultural coalitions. Together with other Latinx leaders, Ferrera recently launched She Se Puede, a digital platform to empower Latina voters. You won’t want to miss their conversation, including:

  • America Ferrera on what politicians need to understand about the Latinx community: “Eva Longoria, one of my co-founders [of She Se Puede], and I would just laugh at how we could set our clocks by our phones ringing off the hook like a month before an election…’Can you come out and get voters out?’ Dude, parading Ugly Betty in the last three weeks of an election is not a strategy. It’s a failing strategy! Please spend more time thinking about how you’re going to empower this growing electorate.”“You can’t just show up and tell people that their votes matter. You have to tell them that their lives matter. That everything about their lives matter: that their dreams, that their hopes, that their aspirations, their health, their mental health, their joy. This is what I’m saying: We’re so deeply inspired by how Black women and the Black community have set this model for other communities of color. And it can’t just be politics in one bucket and everything else in the other.”
  • Ferrera on how the Black and brown communities can change the world—together: “I would love nothing more than for the conversation of Black and brown unity to take center stage… I don’t think anything scares white supremacy more than Black and brown people coming together.”
  • Brittany Packnett Cunningham on taking time to process the events of this week: “I know Congress went on to finish the session they had started and God bless ‘em, but there was a noose erected on the side of the U.S. Capitol, a building built by enslaved Africans in America. So I need to catch my breath and get my footing. And I figured maybe you do, too.”
  • Ferrera on the inspiration for She Se Puede’s name, civil rights leader Dolores Huerta’s famous rallying cry (“¡Sí, Se Puede!”) “We’ve all been deeply inspired by Dolores, who is 90 now and just unstoppable…she exhausts me! The amount of rallies and Zoom meetings that she’s like, Can you do just one more?…She’s inspired so many of us to keep showing up and to do the work. And so…of course we would want her blessing [to use the name] and she gave it to us wholeheartedly. And she’s our madrina—she’s a godmother to us—and we’re just so lucky to still have her living in the flesh, being such an example of somebody who has never, ever expected anyone from the outside to come in and empower our community…. I think that’s the realization here is no one is more invested in the empowerment of our community than we are.”
  • Packnett Cunningham on the idea that people of color “saved” the elections: “I always find days like today a lil’ funny when America—the country, not the person—is looking at the results of an election and saying, ‘Oh, Black people saved us again. People of color saved us!’ Well, contrary to popular belief, we don’t live our lives solely in service of dominant culture. We saved ourselves and like America said—the person this time—we don’t wait for anybody to come in and save us….And, really, that’s the funny thing about justice, isn’t it? When Black people win, we all win. When the most oppressed win, everybody benefits.”

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