No one can speak on Black women issues like Black women can speak for ourselves.
This truth was on full display at the virtual 2020 Essence Festival of Culture’s Wealth & Power stage during the Black Women’s Townhall, presented in partnership with Coca-Cola.
Moderated by Eboni K. Williams, host and executive producer of Revolt Black News, and featuring Kimberlé Crenshaw, attorney, civil rights advocate, co-founder of the African American Policy Forum and the creator of #SayHerName; Aida Rodriguez, comedian, actress, and advocate; and Pamela Stewart, senior vice president of sales at Coca-Cola and the chairwoman of the GLAAD board of directors, the panel discussion ranged from health care to state-sanctioned violence, to reproductive injustices and all the ways in which economic disparities and inequities burden Black women.
“The big picture is the wealth gap between Black and Brown women, with respect to white women…the median wealth that Black women have is $100,” Crenshaw explains. “Wealth is what determines where you live, what kind of education you can afford for your kids, what kind of health care you can afford for yourself, for your parents, for your children. Wealth is the most significant indicator of well-being…and Black and Brown women have almost zero wealth.
“That is where we really need to be spending a lot of our energy,” Crenshaw continues, “for agenda setting, for politics, and we just don’t talk about it nearly enough.”
While reproductive justice advocates have recently joined calls to defund the police, naming that the ability to raise Black children in peace without the threat of state violence being enacted upon them is a human rights issue, the panel also discussed how state violence against Black women’s bodies is not new.
Shifting the conversation to health care, Williams asked, “How do we show up to advocate for ourselves when it comes to health care parity and equity as Black women?”
All of the panelists raised the fact that issues facing Black women are systemic and varied—and that we have to be our own strongest advocates. From the sterilization of Black women from Puerto Rico to Mississippi, to doctors not listening to what we know about our own bodies, we have long faced discrimination and violence within the health care system.
As the conversation turned to the police violence that Black women suffer—not as peripheral victims, but as direct victims, the panelists also discussed the critical need for #SayHerName as an intervention. Panelists also discussed the need for the Democratic Party to place Black women at the center, not just as “clean up women,” but as leaders, or face the collapse of the United States.
Check out the videos above for more from the Black Women’s Townhall.
To see more of everything else you missed from the first-ever virtual ESSENCE Festival of Culture, visit essence.com and essencestudios.com