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July 20th, 2020

Dear NOW Community,


The NOW Young Feminist Task Force (YFTF) stands in solidarity with the 10 National NOW board members, 24 State Presidents and hundreds of NOW members calling for the National NOW Board to remove Toni Van Pelt from her position as President of the National Organization for Women. Toni has lost our confidence to not only carry out but represent the mission of our organization.


Over the past several months, we have heard from dozens of NOW members, leaders, employees, and National Board Members who have outlined numerous accounts where Van Pelt has continuously exhibited racist behavior and upheld racist institutions. There are too many different individuals telling stories with the same underlying themes of racism and autocratic behavior for NOW to continue to ignore them. Visit www.removetoninow.org for more information. 


Van Pelt has yet to even acknowledge these accusations which in and of itself shows that she is not committed to holding herself or NOW accountable to addressing racism and anti-blackness. This is evident by the recent National NOW Board meeting she held to “work with Black Lives Matter” where she actively silenced women of color on the call and refused to acknowledge the accusations against her. 


After working with Van Pelt for several years, we do not believe she will ever acknowledge her behavior and resign. We believe that the only way to begin combatting racism within NOW is to remove Van Pelt from office. Currently we are 2 votes short needed to convince the ⅔ board members needed to vote to remove Toni from her role as President. Please join us in asking Toni to resign by contacting your district board members who have not yet committed to voting for Toni’s removal: 

  • Northern District: Myra Terry myra@myraterry.com

  • Eastern District: Kobby Hoffman kobbyhoffman@aol.com

  • Heartland District:  Gina Austin-Fresh gaustinfresh@sbcglobal.net Barbara Miller panmagic23@yahoo.com

  • Southern District: BJ Star bjstar@att.net

Once she is removed, the National Board must lead NOW in evaluating our internal structures and make the necessary changes to end systemic and institutionalized racism within our own organization. It is well past overdue for these changes to be made. If they are not made then NOW will never be relevant to young feminists, and we will dedicate our activism elsewhere. 


In Solidarity,


The NOW Young Feminist Task Force


Inquiries can be directed to the NOW Young Feminist Task Force Chair Zoe Bardon by emailing NOWYoungFeminists@gmail.com.



June 26, 2020 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Press Inquiries Contact: Victoria Steele, 520–401–0935 VictoriaSteeleAZ@gmail.com Nina Ahmad, 267–304–1670 nina.ahmadphl@gmail.com

After the National Organization for Women (NOW) and its President Toni Van Pelt appeared as the subject of numerous news articles on the systemic racism experienced by the organization’s officers, staff and members, a group of nine board members called on President Van Pelt to resign to save the organization and help it to heal. “More than 20 current and former employees, including the former and current vice presidents, have accused the President of racist behavior since she was elected to the position three years ago,” stated NOW board member Victoria Steele, a Native American State Senator from Arizona. “We, the majority of the board members, are acting at the behest of hundreds of NOW members across the nation, dozens of former leaders and a majority 24 out of 36 NOW State Presidents who have written to demand the President’s removal.” After President Van Pelt refused to resign, the group followed the rules and procedures in place to remove an executive officer. However, the group was silenced and are now experiencing retaliation through a grievance process. “We refuse to be silent on this matter because to be silent is to be complicit and allow the cancer of racism to destroy our organization,” remarked Nina Ahmad, NOW board member who is also a member of the organization’s Racial Justice Committee. “We love this organization and are determined to save it and help it thrive. With that, we are demanding the immediate removal of President Van Pelt so that NOW can begin to heal and tackle the systemic racism plaguing the organization.” All four women of color on NOW’s board are among the group of nine calling for the President’s removal. The group asserts that President Van Pelt has lost the confidence of the majority of the NOW Board by acting in a manner that is injurious to the organization and/or contrary to the purpose of the NOW, which is “to take action through intersectional grassroots activism to promote feminist ideals, lead societal change, eliminate discrimination, and achieve and protect the equal rights of all women and girls in all aspects of social, political, and economic life.”

- There are numerous allegations that President Van Pelt has engaged in a pattern of racism, discrimination, and created a hostile work environment in the office that has resulted in staff leaving the National Action Center, former Vice-President Gilda Yazzie suing the organization, and Vice President Christian Nunes filing a complaint to the Board alleging racism, tokenism, and discrimination against her in part, because she is a new mother.

- In a press statement distributed under her signature headlined, I can’t Breathe, We all Can’t Breathe,” President Van Pelt echoed the clearly racist statement “all lives matter.”

