During this dismal election, women of color quietly made history in the Senate.

Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States.

The pundits didn't see it coming. The polls were all wrong. And many of us — particularly the groups our new president-elect has targeted throughout much of his campaign — feel like we've woken up in a country that no longer wants us. A country we no longer recognize.

This is scary.


Even though today is a tough day, I know I'm finding comfort in remembering that history was made last night in a different but still good way.

The 115th Congress will have a record-high 21 female senators in it next year, including more women of color than ever before.

This session, 20 of the 100 senators are women. Although an increase by one is admittedly not a huge jump, we'll still have the most women ever in the U.S. Senate next year.

While numbers fluctuated in the years between the bars above, overall the figures represent a good sign for gender equality in Washington. Image by Michael Calcagno/Upworthy.

Meanwhile, the number of women of color in the Senate quadrupled.

Catherine Cortez Masto beat Joe Heck in Nevada to become the very first Latina elected to the Senate.

She'll be taking the seat of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who is retiring.

“It should have happened a long time ago,” she told Fusion in September of the possibility of making history.

Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

She has no plans to put a progressive agenda on hold because of a President Trump.

“I’ll be one hell of a checks and balances on him,” she told a crowd after the election. “Tonight, we start our fight together.”

Tammy Duckworth, a double-amputee veteran of the Iraq War who was born in Thailand, cruised to victory over incumbent Mark Kirk in Illinois.

"The military gave me leadership skills," she once told the Asian American Policy Review. "It taught me to stand up and express myself. It taught me, then, to defend what I think is the best solution."

Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Plenty of people around the country were rooting especially hard for Duckworth after her opponent made a racist jab at her family during a debate last month.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris held on to her sizable lead and will soon become America's first female biracial senator.

"All of the most substantial movements in this country started with or have been championed by students," she told Lenny last year. "I feel strongly we want to encourage student voice and take it seriously."

Democrat Kamala Harris of California. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Variety.

These trailblazers will be joining the ranks of other senators who've made history in Washington recently — women like Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay senator, and Mazie Hirono, the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the upper chamber, in 2012.

These women and so many others reflect a Senate that's (slowly but surely) looking more and more like the American electorate.

We've got a long way to go, especially with Donald Trump poised to be the 45th president of the United States. But the changing faces of our leaders mean more and more groups and communities — women, racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, and so many others — have someone fighting for them in the halls of Congress. Representation matters because without their say in Washington, it's easy for the voices of these groups — their concerns, their challenges, their dreams — to go unheard.

Particularly in the years ahead, under a president who ran his campaign on divisiveness and scapegoating, it's more critical now than ever before that we hear these voices and make room for them at the table.

Female senators at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.