As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we know that what happens in 2020 will directly influence the global women’s movement. 2020 presents us with an opportunity to not only lift our collective voices as women for our future, but it is also a time to reflect on our remarkable history.
This March, twenty-five years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the United Nations will bring world leaders together to reflect on the state of global gender equality and tackle prevailing issues such as violence against women and protecting women’s reproductive rights. In April, the Census will begin – something we must actively participate in to ensure we are building equitable communities in America. In August, our country will mark the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, which gave women the right to vote. And in November, we will cast ballots in one of the most consequential presidential elections in American history. 2020 is our year.
Our history tells us so much about our future.
My enthusiasm for our collective future is magnified by knowing that Black women, this year more than ever, are not asking for permission to lead.
I’m pleased to pen the inaugural column for ESSENCE Magazine’s series, ‘In Her We Trust.’ Here, my sisters and I look forward to sharing with you the work being done and the work left to do. We will share our concerns and our hopes, our challenges, and our successes as we work to advance equality, justice, and opportunity for Black people.
In my fifth-term as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, this 116th Congress is special to me. It consists of the largest number of elected women to the House of Representatives — 102, and 89 of these women are Members of the Democratic party. Of those 89 Democratic women Members in the House of Representatives, 25 are Black women, the most in history.
There is Power in Collective Movements
The groundbreaking achievements of Black women in America are proof that there is power in collective movements. We have never shied away from standing up against racism and sexism. Our response to inequality has always been to organize and lead our own movements. When Black women and marginalized groups were denied their right to vote in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, we banned together and started our own movement. Nannie Helen Burroughs, Ida B. Wells, Charlotte Forten Grimke, Mary McLeod Bethune led collective suffrage movements to ensure that we were able to exercise our right to vote. In Congress, Shirley Chisolm – a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus (1971) – used her voice to champion women’s rights, daring to be bold. These are just some of the many Black women who have shaped this country for the betterment of all.
Our accomplishments are a reaffirmation of the importance of Black women in politics.
Getting things done.
We have passed legislation that aims to secure full equality for women in our country. The Democratic-led House passed legislation, led by the women of the Congressional Black Caucus, to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work and reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act to tackle domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. We worked to provide robust permanent funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and tackled ever-rising prescription drug prices. We also increased the Earned Income Tax Credit for childcare services, addressed suicide prevention among our young people, and passed legislation to protect our elections from foreign interference. It was the women of the CBC tackled healthcare issues such as the rise of Black maternal mortality rates through the Healthcare Taskforce and mental health through the Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. We did it.
Just nine months away from a presidential election, the nation has finally realized the power of the Black women and we know we will come out to vote – just as we did in previous elections. However, this time we demand equal pay for equal work, the right to govern our bodies and protection for our sons and daughters from the reckless gun violence that so devastatingly impacts all Americans. We will show up for the immigrant families of our community.
We will show up because nothing is more important than leading this nation to its highest ideals – liberty and justice for all.
This moment is critical not only because it’s an election year, but because of all that’s at stake. Our active participation by voting and participating in the 2020 Census will impact two and a half generations. Which means we have to get it right. Getting it right means being on the side of justice, equality, and civil liberties. But it’s more than that. It means taking our actions from tweets and posts to voter registration and census participation. When we get it right, we own the power to change things through political engagement.
Our democracy is at stake in 2020. I trust Black women to protect it as the most loyal, informed, consistent voting bloc in the United States since 1920. We must harness our collective power to ensure our community is spiritually, socially, politically, and economically empowered.