MAKERS@Home with Fatima Goss Graves

"If you value and love and support the future and freedom for Black girls, then this is the space to be." Fatima Goss Graves (@fatimagossgraves), President & CEO of the @nwlc, sat down with MAKERS Founder and Executive Producer Dyllan McGee (dyllanmcgee) to talk about the milestones we hit in 2020 and where do we go from here.MAKERS@Home with Fatima Goss Graves

Video Transcript

DYLLAN MCGEE: Hi, everyone. I am Dyllan McGee, founder and executive producer of MAKERS, and this is our very last MAKERS@HOME live of 2020 and we are going out with a bang.

I'm really excited. We have truly, in my eyes, one of the leading feminists today with us, Fatima Goss Graves. She is the president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center. And I love-- I have to read her-- her Twitter description is "Lawyer, activist, optimist, runner, mom, sister, friend, wife." I can't wait to hear about the optimist part of that.

Anyway, she is here with us today, so let's bring her on. Fatima, I'm coming. Oh, I love it. We have someone from Banglador joining-- of course, you. You're always-- can I just tell you? The last time I saw you, you had just come from your-- your virtual gala. You were all glammed up. You're always looking--

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I had straight hair.

DYLLAN MCGEE: You did. You did, which is not your usual look.



FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: No, not at all.

DYLLAN MCGEE: But you're always looking glam and fabulous and--

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Aw, thank you.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Yeah, yeah. Hi, how are you?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I am good. You know, I feel like I have made it to the end of 2020 and I'm here to celebrate that.

DYLLAN MCGEE: It's such a-- it's such a common thing right now. It's like how you feel, like I made it. I'm here.


DYLLAN MCGEE: I survived.




DYLLAN MCGEE: Well, again, as I said in the intro, you-- and you say you're an optimist. Did this-- did this year put that optimism to the test?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: It did. I mean, I actually-- so I actually think hope is like a practice. You gotta work at it and it's not-- and I think if you do justice work, you're probably leaning towards the optimist end of things anyway, like you clearly gotta believe change is possible in the world. But we've never seen anything like this.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: You know? There was no way we knew what to do. We were all kind of making this-- it up this year on how to survive a pandemic, how to work and care at the same time, what to do.

DYLLAN MCGEE: How to deal with a pandemic within the pandemic.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Right, what to do, where there's all of a sudden really visible racial inequities and you have opportunity-- like we didn't know what to do this year. And so I feel like surviving to the end of it is-- is to be celebrated.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Well, congratulations.


DYLLAN MCGEE: You did it. We did it. We all survived. I also just saw that you were named to a Forbes advisory group, which sounds really cool.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I am excited about it.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I mean, so I'm-- I believe in sort of cross-pollinization, cross-sector, and so it's like a bunch of people who are not at all like me, whose work is not at all like mine, and being able to be in community with them, uh, I-- you know.

DYLLAN MCGEE: It's cool.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I do think change is possible, so it's-- so I say yes probably too much, but I say yes when I think there could be something special.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Well, it's like Shonda Rhimes, right? It's like The Year of Yes. We have to-- right?


DYLLAN MCGEE: Did you do it, Peloton, this week?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I've been doing that medication-- that Peloton meditation. So I did it--

DYLLAN MCGEE: With [? Chelsea. ?]

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --this morning. Yes. It was beautiful--


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --like what a way to sort of get my mind right for 2021. So thank you, Shonda, and thank you--



DYLLAN MCGEE: Thank you. How many times do we have to say, "Thank you, Shonda"?


DYLLAN MCGEE: But another-- like it's a great example, and I will say I do think that 2020 was a year of innovation, right? So you say like all of a sudden you're with Forbes now and doing something that's out of your usual network.


DYLLAN MCGEE: Shonda, doing this collaboration with Peloton--


DYLLAN MCGEE: You know, maybe we're gonna-- we're gonna-- maybe that's what we need to make these different-- bring these different worlds together.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I-- I actually think we are testing new ideas. There are lots of things that everybody said, oh, that's impossible-- now, you know, oh, OK, well, maybe they are more possible. We're thinking about work differently. I'm confident we're thinking about care entirely wrong, and so, like, that has been a hot mess, but--

DYLLAN MCGEE: Well, that's-- that's one of my questions. I'm not even going to my questions yet, but I want to talk. I mean, you are-- again, you're just-- it's like one of these amazing feminists who's in all these buckets. And one of them is caregiving, and you've done work with Pivotal. They've supported you. Or can you tell us about the importance of caregiving and what we need to look-- look to do in 2021?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Yeah. You know, Melinda Gates, I don't know if you saw the op-ed that she wrote. Maybe it was last--

DYLLAN MCGEE: Of course. Yeah.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --week, sort of really being very pointed about the care crisis in this country and what it's gonna take for all of us to solve it. And there are a lot of folks who've been doing this work for many, many years.

