If you want to know what magic a BAUCE woman is made of, look no further than Danielle Moodie-Mills, a Vice President at SKDKnickerbocker, a public affairs and political public relations firm in New York City. (Disclaimer, I work for the same organization out of its Albany, New York office; although our paths often cross via email and conference calls for client work, we’d never spoken one-on-one until now). A publicist, writer, and political activist, Danielle would give the formidable Ms. Olivia Pope a run for her coins. Check out her stellar SKDK bio, rock star client résumé, and political campaigns if you need proof.
A graduate of Marymount University, Danielle has spent most of her career fighting for underrepresented communities through her roles in communications and media strategy. Prior to working at SKDKnickerbocker, Danielle worked at Politini Media in Washington, DC and helped host the Human Rights Campaign’s first Congressional Black Caucus Summit. The “Princess of the Resistance” lives at the intersection of equality and advocacy and after seeing her work from afar I couldn’t shy away from showcasing her dynamic prowess in BAUCE. In this interview with BAUCE, Danielle shared her opinions on current political trends and gave us some homework on what content BAUCE women should be digesting if they truly are trying to help culture.
It’s been a year since Trump has been in an office and a national Woman’s March was held. If you had attended the rally, what would your sign have said?
Danielle: That’s a good one mmm… I would use Shirley Chisholm; ‘Unbought and Unbossed.’
We’re living in really unnerving and scary times, and it is incredibly important for people to take a break. Part of the revolution is revolutionized self-care. What we can see over the past year is that there’s been heightened anxiety, heightened depression, there has been heightened stress in all people, and I think it’s important to recognize self-care is also part of the revolution, and people need to be mindful.
In the #MeToo and #TimesUp era what do you say to people who discredit sexual harassment claims, and what can we do for self-care?
Danielle: You know… when people use the phrase “believe women” I am fully and completely supportive of that. I think it’s also important to recognize that not all people tell the truth. Not all people have an understanding of what sexual assault is – for instance; in the Aziz Ansari issue that unfolded with the girl that he went on the date with, in my opinion, she doesn’t know the difference between a bad date (one she wished she didn’t go on), versus one that ended in assault or harassment.
In an age where people gain celebrity off of tragedy, those things will happen often. Which will undermine the campaign, and rightfully so, about how women are treated in the workplace. Whether it is in Hollywood, Washington D.C., in media or Silicon Valley. It’s important that we push forward with the “Me Too’s” and with these campaigns understanding that not every incident actually merits this kind of fourth right response. We need to understand and create definitions about what sexual assault and harassment really are to make sure people aren’t trying to pop off for no reason.
Name your must-watch or must-listen media content that culturally shapes society.
Danielle: In terms of an outlet, my must watch is “Black Twitter.” I stay on Twitter because Black Twitter has their pulse on everything. And my must watch – in terms of shows would be the ush which is Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder type of things. Granted its fiction, but the way they show people working together, and the cultural and ethnic balance gives a window into the reality that we want to believe we live in.
What is your prescribed starter kit for budding BAUCE activists?
Danielle: Oh, that’s so good ok. In terms of things to read I would read:
- Melissa Harris-Perry’s Sister Citizen
- Ta-Nehisi Coates’s [#1 New York Times bestseller] Between the World and Me
- James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time
Those are the three I think are primers. I would also watch:
- I Am Not Your Negro, which is James Baldwin’s documentary in his own words
- The Nina Simone documentary [What Happened, Miss Simone? On Netflix]
You notice that I’m giving all black ones? Because I feel like that is culture, that is the budding of activism. I would also listen to Tidal. They have a playlist that I believe is called Protest Songs Through The Years. I tell people I’m a Tidal evangelist.
Recently Oprah (1st Black woman to win the Cecil B. Demille Award) declined a presidential run, who else can we trust in the West Wing- is there someone we can trust to do this job?
Danielle: Yeah – you know I did not get on the Oprah bandwagon. Here’s the thing, Oprah is more powerful and influential being Oprah. She does not need the confines and rigidity of the Oval Office, and the bullsh*t of Congress, their racism, and misogyny. We need somebody who is time-tested and actually cares and is a public servant who has spent their life doing that.
I’d like to see Kamala Harris. I would like to see Cory Booker. I would even like to see Elizabeth Warren. I would like to see women at the top of the ticket. What’s frustrating is all of the rumors that are coming out right now. It’s like ‘oh Bernie Sanders is going to run again, and Joe Biden.’ Can we move on, can we move past the seventy and eighty-year-old white men? It’s time for a woman. I would love to see a woman of color – I would be fearful for her given what we watched Michelle Obama go through, and what we watched Barack Obama go through, but it’s time.”
In a supposed “post-racial society” how can we educate and enlighten people and politicians on the power of language? How do we eradicate racially and culturally damaging language from shaping public opinion?
Danielle: We have to understand that words matter and words have value. For me what was really eye-opening was when I watched the documentary I Am Not Your Negro and James Baldwin asked the question, ‘why did white people need to invent the n***er?’ What was it about them and their lacking, and their deficiency that they needed to create this character in order to be better than?
It’s important for us to call out divisive and disgusting dehumanizing language when we hear it. As in no person is illegal, you’re a human being. You’re not a product, you’re not chattel. I am past the point of trying to educate politicians. You’ve been doing this job. You signed up for this. You know exactly what you’re saying when you say it, and it is up to the rest of us to call out their bad behavior, language, dog whistles, and bullhorns, and hold them accountable for who they’re talking to and why they’re speaking in that way.
With the intersectionality between race, gender, and sexual orientation, do you find yourself placing one issue over the other? How can we ensure each issue is adequately addressed?
Danielle: “I think that it depends on where we are at any given moment. I show up as a whole person everywhere I go. Which means I am Black, I am a lesbian, and I am a woman in whatever space I’m in, and I’m very unapologetic about that. I don’t think we live in a time where you can silo out issues – the issues are interconnected. When we look at and solve for the bigger, instead of taking one piece at a time, we do a service to everybody that does not have the ability to show up as their whole selves – because in and of itself that is a privilege. There are other people that will lose their jobs. I won’t lose my job, and if I did I would sue because I know what my rights are.
We can’t put one issue above another, but there are times when some issues take center stage. Right now it’s as if we are having a cultural moment. Women are having a cultural moment around sexual harassment and bringing that ugly conversation out of the closet. Because of being a queer Black woman, it’s important to understand the intricacies of sexual harassment and racism and how that power plays out for women of color. When those moments happen, whether it’s Black Lives Matter, Me Too, LGBT equality – it’s important to uplift those who don’t have a voice or space. Also for people to get a bigger sense of how that issue affects people living at the intersection. That’s the responsibility of people who have a bit of power, have a bit of platform to do.