In early November, the Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR) launched its “BWR Racial, Economic, Health, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project” (BWR Justice Project) to address the racial, gender, economic and health bias impacting Black women and their families in Atlanta, GA with a BWR Reproductive Justice Forum at the Georgia State Capitol. Over the next 12 months, The BWR Justice Project civic engagement and organizing activities will also take place in AL, FL, MI, MS, NC, OH, PA, SC, VA and the DC/MD/VA metro area. The Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR) serves as the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s (NCBCP) leadership development, mentoring, intergenerational and power building arm for Black women and girls.
NCBCP President & CEO and National BWR convener, Melanie Campbell shared, “The BWR Justice Project was developed to address key race, pocketbook and safety issues identified in the 5th Annual BWR/ESSENCE Magazine ‘Power of the Sister Vote’ Poll (BWR/Essence ’19 Poll) released in September 2019 and other past research conducted by NCBCP and BWR. The BWR/ESSENCE ’19 Poll indicated the top issues Black women are most concerned about are racism/hate crimes, affordable health care, equal rights/equal pay, criminal justice/policing reform; affordable healthcare; gun violence and gun safety, affordable housing/gentrification, college affordability/student loan debt, high cost of prescription drugs and more.”
Additionally, economic justice research conducted by the Black Women’s Roundtable (including the 2019 BWR Report on the “State of Black Women in the U. S.”), shows that “Black women are still the foundation of Black family financial power. And for most Black women, work Is not an option, it’s a necessary precondition for survival for themselves and their families. As a result, some 70% of Black women are primary breadwinners for their family unit. This compares to only 24% of white women who are the critical lynchpin in their family’s economic well-being. Over half (55%) of all Black families with children are headed by a single mother. And among single mother-headed families, fully 46% live in poverty.”
With regard to gender and health justice, BWR-sponsored studies have also revealed that the top issues that Black women want their national elected officials to address are to protect Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and affordable healthcare. Further, reproductive justice issues of concern to black women include — the escalation of attacks on women’s rights to control their own bodies is on the rise by right wing extremists on the federal and state level. Over the past year, several state legislatures have also passed laws to limit women’s reproductive rights. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia. Planned Parenthood has reported that “Anti-women’s health politicians are attacking access to reproductive health care and sex education at the state level through dangerous bills, regulations and executive actions. These attacks include attempting to ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood health centers, limit health care coverage for birth control, and promote abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.”
The BWR Justice Project goals and outcomes include:
- Promoting the adoption of work/family policies for women and working families to achieve security and prosperity now and for future generations, including paid leave, paid sick days, equal rights, equal pay, entrepreneurship, raising minimum wage and workers’ rights on a federal, state and local level.
- Promoting quality of life policies to secure economic, health & reproductive justice, including affordable healthcare, protect Medicaid, Medicare & Social Security and other safety net federal and state-based policies.
- Focus on engaging the powerful intergenerational voices of Black women to educate local, state and national leaders and policy-makers on the importance of enacting public policies to improve health care, economic opportunity, quality of employment and public education for Black women, families and communities.
To date, BWR Justice civic engagement and organizing activities have included:
- GEORGIA – BWR Reproductive Justice Forum in Atlanta, GA on November 8, 2019 at the Georgia State Capitol, focused on reproductive health care, reproductive rights, gender justice, LGBTQ rights, maternal mortality and other social justice issues impacting Black women, hosted by Clayton County BWR/HBCU Green Fund & GA BWR/GCPA;
- FLORIDA – BWR Sisters Can We Talk? Women’s Listening Session, focused on women’s health, reproductive rights and diabetes awareness, at Orleans Bistro in Titusville, FL on November 16, hosted by FL BWR/FCBCP & Worldwide Solutions;
- MICHIGAN – BWR Sistahs Can We Talk? Black Women Reproductive Justice and We Count” Forum in Kalamazoo, MI on November 17 hosted by Kalamazoo BWR and Mothers of Hope; and
- ALABAMA–BWR “Sisters Can We Talk?” Listening Session, Aunt Katie’s Community Garden in Dothan, AL, focused on racial equity and gender justice issues, on November 22, hosted by Southern AL BWR.
Upcoming BWR Justice Project activities include:
- ALABAMA – BWR “Racial Equality: A Community Discussion” hosted by Southern Alabama BWR at Aunt Katie’s Community Garden, 602 Linden Street, in Dothan, AL on December 6th.
- MICHIGAN – BWR “Black Women Matter Summit” hosted by BWR Metro Detroit, at Your Emerging Space – Y.E.S., 7 North Saginaw Street – 3A, Pontiac, MI, focused on racial and reproductive justice and other pocketbook policies impacting families, on December 7th.
- FLORIDA – BWR “Healthy, Wealthy, Wise Women’s Health & Wellness Retreat,” Oak Plantation Resort, 4090 Enchanted Oaks Circle, Kissimmee, FL, hosted by Osceola FL BWR & Hugs Therapy, on December 14th.
In 2020, The BWR Justice Project will include organizing BWR ”Power of the Sister Vote” townhall meetings during the 2020 presidential election primaries; release of its 2020 Presidential Election Non-Partisan Voter Guide; hosting its Annual BWR Women of Power National Summit on March 4 – 8, 2020 in Arlington, VA; as well as forums, listening sessions and summits organized by BWR state-based networks in MS, NC, OH, PA and SC.
The BWR Justice Project is supported by The Moriah Fund, Sephora, Family Values @Work Labor Project for Working Families, Oxfam America and Groundswell Fund.