The Law Center has been working on child care in particular, but care as a connection to women's work really since the beginning over 40 years ago. But this year is unlike anything we have seen. And the really ridiculous and fragile system we had just crumbled before all of our eyes.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: And so what you've had is women working and caregiving and homeschooling and teaching and, like, basically being stressed out this year. And we're-- there are short and long-term results of it, right, like women have left the workforce at levels that we haven't seen ever.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: And they're now working in terms of workforce participation at the levels women were working in the mid-80s. And so what does it mean, that we have done this and sort of allowed this burden to so heavily fall, and both, again, I think short-term, but also long-term? If you go to the grocery store, people are masked up, which is good. But you can see in the eyes.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: People are stressed. They are barely hanging on.

DYLLAN MCGEE: But-- and it's so-- you know, it's funny because you hear some people saying, well, maybe this pandemic and working from home is great for women because, you know, it shows that you don't always have to-- you know, it was-- it was, you know, having to go to the office that was holding women back. But the number-- that doesn't-- I don't--

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I-- you know, I actually think we have learned and now have a dramatically new tools that enable people to work remotely in ways we didn't have before. And that's a thing that I hope that we will learn from and build on, going forward.

But the story that people aren't telling is both about the isolation and the loneliness and the stress and the fact that people aren't just working from home. They're working during a pandemic while caring and homeschooling.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: And that is not a lesson to learn. It is not-- like the fact that people will have made it to the end doesn't mean, like, let's keep this going. No.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Yeah. I know. I know. Oh, God, it is so clear. You're-- the optimism does come from-- like thank God you're fighting all these fights for us. Look at you.

OK. I saw-- I saw on Twitter the exciting, new, 1Billion4BlackGirls initiative. Talk about that.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: So-- and again, you're gonna think that I'm here to talk about Shonda Lynn because it was also-- last night they actually tied to the season finale of Grey's Anatomy-- featured 1Billion4BlackGirls.

But, you know, there is a number of us who have been doing this work for a lot, a lot of years in support of Black girls, and really Black girl freedom. And we came together, all Black women leaders who-- some who run direct programs, some who do advocacy work, some in philanthropy, and said, what would it take for us to shine a light and make visible what it is Black girls experience and align together in support of their freedom, their joy, their leadership, their passion?

And we all got super excited and started working towards it and wanted an audacious goal. We didn't want to be like, OK, let's see if we can raise a million dollars for Black girls throughout the United States. We were like, no, we're gonna launch and lead big--


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --because that's what Black girls deserve. And in support of Black growth and Black freedom, we partner with PhenoMenal and they did these such good shirts that I love. And so stay tuned. You're gonna be hearing more about how to get involved and how to support, and if you value and love and support the future and freedom for Black girls, this is the space to be.

DYLLAN MCGEE: It's so exciting. And it's just-- what a force of women, that you're all together, and I can only imagine. Sometimes I think maybe a billion's too small.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I know. Well, that's what I was like. Well, did we-- are we too small with a billion? Everybody's like, chill out.

DYLLAN MCGEE: [LAUGHS] But in all seriousness, if people are watching, because this will-- you know, this will continue on MAKERS and will be posted all of next week, and people are looking for year-end donations, right?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Yes. They can go to-- it's 1Billion-- 1Billion4BlackGirls. They can go there. They can find it on the Grantmakers For Girls of Color website, all sorts of information about the groups that are supported and the founders of the campaign. And please, please do get involved.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Good. Well, talk about a moment for, I would think I could say particularly Black girls, Kamala Harris becoming the first woman of color vice president. What did that feel like for you?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: So here's the thing. Actually, I have two sons, and--


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --they were born, and they were like-- I, like, joke that they were born in the years of Obama. One was born fall of '08. The other was born right before '12, and they have only known the idea of that it's perfectly normal to have a Black man as president, like that's-- and it changed. Like my younger son used to walk around and say things like, "Well, you know, when I become president," very casually, because he'd seen it, right?


