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9 Miami women reflect on Election 2016

Whether you were “Hills-yes” or ready to “Make America Great Again,” there is one thing that crosses party lines — the agreement that Election 2016 was unlike any other.

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It was quite unprecedented that the election results could catch so many Americans by surprise. Beyond that, for the first time in American history, a woman ran for presidential office. Suffragettes who fought for a women’s right to vote were able to cast ballots for a female candidate, young girls saw promise in a future of female leadership, and the term #squadgoals was redefined as a rally cry for an empowered female future.

The election may be over, but an empowered female future isn’t. We profiled nine female leaders from across Miami-Dade — in their homes, at their favorite juice spots, and over many cafecitos to hear their opinions on this election and, in its aftermath, what they plan to do to to make our local community stronger.

Saliha Nelson, 44
Overtown

We spoke to Saliha at the Life Science Technology Park Building in Overtown.

Saliha Nelson – the mother of a 17-year-old daughter and vice president of Urgent, Inc., an Overtown community youth development program – has probably had her share of sleepless nights. But she says none were as nauseating or restless as the one she experienced on Nov. 8.

“I was literally sick to my stomach,” she says, “I’ve never had such a visceral reaction to an election.”

Today she is still in disbelief.

“As a woman and as a minority, the tone of the campaign was totally frightening,” she explains. “How do you reconcile all these things that were said? How do you get past that and still function? I’m looking at every one suspect. Is this how you really feel?”

Nelson is having a hard time understanding the results of this election. She’s spent most of the past decade cultivating a culture for women focused on safety.

“We’ve worked on issues around consent, harassment and assault. Now here is a man who clearly doesn’t abide by these things and yields abuse in the most significant position of power. I can’t wrap my head around it,” she says. “Hate is not complex, it is simple. We can’t make excuses for it.”

She strongly believes that this election is a wake-up call.

“If this was Jeb [Bush] and Jeb’s policies, OK, we’d deal,” she jokes through her contagious laugh.

But this isn’t a loss solely along party lines, she adds.

“It is always the oppressed asking for reconciliation and demanding compromise. We see this happening now, the oppressors don’t meet victims with the same level of open mindedness,” Nelson explains.

While she isn’t in the hope stage yet, Nelson does find some in the fact that Clinton was able to win the popular vote.

Nelson also is encouraged by the conversations that are starting to happen and how this election is mobilizing our youth. “Kids care and are paying attention. They crave deep engagement because they know what bullying is and they are now seeing it at the top level of the country,” she explains.

Sabriya Ishoof, 43
Pinecrest

We spoke to Sabriya while breaking bread at one of her favorite spots, The Cheese Course in Pinecrest. 

“What’s the worst that can happen?” asks Dr. Sabriya Ishoof, Muslim-American OB-GYN living in Pinecrest. She hesitantly labels herself as a Muslim-American not for a fear of prejudice or race-driven retaliation, but because of her belief that Americans are simply “American. We are all in this together,” she says.

Known for once quoting both William Wordsworth and Malcolm X in her high school salutatorian address— “they balanced out,” she jokes — Ishoof has been fighting radicalism her entire life.

“I’ve experienced racism and hate since I was born. If they couldn’t break me then this …certainly isn’t,” she explains.

Ishoof is American. She is a woman. She is Muslim—and she accepts Donald Trump as the president-elect. Ishoof has adopted a motto once made popular by country singer, Martina McBride: “I’m going to love you through it.”

“This is not a time to back down. It is time to protect, engage, and go forward,” says Ishoof. “Time to wake up, America. You are allowed to cry for a moment, but then you must keep going,” she adamantly states.

“People who voted for Trump are not bad people. They are people that saw hope in him as a candidate. You have to ask yourself why they saw hope, but you don’t throw away people,” she counters.

Ishoof saw Trump’s victory coming. Once Ohio was lost on election night, she went to bed. She was done.

