Diversity and Inclusion in Law and Politics

Three years ago, when Ramona Prioleau sent an email blast to several of her sorority sisters across the United States about forming IVYPAC, she was unsure how it would be received, but the email was a step in realizing a goal the attorney had for years.It was her belief that a political action committee to help to elect her fellow sorority sisters to federal office was exactly what the moment called for. After all, in early 2018, Senator Kamala Harris was on a shortlist of potential presidential candidates and African-American women in Alabama including leaders like Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-7) had helped to elect Doug Jones in the Alabama US Senate special election.Although Prioleau initially reached out to sorority sisters closest to her, the IVYPAC working group expanded to include like-minded sorority sisters in New York, Ohio, Illinois, Florida and California. This group of politically-savvy women, all members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., began working as a group on January 16, 2018 – one day after the 110th anniversary of their sorority’s founding. Perkins Coie Partner Aria Branch (Credit: Perkins Coie) That said, the well-intentioned initiative would have died on the proverbial ivy vine if the group could not retain compliance counsel.  The group was intentional in its search for legal counsel, seeking law firms with cultural and gender diversity. And if the group could find a member of the Divine Nine, that would be a plus. When the group happened upon Perkins Coie’s Political Law Group, it was clear the firm had a commitment to diversity. The firm was also home to the then-Associate Aria Branch. Ms. Branch has an impressive resume, having worked for Organizing for America and the Hon. Justice Pat Timmons-Goodson as well as having attended Harvard Law School and Duke University. But it was a clue found via Google cache on an obscure webpage where Ramona discovered that Ms. Branch was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., having been initiated in the Iota Mu Chapter at Duke.The working group was thrilled when Ms. Branch responded to its email, agreeing to help the group accomplish its goals.Recently promoted to Partner at Perkins Coie as part of the class of 2021, Ms. Branch’s is part of the most diverse partner class at the law firm.  In addition to litigating voting rights and redistricting cases, Ms. Branch is a seasoned counselor to political parties, campaigns & committees like IVYPAC. Ms. Branch and her team that includes prominent election lawyer, Marc Elias, have been integral to IVYPAC’s success. The firm’s diligence enabled the PAC to make its first endorsement in July 2018 of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. IVYPAC Co-Founder, Patrice Marshall McKenzie Pasadena’s Patrice Marshall McKenzie learned about the group from members who knew of her passion to support and prioritize electing women to public office. A public policy professional and former staffer to Rep. Karen Bass, McKenzie is a co-founder and board member of IVYPAC. A prolific fundraiser and community advocate, McKenzie is active in developing programming and member engagement for the PAC.McKenzie also serves as Board President of the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI), a 10 week leadership development program designed to increase access to career pathways in public policy and public affairs that is hosted on the campus of the University of Southern California. To date, over 320 women have completed the Institute and are serving as local and state elected officials, C-Suite leaders in public agencies, and leaders in nonprofit and corporate social responsibility roles across California and beyond. This body of work made her a natural fit to support the vision and mission of IVYPAC, and she has worked to stand up the organization and solidify infrastructure for the committee since its inception. “It is an honor to be a part of an organization that is committed to elevating Black women to federal elected leadership. The work of IVYPAC and other organizations that center Black women’s voices in elected office is especially vital, now that there is no Black woman serving in the United States Senate. The absence of a Black Woman’s voice in that policy making body should be treated as a national emergency, and the PAC hopes to play a part in changing that reality in the next 1-2 election cycles,” said McKenzie.     Members in the 116th Congress, Rep. Lauren Underwood, Rep. Terri Sewell, Sen. Kamala Harris,Rep. Frederica Wilson,Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Rep. Alma Adams, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (L to R) (Credit: Sen. Kamala Harris). Since its launch, IVYPAC has supported the following Congressional members: Rep. Alma Adams (North Carolina 12); Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (New Jersey 12); Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas 30); Rep. Frederica Wilson, US Congress (Florida 24); Sen. Kamala Harris, US Senate (California); Rep. Lauren Underwood, US Congress (Illinois 14); Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, US Congress (Texas 18); Rep. Terri Sewell, US Congress (Alabama 7); and Rep. Nikema Williams, US Congress (Georgia 5). In addition, IVYPAC has supported the following candidates for Congress: Amanda Edwards (Texas); Erika Weaver (Illinois); Melissa Borom (Indiana); Monika Johnson Hostler (North Carolina); Pam Keith (Florida); Patricia Timmons-Goodson (North Carolina); Rhonda Foxx (North Carolina); and Stephany Rose Spaulding (Colorado). For the first time in 2020, IVYPAC endorsed a man when it endorsed Joseph R. Biden, Jr. in connection with its support of the Biden-Harris Presidential ticket.  In addition, the PAC contributed to Rep. Gregory Meeks as well as Senator-Elects Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.During the 2020 election season, IVYPAC galvanized its grassroots volunteers to phone bank, text bank, door-knock and otherwise get out the vote. IVYPAC also produced programming around the census with Congressional leaders, candidates and subject matter experts - https://youtu.be/4XIewzPYEpc - and virtual meet and greets with candidates.With the 2020 election season concluded, IVYPAC will continue its candidate recruitment efforts and voter mobilization with a focus on Congressional special elections in 2021 as well as electing another African American woman to the United States Senate.

Harris leads in 2020 Democratic Vice Presidential Preference Poll

Kamala Harris leads her closest competitor by 13 points. Stacey Abrams places second in the poll. 80% of respondents think the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate should be a woman. According to an online IVYPAC® poll of 179 respondents conducted from Mar. 9 - Apr. 4, California Senator Kamala Harris leads in its 2020 Democratic Vice Presidential preference poll, garnering 40 percent.  Former Georgia Gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, received support from 27 percent of survey respondents.  Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren each received 11 percent support.  The respondents were primarily women (89 percent) and 45 years of age and older (75 percent).   African-Americans, who were 68 percent of survey respondents, preferred Sen. Harris by a 10-point margin at 43 percent. While 33 percent preferred Abrams, Sen. Warren and Rep. Val Demings (FL-10) tied for third place. 

IVYPAC stands with Presidential Candidate Sen. Kamala Harris

IVYPAC stands in solidarity with Presidential Candidate Sen. Kamala Harris and rebukes those entities - foreign and domestic - that are spreading birtherism-styled messages that seek to suppress the African American vote and create dissention within the Black community. These vile messages also spew anti-immigrant sentiments that have no place in a country founded by immigrants.   Without question, Sen. Kamala Harris is an African American and citizen of the United States who was born in Oakland, CA. Her familial roots in the diaspora make her wonderfully distinct as does her education at an #HBCU and her membership in a historically Black sorority.   A people-powered grassroots organization, IVYPAC has endorsed Sen. Harris' candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president.

In Focus: Senator Kamala Harris and IVYPAC Co-Founder Natasha Dale

In Focus: Candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Senator Kamala Harris, with IVYPAC Co-Founder, Natasha Dale and her husband, Kareem Dale, Esq.

CNN: Kamala Harris' secret weapon: Her sorority sisters

Kamala Harris' secret weapon: Her sorority sisters As Kamala Harris sets her sights on the White House, there is perhaps no network better positioned to power her early launch than the women she will address in South Carolina: her sorority sisters. Source: CNN