When Chanda Daniels and Ellen Miller met at the National Women’s History Museum’s awards gala earlier this year, they immediately hit it off. Daniels, who works at the International Women’s Media Foundation, and Miller, who is a University of Pennsylvania graduate student in international education development, spent the whole night talking about community, gender, and intersectionality.
When Daniels told Miller about her dream of starting a conversation and advocacy group around those issues, Miller was all in. “And that’s where it all started,” says Daniels—the Reclaim was born.
The group officially launched in November and hosts pay-what-you-can events where women, women-identifying, and non-binary folks gather to talk about issues such as the gender pay gap or mental health. It will also start a newsletter in January, as well as a blog series in which folks share their stories and thoughts on gender issues.
The duo sees the Reclaim as filling in the gaps that other women-focused spaces like the Wing or the Outrage don’t exactly cover. “You have groups doing advocacy work, groups doing retail sales that promote causes, groups building community, but you rarely see a place doing all of it,” says Daniels. “That’s what we wanted to do—build that community, do something about the advocacy issues we feel affect us, and give you the tools you need to go out and do that change you want to see.”
Through the group’s discussions, Daniels and Miller want each participant to take away tips on advocating for themselves, whether that means negotiating for a higher salary or maintaining personal boundaries, as well as how to spread that knowledge to their own communities and make an impact on a larger political scale.
And intersectionality is key to the Reclaim’s mission, as well. “We talk about intersectionality a lot, but [these groups] are often spearheaded by a white woman,” says Daniels, who identifies as a cisgender black woman (Miller identifies as a cisgender white woman). “I’ve lived the experience of feeling like you’re an afterthought. It’s been really exciting to build something that is intersectional from my own perspective and, keeping that in mind, asking people from other intersections about what they’re looking for.”
Daniels and Miller will aim to keep the Reclaim as accessible as possible by continuing to host pay-what-you-can events not tied to one physical space. And while they would love to eventually expand the series to other cities like New York, says Daniels, the duo thinks DC is the perfect launch city. “There is such a community for activism and women here,” she says. “The support has been incredible, especially with other groups being willing to lend a helping hand.”
Keep your eyes peeled for details on the group’s next meeting January 11, which will focus on self-care, intention-setting, and self-worth. The duo is also planning a larger series of events for Women’s History Month in March.
“I feel like we really just are at the heart of it,” says Daniels of the Reclaim’s focus. “It might be small, but at the end of the day, change doesn’t happen from the top-up only.”