Growing up in Guyana where the television, newspapers, government, and leaders weren’t always trustworthy forced Ishoof to come up with the truth on her own. She encourages different opinions and certainly the expression of them. After the election, she told her elementary school student son to stand by his beliefs. And if he gets detention for it, Ishoof is willing to sit in the classroom with him.

Michal Amedia, 31
Miami Beach

We spoke to Michal over the phone in between meetings. Girl Bosses have to work!

“Where was Chanel? I would have been calling them,” exclaims Miki International fashion designer and Miami Beach resident, Michal Amedia. “As scared as I was of the pantsuit, Clinton’s words were even worse than the suit.”

Amedia, an avid Trump supporter who attended the Republican National Convention, believes Trump won because of his accessibility.

“Trump speaks his mind and heart. He was easy to rally behind because he says what he feels. He is authentic,” she explains.

“Clinton on the other hand, America saw as an elitist and an insider. Women found it increasingly difficult to identify with her. We saw her stand by Bill after the Monica Lewinsky scandal — it’s nice that she stood by him, but I, and most women, would have been pissed and everybody would have known,” remarks Amedia.

As far as the locker room banter, Trump’s history with women, and her decision to vote for him, Amedia explains, “I ask men, have you ever watched porn? It is just as insulting and they are just as guilty. That doesn’t mean that anyone should ever talk that way, but it happens.”

Growing up on Miami Beach, she says she has experienced worse.

“When you see how unified his ex-wife and his children are. You know that they wouldn’t have that respect for him, if he didn’t have it for them,” she explains. “Those who live in glass houses can’t cast stones. Nobody is Jesus. He’s coming, but I haven’t met him yet.”

Unlike most of liberal America, Amedia wasn’t surprised when Trump won the presidency.

“I disagreed with all the polls and media regarding the outcome. If you’ve studied marketing, communications, or political science you know better than to take these things at face value. A lot of America was brainwashed and almost willingly sitting in the dark,” she explains.

Under Trump, she looks forward to America looking out for itself more.

“During the past eight years, we have become a free and fluid nation. The electorate’s decision makes me feel safer,” she says. As the sister and fiancé of special forces servicemen and women, Amedia stands by Trump’s immigration policy. “We need extreme vetting to avoid a state of emergency. Terrorists are coming in through the Syrian migration,” she states.

Trump’s economic plan also provides specific incentives that Amedia believes will help her promote the philanthropic endeavors of her small fashion company, specifically her program that assists disabled children and ministries in Pakistan. At way above the country’s pay rate, Amedia hires mothers to do block printing and tapestry work on organic cotton. She says that with Trump in the White House, she will no longer will have to pay taxes to bring the clothing back into the United States.

So, how did Amedia spend election night? With her whole family. She says it was similar to watching the Heat in a National Championship game — nail biting. There was even popcorn.

Mikhaile Solomon, 33
North Miami

We spoke to Mikhaile Solomon at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Miami.

Mikhaile Solomon – director of the Prizm Art Fair, an Art Basel exhibit which promotes artists of color – likens Trump to a “bad cancer.”

That is the best way for her to describe and begin to rationalize the results of Election 2016. Solomon is still processing what a Trump presidency means for her.

“Our foundations are rocked. What you thought of America and what America really is are two different things. Patriarchy is real,” she half-heartedly laughs.

Her friend Aysha Preston, another young African-American woman who lives in Washington, won’t stick around in the capital for the Jan. 17 inauguration.

“I never questioned whether or not I was safe in my neighborhood, until this administration,” Preston says. “It is an entirely different feeling.”

Preston struggles to form words to describe the election results. She isn’t ready to open Pandora’s Box.

Solomon, however, has begun to process. She wonders at what point America’s mind changed. “In 2008, we elected a black president,” she muses, and “now [we have] Trump,” who she continues to describe “as the worst thing to happen to America in [recent] United States history.” [Editor’s note: This paragraph has been updated.] 

But, the North Miami resident remains hopeful especially when discussing the activism that this election has inspired in the younger generation.

“I love it! Look, I’ve got goosebumps,” she says extending her arm as proof.

She sees young, educated, female voices as critical to America’s future.

