‘I vote because of the promise of progress’: Stacey Abrams takes on voter suppression, reproductive rights at Chicago luncheon

By Olivia Cohen, Staff Reporter

Former Georgia state legislator Stacey Abrams gets a welcoming round of applause from the crowd at the annual CFW luncheon. Irvin Ibarra

All eyes were on voting rights activist and former Georgia state legislator Stacey Abrams at a Chicago luncheon this week as she tapped into attendees’ sense of patriotism, delivering a message of empowerment against a backdrop of voter suppression happening in parts of the country.

“We are yoked together by our citizenship, by our residency, but we should also be yoked together by our patriotism,” Abrams said. “I am here because I believe in this mission. I don’t vote because of the act of voting, I vote because of the promise of progress. I vote because when we do so, when we elect people who see us, serve us, value us, we write the next page of our history.”

The Chicago Foundation for Women’s 36th annual luncheon, with a theme of “Rise Up, Disrupt,” was held Sept. 14 in a hybrid format at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. Abrams’ address touched on many topics, including voter suppression, several states stripping reproductive choice from their​​ constituents, as well as the ways political activism and change have been ingrained within her, as Abrams’ parents were both heavily involved in voting rights.

“When you break democracy for anyone, you break it for everyone,” Abrams said when speaking on protecting the right to vote. “Invest not in winning, but invest in succeeding.”

Ann Marie Wright, board of directors chair for the Chicago Foundation for Women, attended the event and said she was excited to witness Abrams’ words firsthand.

“[Having Abrams here] is exciting,” Wright said. “I think that is highly appropriate [that Abrams spoke], especially given the fact that our organization is focused on making sure that everything is equitable for women and girls, and as we know what’s happened in the last few weeks, with the Texas law … we’re here to make sure to stand up for women and girls.”

Felicia Davis, president and CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women, speaks on issues that impact women and girls across the city. Irvin Ibarra

Jessi Moon, senior director of development for the Chicago Foundation for Women, agreed with Wright.

“At CFW, we want to empower women and girls as catalysts for communities. We think that if you invest in women and girls, you’re investing in full communities,” Moon said. “I think [Abrams] is someone who everyone in this room looks up to, and that’s what we’re looking to do here in Chicago, to rise up and disrupt, and build better systems for women and girls. She’s a sterling example.”

The Chicago Foundation for Women works to create opportunities and resources for women, women of color, adolescents, as well as trans and nonbinary Chicagoans. The organization hones in on women’s access to work and economic security, freedom from violence and expanding access to healthcare. This year, CFW launched their “SheCovery” program, which will work to invest in Chicago women in numerous ways, such as providing COVID-19 aid.

In addition to Abrams, co-founders Sunny Fischer and Iris J. Krieg spoke to kick off the event and were followed by the CFW’s president and CEO Felicia Davis.

In her speech, Davis called on the Chicago community, Illinois policymakers, local business leaders and philanthropists to join their coalition by merely listening to the experiences and needs of women, particularly women of color.

“The reality is that these issues are not just women’s issues, they impact every one of us, and it will take all of us to move forward, together; the time is now to reshape the systems that hold women and the communities of color down,” Davis said.