Monday, February 22, 2016

Celebrating Black Women in Politics

As Black History Month comes to a close and election season rages on, we are reminded of a powerful political force at all levels of local, state and national influence: Black women.  Fighting for racial and gender equity, Black women have maintained the highest rates of voter turnout in the past two presidential elections.  With 74% of Black women voting in 2012, they voted in higher quantities than any other group, the next closest being White women at 64%.  2015 marked a record-breaking year for Black women in politics, who make up 21.4% of female members and 4.1% of all members in the House of Representatives.  While these numbers clearly have a long way to go in order to accurately reflect the population, significant gains since 2014 show glimmers of increasing representation. 

2016 is already shaping up to be another landmark year for women of color in politics.  African American Women for Hillary has been an influential organizing force behind Hillary Clinton’s campaign for democratic presidential nominee.  Additionally, the Black Lives Matter Movement, founded and headed by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, has helped to shape the conversation around economic inequality, police brutality, mass incarceration in each presidential candidates’ platform.  And many speculate that there is more good news to come.  Loretta Lynch, the first Black woman appointed to U.S. Attorney General is rumored to be a likely candidate for the open position on the Supreme Court due to the death of former Justice Scalia.  She would be the first Black woman ever nominated for the coveted position. 

While progress has been made, Black women are nowhere to be found in the Senate and they make up just 1% of state elected executive officials.  Much work is to be done.  The more that Black women get elected however, the more likely Black women are to vote and to run for office.  As we enter into Women’s History month, the MWPC would like to recognize and highlight of the amazing Black women paving the road to political, social and economic justice for all disenfranchised groups.

--Kathleen Melendy, MWPC Intern