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Women of Color in the U.S. are Running For Office at Unprecedented Rates

Independent filmmaker Rebekah Henderson captures the movement.

Photography by Dave Russel of Buffalo Heart Images

Behind the scenes of Candi CdeBaca’s campaign for Denver City Council

“What I lack in melanin, I make up for in militant,” is Rebekah Henderson’s motto. A Denver, Colorado, USA-based filmmaker, podcaster, and owner of Tan Tigress Productions, LLC (a small production company focused on race and identity issues), Henderson’s experiences as a mixed-race woman greatly influence her work.

As host of the podcast “Off Color” and creator of independent films, Henderson aims to educate, activate and highlight great community work. She also co-founded MTOB (More Than One Box): A Mixed Gathering, which is an annual event that celebrates multiracial people and families, just like hers.

People often tell Henderson she should run for office — in fact, she heard it so many times she became curious about what the demands of running a political campaign would actually be. When her friend Dr. Lisa Calderón mounted her own campaign to become Denver’s first female mayor, Henderson got the chance to find out.

On right: Filmmaker Rebekah Henderson

Calderón, also of mixed race (her mother, Mexican-American and her father, African-American), approached Henderson to make a campaign commercial, and the two agreed that Tan Tigress Productions could have ownership of the footage for a documentary about women of color running for office.

The resulting film “Running With My Girls” also features footage with Shontel Lewis, one of the organizers of the March For Black Women who also ran for a seat on the board of Denver’s Regional Transportation District, as well as longtime Denver civil rights and community development leader Veronica Barela, and community activists Candi CdeBaca and Shayla Richard, both of whom ran for seats on the Denver City Council.

Currently in post-production, “Running With My Girls” has Henderson pouring over hours of footage in search of scenes that best capture the experience of running for office. She was inspired by the recent success of the Netflix documentary “Knock Down the House,” which highlights previously unknown, grassroots female leaders who ultimately mounted successful political campaigns. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former bartender who now serves as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, factors prominently into the Netflix film.

With its focus on women of color and local elections, Henderson hopes her film will illuminate how communities can support each other in meaningful ways. “The story is local,” Henderson says, “but the themes are universal: representation, struggle, dismantling racism and uplifting the voices of women of color in politics.”

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