A few blocks away, President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union speech that denigrated undocumented immigrants as criminals who brought gangs into the country and shut out true Americans from jobs.
But at the National Press Club on Tuesday night, women of color dominated the podium as they held their alternative State of Our Union address for liberal activists and Democrats who chose to boycott Trump's presidential speech. Many women spoke emotionally and teared up as they told their own personal stories, with as many as 2,400 people at one point watching the livestream.
There, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal called on members of the audience to hold hands, who stood, lifted their arms and reached for a "vision" of progressive values. There, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal told the crowd that diversity is what makes the State of the Union strong, as members of the audience held hands, stood, lifted their arms and reached for a "vision" of progressive values.
"The state of our union is strong when fearless people stand up against tyrannical policies and don't confuse xenophobia with patriotism or vitriol with values," Jayapal said. "You just ground yourselves, and you reach for that vision of the State of the Union that is strong, because of us, because of love, and stories, and listening. My name is Pramila Jayapal. I believe in the power of our union, and I pledge to fight for all of us."
The message was unity and resistance from women who had all different backgrounds and addressed the crowd—sexual assault survivors, undocumented, indigenous, transgender, disabled, and rural women. Many of them spoke about sexual assault and how it affected their lives or their friends, especially women of color.
"Tonight we celebrate our power, our fortitude. ... We imagine a world where everyone has a seat at the table," said Monica Ramirez, representing Alianza Nacional de Campesinas. "Our leadership is defined by mutual respect and a promise to do what we can to make space for each other and to not leave anyone behind. It is fueled by love and carried out with courage."
Others focused on the gender pay gap, or reproductive health care; Chelsea White, an Appalachian woman, told the crowd her grandmother "fought for every job she had just to make less money, and then get fired for being pregnant with my stepdad." And she watched the lack of health care in rural areas disproportionately affect the women in her life.
"In 2018, what do they expect us to go through to have babies, give birth on dirt roads?" she said.
Congresswomen Judy Chu and Barbara Lee, both from California, also spoke. A total of 14 Democrats said they would skip the State of the Union.