“It’s upsetting that the people with the most sense look at politics and say ‘absolutely, no way. I have no interest in ever holding political office,’ but I may have to throw my hat in the ring,” smiles Solomon. In many ways this election has emboldened young females like her.

“I always tell myself that I don’t want to be a shadow to any man,” she exclaims and draws sounds of approval from her two female friends in the room.

Emilie Sobel, 24 and Zeinab Kristen, 23
Wynwood / Midtown

We spoke to Emilie and Zeinab over tacos at Wynwood hot spot, Coyo Taco (it wasn’t a #tacotuesday)

“SAD. S-A-D. exclamation, exclamation, exclamation,” says lifestyle blogger of Runaway Habit, Zeinab Kristen, when referring to her post-election emotions. Emilie Sobel of fashion blog, Soul in Stilettos, feels the same.

When her brother woke her up at 7 a.m. to tell her the news, she thought he was joking, she says. She’s never been that invested in politics and certainly never had an emotional response to a president-elect, but this was way too important.

“As a single 24/25-year-old woman, it is scary to know that a man can possibly tell me whether or not I can get an abortion or that he can make a decision for me in regards to Planned Parenthood or all the other little things,” says Sobel. “I never thought we’d still be fighting for these types of rights in 2016,” she continues.

“How could Harambe, a dead gorilla, be rumored to have received over 10,000 write-in votes? True or not, it is insulting to think that people are going to the voting booth and doing that. This isn’t funny, this is serious,” Sobel exclaims.

These social media mavens and culture crusaders are finding it increasingly difficult to understand the electoral body. One thing they do know though is that women hate has to stop —even if it begins locally in their own professional neighborhoods and backyards of Wynwood and Midtown.

“One small way to show love? Send Clinton a thank-you letter,” suggests Sobel.

“I have high hopes for people and I’m constantly being disappointed, it’s a blessing and a curse,” she continues. “As a fashion blogger, I can appreciate the pantsuit conversations. But, I also know that no man running for president’s clothes are being discussed—it’s just because she’s a woman,” Sobel explains with frustration.

Zeinab feels a different frustration. Coming from a large Cuban family, she admits that half of her family voted for Trump for reasons she doesn’t understand. Towards the end of election night, she broke down in tears.

“They didn’t get it. It wasn’t a big deal to them,” she explains. “But it is a huge deal to me, as a woman, and, not only as a woman, but as an international artist. I’m fearful. How do you work on vulnerable pieces now? People feel that they can step all over you because of your background. I’m half Middle Eastern and half Cuban,” she explains.

But for as serious as the conversation is, it’s hard to not be light-hearted over a meal of tacos— when discussing reality TV star alternative candidates, Kim Kardashian’s name is floated as an option.

“I think I would have been happier with Kanye [West]. At least he’s an artist,” they laugh.

Marta Laura Zayas, 55
Little Havana

We spoke to Marta in her home in Little Havana. 

Marta Laura Zayas, a teacher at Emerson Elementary and former Republican Precinct Committee woman (someone who represents the GOP voters in their precinct at the county level) for Little Havana, didn’t find this punchline funny. In fact, when news of Trump’s presidency was delivered by her son, Zayas, who doesn’t own a television, thought it was a joke.

But it wasn’t so much Donald Trump’s presidency that left Zayas flipping through the radio stations waiting for the “other shoe” to drop, but rather her frustration with the electoral process.

Zayas, a former Bernie Sanders supporter who voted for Jill Stein, believes that people didn’t vote for Trump as much as they voted in reaction to the frustration that they feel against politicians who act more like handlers than representatives. She’s hopeful, looking beyond the president towards reform focused on cleaner government and more access to information on all candidates — not just the traditional two-party system.

The daughter of Cuban exiles who fled the country under execution order, Zayas values liberty and freedom. “It is precious,” she says, while sitting beneath the Cuban Coat of Arms on her wall.

“How dare they?!” she exclaims when discussing the media’s failure to provide information on all six candidates on the ballot. “It is absurd that people aren’t enraged that they aren’t given access to the full political process.”

