Better late than never, I guess. The Women’s March has finally cut ties with three of its co-founders: Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, and Tamika Mallory. The Washington Post reports that co-founder Carmen Perez will remain with the organization:
The Women’s March is cutting ties with three inaugural board members who have been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism, infighting and financial mismanagement — controversies some say have slowed the organization’s progress and diminished its impact.
Co-Chairs Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour stepped down from the board July 15, though the organization has been slow to announce their departures. The Women’s March website continued to host their photos and titles as co-chairs through this week, when the group announced the board turnover…
Bland and Mallory, who served as co-presidents of the organization, will be formally replaced when the new board convenes for its first meeting this month. Once assembled, officials said, the incoming board will elect new leadership.
Co-Chair Carmen Perez, who runs the Gathering for Justice — a criminal justice reform group that seeks to end child incarceration and reform the justice system at large — will stay.
The Women’s March published a press release today which says Sarsour, Bland, and Mallory will be transitioning off the board but also admits that the 17 new board members were selected in July. The press release doesn’t offer any explanation for the change or for the two-month delay in revealing it.
All of this started 18 months ago when Tamika Mallory attended Louis Farrakhan’s annual Savior’s Day speech where she was singled out for praise by Farrakhan. In the wake of that event, people also dug up a 2017 social media post in which Mallory called Farrakhan the “GOAT,” i.e. the greatest of all time. Mallory began trying to defend herself but it was not very convincing. Here she is comparing Farrakhan to Jesus (guess which enemies she has in mind):
If your leader does not have the same enemies as Jesus, they may not be THE leader! Study the Bible and u will find the similarities. Ostracizing, ridicule and rejection is a painful part of the process…but faith is the substance of things!
— Tamika D. Mallory (@TamikaDMallory) March 1, 2018
Mallory was defended by the other Women’s March board members, some of whom (Sarsour) had also praised Farrakhan in the past. The controversy dragged on until Alyssa Milano announced, in an interview with the Advocate, that she would not participate in any future Women’s March events because of the co-chair’s anti-Semitism problem. The co-chairs responded by blaming the controversy on the right, even though the controversy had nothing to do with the right.
Last November, dissatisfaction with the co-chairs peaked when the original founder of the Women’s March, Theresa Shook, called for the co-chairs to step down. A few weeks later, Tablet magazine published a lengthy, detailed story claiming anti-Semitism had been part of the Women’s March from the moment the co-chairs became part of it.
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.”
The NY Times followed that with its own report which seemed to confirm some of the details of the Tablet story, though Mallory still denied the anti-Semitism. In January of this year, the DNC and several other groups announced they would no longer partner with the Women’s March because of the allegations. In response, Carmen Perez published a conciliatory statement in the Forward:
As many readers of The Forward will know, the leadership of the Women’s March has come under fire in the past several months over accusations of anti-Semitism. I want to be unequivocal in affirming that the organization failed to act rapid enough to condemn the egregious and hateful statements made by a figure who is not associated with the Women’s March in any way. This failure caused deep hurt and pain, especially because our movement is dedicated to centering inclusiveness.
Why it took the group another six months to act is anybody’s guess, but it is interesting that Perez is the only co-chair who remains a board member. Meanwhile, the outgoing co-chairs are putting on a happy face:
Reached via text message, Sarsour said the new Women’s March board is “AMAZING,” adding that she will continue working to get voters to the polls in 2020.
“I am grateful to the women who stepped up to shepherd the Women’s March,” she wrote. “This is what women supporting women looks like.”
Bland said the changeover was long planned by the outgoing leadership.
Sarsour also tweeted today that she is “too excited to be mad at trolls” and Mallory retweeted it:
Finally, here’s a CBS News report on the situation from January of this year in which now-ousted co-chair Linda Sarsour does her best to spin the situation: