More than 20 Black female elected officials, activists and community leaders came together in solidarity to voice their concern that Black women are being overlooked in regard to leadership within the Democratic Party.
The women, including State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Calif.); Tamika Mallory, Women’s March co-chair; and Star Jones, attorney, women’s advocate and television personality, wrote an open letter to Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez to demand greater representation.
“Black women have consistently shown up for Democrats as a loyal voting bloc, demonstrating time and again that we are crucial to the protection of progressive policies such as economic security, affordable healthcare and criminal justice reform,” the letter, published Wednesday on NBCBLK, stated.
“We have voted and organized our communities with little support or investment from the Democratic Party for voter mobilization efforts.
“We have shown how Black women lead, yet the Party’s leadership from Washington to the state parties have few or no Black women in leadership. More and more, Black women are running for office and winning elections — with scant support from Democratic Party infrastructure.”
Black women are “often called the most reliable progressive voting bloc,” according to The Nation.
In 2008 and 2012, “70 percent of eligible Black women cast ballots, accounting for the highest voter turnout of any racial or gender group, proving that our voting power can and has determined elections,” the women stated. “A closer look at the data shows that in 2012 Barack Obama won re-election by 4.9 million votes.”
In November’s presidential election, 94 percent of Black women voted for Hillary Clinton in support of the progressive movement.
“There’s been no constituency more loyal to the Democratic Party than Black women voters,” Dr. Adolphus Belk Jr., a professor of political science and director of the African American Studies Program at Winthrop University in South Carolina, said in an interview.
During an interview with DiversityInc in 2015 to commemorate 60 years since activist Rosa Parks was arrested for resisting bus segregation, Belk said Black women were the backbone of the civil rights movement.
He also described a parallel between the actions of Black women activists of the civil rights movement and the modern-day Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, as women created the BLM hashtag and are providing leadership across states.
“The greatest parallel that I see is that [the BLM creators] came together and helped to bring attention to the issue that’s been going on across the states, across jurisdictions, for quite some time now,” he said.
In the letter to Perez, the women stated, “Like civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, who testified at the 1964 Democratic convention demanding Blacks have a seat and voice within the Party, we are ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’”
They also point out that the increase in overall diversity within the DNC officer ranks didn’t include Black women:
“This February, in the DNC elections, we saw an increase in overall diversity within the officer ranks, but no increase in leadership representation of Black women. Since taking office, you have met with and listened to key constituencies. But you have yet to host a Black women leaders convening.”
The letter requests that Perez have a meeting with Black women leaders. (Read the complete letter)
Signers of the letter also include Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) and Yvette Clarke (D-Calif.). Watson and Clarke, along with Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), formed The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls in 2016.
The Caucus is now composed of more than 20 lawmakers. It is the first-ever caucus dedicated to removing barriers and disparities experienced by Black women.
The caucus will prioritize the needs of Black women and girls in policy making.
Coleman stated last year that the caucus will “speak up” for Black women, who deserve a voice in policy making that addresses systemic challenges.
“From barriers in education, to a gender-based pay gap that widens with race, to disparities in both diagnoses and outcomes for many diseases, our society forces Black women to clear many hurdles faced by no other group, and asks them to do it with little assistance,” she said.
Last month the Caucus announced that, by the end of the year, it would release a report with a list of solutions to missing Black women and girls across the country.