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: And he saw it is possible. And I was in tears on the day she and Joe Biden made their speeches because she was standing up there in her white-- and I realized that Black and South Asian girls in this country, they've now seen it. They've seen someone in the White House and they know that they could be there too. But they don't have to wonder whether it's possible. I just-- I'm getting choked up again.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: It matters. It matters.

DYLLAN MCGEE: It does matter, and she is-- you know what? I know so much of your work-- I mean, I can only imagine what the work has been like at the National Women's Law Center, you know, the past four years and the uphill battle and what needs to be untangled in the next four. You know, what are your-- what are your biggest hopes for this new administration, for the work that you do?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Yeah, so they have a lot to do. And so I am, like, celebrating and also kind of like, you know, you guys have to hit the ground running really fast. You know, the last four years we have been in an extraordinarily defensive posture, right? We have had to sue the Trump administration more than five times around equal pay, around contraception, around religious refusals, around the Title IX sexual violence rule. I mean, we have spent a lot of time holding the line, putting our fingers in the breach, sort of saying we, like--


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --protector mode.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: And now we are launching forward. And so, unfortunately, they don't have the luxury of just sort of restoring things to four years ago. The needs are so urgent. They actually have to take care of some of those unlawful rules, but they gotta launch us forward. They gotta launch us forward for the essential workers. They do let-- launch us forward so that people have access to the health care they need.

They have to actually reset our public narrative on so much, right, reset how we think about survivors of sexual violence, reset how we think about access to reproductive health care, reset and actually use the language of essential the way we've been feeling it in our hearts and bones, right? We've learned all these mostly women are essential workers, right?


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: One in three Black women working right now are essential workers.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: We need to reset the narrative and have policies to match. So they-- they can't, like, coast in. I think they know this. They have to, like, go in racing.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Right. Yeah. No holiday break for you, people. Sorry.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I'm sorry. I just-- I'm like, oh, that sounds terrible. But yeah, you guys have to get to work, so--

DYLLAN MCGEE: Hit the ground running. How are you feeling about, I mean, the Cabinet selections and today's-- it's Deb Haaland. Is that right, with the--



FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: So we will have the first indigenous woman to be in a Cabinet ever, the first indigenous. I mean, like, I actually was kind of like, we have to-- how do we pause and mark so many of these moments, but also the fact that she will be over Interior and what that means around--

DYLLAN MCGEE: How symbolic it is.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: The symbolism of it, her ability to bring a totally different perspective to around the indigenous lands, around her background as a as a former tribal leader, like there is so much--


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --that she will bring, that we've never had at the top of the Department of Interior, you know. But also, there are people like Xavier Becerra, who's the nominee for HHS, who has been a champion for decades on a range of health issues and was such a leader as the attorney general--


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --in California. Huge, huge, huge. And so, you know--

DYLLAN MCGEE: Has anyone surprised you?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I mean, there have been some surprises, like for example, I-- you know, this is not a position that has to be confirmed. I was initially surprised when I saw Ambassador Susan Rice as the head of DPC. What an opportunity. Somebody whose name was considered for Cabinet is going to be leading policy in the White House. I mean, she was considered for VP. So, like, that is huge.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I sort of see her as, like, driving that policy agenda with so much authority. And I am so excited to see her in that role. So, you know, there have been some surprises, but there's so many people who are just smart, confident, about business, folks--

DYLLAN MCGEE: And who need to get busy.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --who will be getting to work. They gotta get busy.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Get to work.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I'm just like, yes. Fantastic.

DYLLAN MCGEE: OK. Speaking of work, now we're gonna talk about you and getting to work. You and I have-- we've just had this wonderful connection through Time's Up.


DYLLAN MCGEE: And it's obviously an organization we both love and adore. And I'm curious. What's next for you with Time's Up? What are the-- what are the initiatives that you got cooking?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Yeah. I mean, so when Time's Up was founded basically now three years ago, it sort of transformed what we thought was possible and shook up the cultural game. And I am just really deeply passionate about it.

And the National Women's Law Center continues to house and run the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, which, for our team there, the idea that we are continuing to be able to find attorneys and find storyteller support for workers who are experiencing safety concerns on the job, it has been game-changing, game-changing individually, but game-changing culturally.

And I'm just so proud to be a part of that work and so proud to be in community with so many people, especially people with-- who are influencers, who have, like, really big, broad reach, who said, actually I'm turning this over for issues that I'm passionate about. I'd never seen that on that scale.