- President Van Pelt failed to take appropriate disciplinary action against an employee who put racist posts on social media. That employee continues to direct NOW’s social media activities.

- All of the above has resulted in a series of news reports jeopardizing NOW’s relationship with members, organization partners, elected officials and political candidates.

The nine board members who are calling for removal are:

Nina Ahmad, PA Bear Atwood, MS Jeri Burton, NV Nancy Campbell-Mead, OR John Erickson, CA Jacqueline Kozin, CT Jocelyn Morris, MO Victoria Steele, AZ Cheryl Wapes’a-Mayes, WA

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MN NOW’s state executive officers and state board members submitted a letter demanding National NOW President Toni Van Pelt resign following the emergence of new information detailing an alleged pattern of racist, as well as ageist and transphobic, behavior by Van Pelt. NOW’s officers, staff, national board members, and state and chapter leaders have provided examples of what they allege is repeated mistreatment by Van Pelt.


These allegations have been supported by documents including letters from former staff and interns to the National Board of Directors, letters and press releases from members of our National Board calling for Van Pelt’s resignation, and a lawsuit that has been filed by a former National NOW officer. The claims, which include creating a hostile work environment, retaliation and ill-treatment of NOW staff and interns, along with other violations of NOW policies, have appeared in several national publications and continue to spread in the press.

MN NOW’s State Board joined with 23 of 37 other state leaders and state councils, nine National NOW Board members, and dozens of current and former chapter leaders calling for her to resign. Van Pelt, and our three National NOW Board members representing the Heartland District (two of whom allegedly do not currently support removal of Van Pelt) ignored our demand for Van Pelt to resign by June 19, 2020.

We have no confidence in Van Pelt’s ability to effectively lead and unify NOW with action on the issue of racial justice, and we stand in support of all those who have raised these questions and also called for her resignation. We are angry and disheartened by the lack of National NOW Board leadership in removing Van Pelt – 12 votes are required to remove Van Pelt and it appears there are only 9 votes at this time. Only one of the three Heartland District delegates, Jocelyn Morris from Missouri, supports Van Pelt’s removal.

Racism and other forms of prejudice and bigotry have no place in NOW and will not be tolerated by MN NOW. We stand up against racism in all its forms – overt, individual, systemic, institutional, microaggressions and more. We stand for intersectional feminism where we are stronger together.


If you have questions, comments or concerns, please write to us: mnnow@mnnow.org. Press inquiries on the matter should be directed to communications@mnnow.org.

If you wish to write to National NOW President Toni Van Pelt directly, please do so at this address: president@now.org. You can also cc MN NOW’s current Heartland Board delegates: Jocelyn Miller (jocelym46@yahoo.com),Barb Miller (panmagic23@yahoo.com) and Gina Austin-Fresh (gaustinfresh@sbcglobal.net).  

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JOIN THE CONVERSATION TUESDAY, JULY 14 – END RACISM IN NOW

California NOW is spearheading a campaign END RACISM IN NOW 24×24 and is hosting a virtual conversation with time for Q&A Tuesday, July 14.  If you’re interested in joining the discussion, contact info@mnnow.org for the conference call details. The call is for MN NOW members only.

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PRESS COVERAGE OF DEMANDS FOR TONI VAN PELT’S RESIGNATION

Links to relevant articles about the outrage and nationwide calls for Toni Van Pelt’s resignation are below. The story is being covered primarily by Emily Shugerman of the Daily Beast. Other news organizations, including FOX News and MSNBC, have reported on it and news of it is circulating in many feminist blogs online.

June 6th “Don’t Forget the White Women!” : Members Say Racism Ran Rampant at NOW

June 7th “NOW Board Members Demand President Toni Van Pelt Resign Amid Racism Claims”

June 11th “Push to Oust NOW President Grows Amid New Racism Complaints”

June 26th “NOW Board Members: We’re Being Punished for Blowing the Whistle on Racism”

National Board Members’ Press Release, June 26, 2020

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Here is a link to a Sign-On Letter from activists and former leaders to the National NOW Board calling for Toni Van Pelt’s resignation  

This letter was written and circulated to National NOW members and former leaders of chapters and states in NOW, calling for Toni Van Pelt to resign. Using this link you can add your name and contact information. Names are still being added and are forwarded to the National Board regularly.

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If you want to support Toni’s decision to remain in office, you may write to her at president@now.org. She is asking for individual letters of support that may be circulated to various lists of leaders.

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