By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Contributor
The NAACP hosted its first tele town hall of 2019 and it was all about the power of women – particularly Black women.
“As we celebrate Founder’s Day and also the 90th Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King one of the things critically important with leadership is that Black women are making it clear that all issues are Black women issues,” said California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris.
“So, when we lead and hold these offices, we are not only addressing things like pay disparities, but a need to have a minimum wage so that the minimum wage equals the minimum standard of living,” said Harris, who were joined on the call by CBC Chair Karen Bass (D-California), Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), and newcomers Lucy McBath (D-Georgia) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts).
The “Women in Power Town Hall” series provides a platform for leading women in policy and activism to engage listeners in a critical discussion about the top priorities for the next 12 months.
Following the swearing in of the most diverse Congress in history – one filled with more women of color than ever before – the town hall featured Congressional Black Caucus members, elected officials, NAACP leaders, along with business and civic leaders in a candid conversation about the 2019 agenda, issues impacting communities of color, and how women can continue to be leading advocates.
“The only [Congressional] class that rivals this new class in size in the [class of] Watergate,” said Pressley, who stunned 10-term U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano in the state primary to become the first African American woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts.
“And that’s no coincidence … during this vitriolic, polarizing time we find ourselves in … it’s the same way it was during Watergate,” she said referring to President Donald Trump and his administration.
McBath noted that the CBC has been speaking up in terms of policy agenda for a very long time.
“We’re probably the only body that looks at human and civil rights from the eyes of the community,” she said, noting that the iconic former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm set the bar for all.
Each of the lawmakers paid homage to Chisholm who, 51 years ago became the first Black woman elected to Congress.
Chisholm, a founding member of the CBC and the first African American to make a serious bid for president, represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms until 1983.
“It’s imperative that America hears from a black woman like me about the issue [of gun violence] that has devastated our community for years and years,” said McBath, whose son Jordan was murdered in 2012 after being shot following an argument at a gas station reportedly over loud music.
“Now, gun violence has gone outside the confines of the urban community and it’s extended its ugly head all over the nation,” she said.
“As a Black woman, a woman of color, I believe I must stand up and take responsibility for others.”
Fudge, a former chair of the CBC, said Black women in Congress helped to spearhead the passage of the Farm Bill which helps protect African Americans.
“When people ask are we relevant, we are more than relevant,” Fudge said of the CBC.
“We have to sometimes work in the shadows and we do and we’re effective,” she said. The Democratic Party in particular realizes the importance of Black women, Fudge added.
“I think the party, and even now the Republican Party, is realizing that they can’t be successful without Black women,” she said.
“The most educated voters are Black women who are the single largest voting bloc per capita and everyone is taking notice of the power we have.”
That power could extend to the White House in 2020 with Harris expected to announce her candidacy for president this month.
The California Senator laughed when an admirer told her that she hopes she runs for president.
Instead of a direct response, Harris joined her colleagues in offering advice as to what Black women could do to exert their power.
“Stay active, use your powerful voice and get involved in campaigns,” she said.
“It could be a campaign issue or a candidate campaign. But, let them see you in the campaign office and organize community members. When Black women show up and campaign, our voices are heard and we are taking more serious.”