This year’s Black History Month was not without its share of drama and controversy. After a series of blackface scandals, the arrest of Jussie Smollett for allegedly faking a hate crime and Donald Trump’s usual antics, it felt like we should probably just cancel the month altogether and try again next year. But as usual, Black women remained resilient, focused and did amazing things to create a better world. To use a sports metaphor, we were the real MVPs (Most Valuable Players) of Black History Month and delivered all kinds of exciting wins!
I spent the last weekend of the month at the second annual convening of Power Rising—the summit that gathers Black women and girls from across geographies, backgrounds, age, sexuality, gender identity, religion and socio-economic status to connect around issues related to health and wellness, politics, education, economic empowerment and culture and community. This year’s gathering was in New Orleans and coincided with the city’s Mardi Gras celebrations, giving us an exciting opportunity to revel in the rich culture, heritage, and diversity of Black communities. It was a treat to celebrate our collective #BlackGirlMagic during such a festive, vibrant time in this majority Black city.
Being in community with nearly 1,000 other Black women was powerful and transformative. And there are too many inspiring and insightful experiences to name individually. But here’s a look at my top 3 reflections:
- Everyone loves Stacey: Our favorite sister from Georgia, former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, was on a panel moderated by author, professor and political commentator Melissa Harris-Perry, called “Surviving and Thriving.” The session addressed everything from politics and activism, our relationships with Black men and self-care. Stacey was greeted with a standing ovation and thunderous applause and the session ended with chants of “Run, Stacey, run!” Black women not only love and support Stacey, we want her to run for office in 2020 and we’re ready to give up some cash for her. When Harris-Perry asked for folks to stand if they had their checkbooks ready to support a potential Abrams run for Senate, every single person stood up. We’re ready when you are, Stacey!
- Voter protection is a serious, ongoing concern going into the 2020 elections: In a workshop called, “The Fight Continues: Voting Rights and Voter Suppression,” we heard all about the laws and tactics being implemented to suppress Black voting rights. As Black women continue to exercise our voting power and play a major role in electing progressive candidates, certain lawmakers are doing all they can to stop us from participating in the political process. That’s why it’s critically important we do all we can to protect our right to access the vote. Here’s a list of 5 things you can do to protect your voting rights. But, Black women are on the case. On Tuesday, February 26, Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), which seeks to ensure that states with a history of voter discrimination are required to clear any election changes (voter ID laws, polling place closures, etc.) with the Justice Department. You can read more about that here.
- Black women’s history is being made every day and that’s something to celebrate: One of the most remarkable things about Power Rising was seeing all of our sheroes in one place. Seven black women from the Congressional Black Caucus were present to introduce Senator Kamala Harris, a Black woman currently running for president. One of those women, Rep. Jahana Hayes, is the first Black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, and Minyon Moore conducted a talk about their new book, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics, and their extraordinary careers in politics. Between them they have served in the White House, successfully led the fight for a national holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., chaired the Democratic National Convention and played a major role in shaping the goals and objectives of the Democratic Party. These are certainly historic accomplishments. And there are also all the many ways each of us is making history every day—as trailblazers in our respective careers, communities, churches, families and more!
Black History Month may have gotten off to a rocky start, but it was buoyed by the excellence of Black women who can’t help but shine all the time. And we are riding that momentum right into Women’s History Month, where we get another 30 days to celebrate our magic!