Tablet magazine has published a deep-dive on the genesis of the Women’s March and how the four women co-chairs—Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour—came to direct it. The piece, titled “Is the Women’s March Melting Down?”, is tremendously detailed but I’m going to focus on one thread which seems newsworthy. You may recall that the group’s founder, Teresa Shook, recently called for the co-chairs to step down over their failure to distance themselves from Louis Farrakhan, specifically his anti-Semitic and anti-gay message. Tablet reports that from almost the moment they became involved with the Women’s March, Mallory and Perez were expressing similar anti-Semitic rhetoric. The first incident took place at the very first meeting of the seven women who helped form the group. It took place on a hotel rooftop:
In advance of the meeting, Bland suggested they convene in Chelsea Market, an upscale food court in Manhattan. When the day arrived, the women managed to find each other but soon realized that there was nowhere in the hectic, maze-like hall of vendors quiet enough to sit and talk. Eventually, they retreated to the rooftop of a nearby hotel where, less than a week after the idea for a march sprouted, the seven women got acquainted.
According to several sources, it was there—in the first hours of the first meeting for what would become the Women’s March—that something happened that was so shameful to many of those who witnessed it, they chose to bury it like a family secret. Almost two years would pass before anyone present would speak about it.
It was there that, as the women were opening up about their backgrounds and personal investments in creating a resistance movement to Trump, Perez and Mallory allegedly first asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people—and even, according to a close secondhand source, claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade. These are canards popularized by The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, a book published by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam—“the bible of the new anti-Semitism,” according to Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who noted in 1992: “Among significant sectors of the black community, this brief has become a credo of a new philosophy of black self-affirmation.”
To this day, Mallory and Bland deny any such statements were ever uttered, either at the first meeting or at Mallory’s apartment.
Perhaps if that was the only such incident alleged involving these two individuals the denial would be more credible, but according to the story, it’s not. Shortly after the Women’s March took place in January, the leaders gathered for a debriefing:
At the end of January, according to multiple sources, there was an official debriefing at Mallory’s apartment. In attendance were Mallory, Evvie Harmon, Breanne Butler, Vanessa Wruble, Cassady Fendlay, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour. They should have been basking in the afterglow of their massive success, but—according to Harmon—the air was thick with conflict. “We sat in that room for hours,” Harmon told Tablet recently. “Tamika told us that the problem was that there were five white women in the room and only three women of color, and that she didn’t trust white women. Especially white women from the South. At that point, I kind of tuned out because I was so used to hearing this type of talk from Tamika. But then I noticed the energy in the room changed. I suddenly realized that Tamika and Carmen were facing Vanessa, who was sitting on a couch, and berating—but it wasn’t about her being white. It was about her being Jewish. ‘Your people this, your people that.’ I was raised in the South and the language that was used is language that I’m very used to hearing in rural South Carolina. Just instead of against black people, against Jewish people. They even said to her ‘your people hold all the wealth.’ You could hear a pin drop. It was awful.”
Reached by Tablet, Wruble decline to comment on the incident.
After co-chair Tamika Mallory made news for her participation in a Farrakhan event, Bob Bland called Mercy Morganfield, a longtime activist and one of the group’s earliest members, and told her the co-chairs had been using Nation of Islam members as security and also as drivers:
It was around this time that Morganfield says she first heard that Nation of Islam members were acting as security detail and drivers for the co-chairs. “Bob called me secretly and said, ‘Mercy, they have been in bed with the Nation of Islam since day one: They do all of our security,’ ” Morganfield told Tablet.
Two other sources, with direct knowledge of the time, also claimed that security and the drivers for the co-chairs were members of the Nation of Islam. And this was certainly the case in the women’s previous organization. A May 2015 photograph on Sarsour’s Facebook page shows a group of men wearing suits and bowties in the signature Nation of Islam style. Her caption above the photo reads: “FOI Brothers, security for the movement,” using the acronym for Fruit of Islam.
Disgusted not only with the co-chairs’ connection to Farrakhan but the way they were all handling what she saw as the legitimate public outrage over it, Morganfield too asked, privately, for their resignations.
“I talked to everyone, and I said it to every last one of them: Tamika [Mallory] needs to resign—not just because of her Farrakhan connection, but because of how she handled it afterwards. I said Linda [Sarsour] also needs to step down. Her controversy and the things she keeps saying and doing are detrimental to the movement.” When Tablet asked Morganfield whether she believes the co-chairs are anti-Semitic, she offered a terse answer: “There are no Jewish women on the board. They refused to put any on. Most of the Jewish people resigned and left. They refused to even put anti-Semitism in the unity principles.”
In an interview with Tablet, Bland denied having made this call to Morganfield. And both she and Tamika Mallory denied they had used the Nation of Islam for security, though Tablet provides evidence that, at a minimum, the group hired a security firm that employees Nation of Islam members for security.
There’s a lot more in the article, including a detailed description of how the current co-chairs shifted control from event founder Shook and other early leaders like Wruble.