She hopes the outcomes of these elections will impact how America views democracy, calling for less hashtag-worthy news bits and a focus more on policy and candidacy.

“After days, I found there was a prize in the end. I believe that Democrats realize a big mistake has happened. I don’t think Republicans are happy either. They realize that they need to stop fooling people and put the fear of honesty in their representatives,” she says.

However, for all the focus on electoral reform, Zayas also acknowledges that this election cycle did not go without its impacts on her as a woman. She recalls seeing a post on social media stating “If you are a woman, you have to vote for Hillary.” She took major offense.

“That is exactly what women are fighting against,” she remarks. “I do not cast my vote based on gender.”

“However, as a woman, it is true that we cannot separate politics from our daily lives. It is a part of our employment, pay and the respect we receive,” she says, “there is no compromise between being a woman and being respected.”

Amy Dannheim, 34
Miami Beach

We spoke to Amy at Juice Lab in Miami Beach.

When not screenshotting Obama-Biden memes and sending them to her mom, Miami Beach-based yoga instructor, Amy Dannheim is leading a movement of tolerance — her word. A word that she admits to not using much before this election.

“This election has opened the floodgates,” she admits. “We need to practice forgiveness.”

“At first I was numb. It took time to process. I was shocked. From my news feed on social media, I had every indication that everybody was with her,” she explains. “You know, my husband and I asked ‘Should we move?’,” she laughs, “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to.”

As more and more states began to turn red on election night, Dannheim went to bed resigned, like many women. “I woke up the next morning and it felt like a dream. I taught a yoga class and the first person that I saw was crying,” she explains. “It really affected people. That’s when it started to become real.”

Over the next week that continued to be the case — people were coming in to the studio to process and get perspective from Dannheim and the other teachers.

She does offer a different explanation than those coming from the wonks on TV.

“Clinton was super yang,” she says, “Strong, aggressive and masculine. She didn’t embody the ideals of a woman leader, things we look for such as compassion, receptiveness, or softness. People felt she wasn’t telling the truth and they couldn’t relate,” Dannheim explains. “Trump on the other hand, came off as more yin. He really was a bit more feminine.”

And, while Dannheim personally struggled with the idea of a Trump presidency, professionally, she didn’t. As her business partner likes to say, “Trump has been really great for yoga.”

Ana Sofia Pelaez, 41
Coconut Grove

We spoke to Ana at Panther Coffee in Coconut Grove. [Editor’s note: This section has been updated to accurately reflect Pelaez’s comments.]

The election results were emotional for Ana Sofia Pelaez, a freelance food writer and author of The Cuban Table.

“There was a sense of history being made and then it didn’t happen,” she explains.

Voting for the first time in Florida, the Miami native and Coconut Grove resident was invested in this election. A volunteer with Project Pastelito, a grassroots organization that encouraged the Latino vote, Pelaez describes the feeling of grief as coming quickly.

“Outside on Calle Ocho everyone was celebrating, inside at the campaign party there was a sense that was hard to describe, kind of like it was inevitable,” she explains.

Pelaez was shocked, but she didn’t take Trump’s candidacy for granted. “He was able to get this far,” she remarks. What was most shocking to Pelaez was waking up to an America that was not what she thought it was.

“We all know America has its problems, but it was a realization to see how patriarchal it really is. We all need to up our games,” she says.

“My heart breaks for women, especially young girls. As an adult, I didn’t expect to see a female president in my lifetime, I didn’t grow up with that possibility, but the fact that girls much younger than I feel that it is never going to happen. I really hope that they don’t feel that way,” she remarks.

Pelaez is also quick to acknowledge the limitations that Clinton experienced as a woman, much more than her male counterpart.

“She couldn’t appear too shrewish or too passive. She had to do what many women have learned to do and let him land the punches[during the debate]. For her, and most women, there is no right answer. She had to adjust to what was in front of her,” she comments.

“It is clear,” says Pelaez, “That amongst women there is a palpable fear.”