And so Time's Up is gonna-- you know, I continue to be involved with Time's Up on the board, too. Time's Up is gonna continue to lead. I don't know if you saw that We Have Her Back campaign that came. That was a brainchild--

DYLLAN MCGEE: Fantastic. I mean, the force of it.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --of Time's Up. I was-- it was so good to be a part of it. And frankly, you know, we knew. We were like, hmm, he has said he's gonna nominate a woman as a vice president. What will the media do?

DYLLAN MCGEE: Yeah. I know. I know.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: And so we did a shot across the bow before anything had been named, before we had VP-elect Harris, because we knew they would do-- they would be leaning into sex stereotypes, leaning into race stereotypes.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Yes. FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: And so to be able to flake and tell the media, be better. We expect you not to be like, gotta be qualified, they're too ambitious, I don't like what they wear. We're better than that, or we gotta be better.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Well, if you can believe it, we're already out of-- 20 minutes goes by. I'm like, wait, I need more time. But I'm not letting you go before you and I have a tiny bit of fun together, which is--


DYLLAN MCGEE: --because it's the end of the year. We love you. We just want to do, which we have-- I haven't done this with any of the guests this year, but felt like a fun way to end, which is a lightning round, where I give you either/or and you just pick which feels more like you.


DYLLAN MCGEE: OK. So here we go. Are you ready?


DYLLAN MCGEE: Early bird or night owl?


DYLLAN MCGEE: I knew it. I could have guessed that. I know. That's when you're, like, looking through all your-- oh, my gosh. OK. Type A, easygoing?


DYLLAN MCGEE: You're a--

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --Type A at work, easygoing at home. My husband would not say I'm Type A.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Higher math or verbal score?




DYLLAN MCGEE: That's interesting.


DYLLAN MCGEE: OK. I thought-- would think law, verbal. OK, I love that. Prepare or cram?


DYLLAN MCGEE: Cram. I thought-- OK. All right. All right, book smart, street smart?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Probably book smart. Probably book smart.

DYLLAN MCGEE: But, speaking of books, do you-- do you-- how do you consume books, audio or physical?


DYLLAN MCGEE: Not even e-books?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I hate-- I mean, sometimes I kind of-- I'm like old school. But I do sometimes.

DYLLAN MCGEE: OK. All right. Something you wish you did more of?


DYLLAN MCGEE: Well, you started with Shonda.


DYLLAN MCGEE: OK. So far, so good.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I gotta keep it up.

DYLLAN MCGEE: You gotta keep doing more of it. Something you wish you did less of?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Worry. I like that one. That-- I have that too. My happy place is-- dot, dot, dot.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Oh, the beach, no question.

DYLLAN MCGEE: You're beach-- you're a beach girl.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I am a beach girl, with the ocean coming in.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Is there a particular beach you love?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Yes, Hilton Head, South Carolina.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: It is my happy place, beach--


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: --and trees.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Well, I don't think you'll be-- will you be there over the holidays? No. OK. We-- we're skimming over that. OK. Two more. Cook at home or order in?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: My husband cooks. I order.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I can't even pretend. I cook Thanksgiving.

DYLLAN MCGEE: OK, final one. This is a tough one. Barack or Michelle Obama?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I mean, Michelle.


FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I mean, that's actually not that tough.

DYLLAN MCGEE: We won't tell anyone.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: I mean, I love the first Black POTUS, but Michelle Obama.

DYLLAN MCGEE: It's all about FLOTUS. Come on. Come on. All right. Since you are our final guest of the year, any words of wisdom, advice, for 2021?

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Well, the only thing I want to say is there's lots of stuff for 2020 that we need to leave behind. But I hope people are taking in some of the 2020 bright spots into '21, like the tiny moments of joy, the things that seemed impossible, like let's take it into 2021 and reset.

DYLLAN MCGEE: I love it. All right. Well, we adore you at MAKERS. Thank you for all you do. You-- I know you're telling the administration that there's work to do. I know you are unstoppable and you-- there-- you are always working and pushing things forward for all of us. So thank you for all you do. You are--


DYLLAN MCGEE: --a gift to the world. And I look forward to seeing what you got up your sleeve in 2021.

FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Happy holidays to everyone.

DYLLAN MCGEE: Happy holidays. Bye.

Well, there you have it. Take the little, bright lights, the little ones that you found in 2020 and bring them with you into 2021. Thank you all for being a part of our MAKERS community this year for-- we experimented doing these MAKERS@HOME live. We're thrilled that you're tuning in and sharing with us. And I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and we will see you in 2021. Bye.