The era of the Black woman is upon us (and so are her critics). Across movements, industries, and sectors where women of color have been historically underrepresented, a growing number of women have been daring to leverage their platforms as mechanisms for redefining womanhood. In particular, the number of women elected to federal office has increased, with the 116th Congress having the highest percentage of women in U.S. history. This victory has not come without its share of resistance, as many in the country have taken to social media to share their disapproval of this new wave of politics.
President Trump has been a committed and loyal critic of women, often referring to prominent figures as “nasty.” Notable “nasty” women include Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, among others.
On both local and federal levels, more women of color have become visible in the political arena and are proving their grit while in pursuit of justice. Unique to many cities across the country, D.C. is represented by a number of female leaders of color, from Mayor Bowser to Congresswoman Norton. This year, a new contender has entered the race to represent Ward 4 in the D.C. Council. Janeese Lewis George, a third-generation Washingtonian and Ward 4 native, announced her candidacy for the seat this August, challenging the current incumbent Brandon T. Todd (D). Despite the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community, Lewis George has chosen to embody the spirit of her late role model, Shirley Chisolm, and bring her own folding chair to the political table.
The Howard Law graduate is looking to shake up the city with progressive policy reform and create opportunities that elevate and empower women. “We’re at a place where there has to be a strong independent voice, specifically a strong independent woman’s voice, who is ‘unbought and unbossed’ and willing to fight for families and women in this city,” says Lewis George. “There is an absolute urgency in our city for a young, progressive woman of color to have a voice on our council.”
Surely, women of color have proven to be paramount in the evolution of America and the trajectory of political leadership. Amid the rise of movements like She the People, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo, Democratic presidential candidates like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have also made it a point to designate women of color as the drivers of their campaigns.
Experts like Candice Nelson, academic director of the Campaign Management Institute at American University, have noted that “having people of color on staff for communications is key to a campaign’s success.” Kirsten Allen, National Deputy Press Secretary and African American Media Director for Kamala Harris, describes her experiences engaging with diverse communities in her positions as “transformative.” According to Allen, Black outreach from Black staffers both prompts natural connections and encourages Black voters to get more involved. “Participating in democracy is paramount to everything that this nation purports itself to be,” Allen notes. “The government has failed us, but when it operates at its optimal level, it can level the playing field and improve services like education, public safety, health, [and] security.”
Indeed, Black women have been key proponents in trumping the iron fist of America, a testament to the 94 percent of Black women who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
Women across the country, like Janesse Lewis George, are claiming their seats and demanding that their voices and concerns become priorities in legislation. “The more women see other women in leadership stepping out on courage — and see real working women doing that,” Lewis George says, “other women will be encouraged to do the same.” Perhaps this progressive pursuit of change is cause to be inducted into the “nasty” girl hall of fame.
Maybe it is time to make America great again, but this time let’s make it “nasty!”