Black women don’t need anyone to give us a seat at the table, we built the table. But now, more than ever, we need to make our agenda known, demand that our agenda be acknowledged and respected and start to really toss around our voting power in order to have representatives that actually represent us, our values and the things we want.
This was one of the messages driven home at the Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. townhall on the importance of voting, and the mid-term elections.
The panel was spilt between sworn progressives and conservatives and included CNN Strategist & Political Commentator Symone D. Sanders, CNN Political Commentator and ABC News Political Contributer Tara Setmayer, Former Lt. Gov. of Maryland Michael Steele and Cornell Belcher, the president of Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies.
However despite the differences in traditional party lines (make no mistake, there was no Trump supporter in this crowd), they all agreed on one thing. Black people, particularly Black women are a very powerful group in this country, but we need to decidedly bring our agenda, what we want to the table and accept nothing less.
“Politicians do what they’re made to do. Make demands of the democrat party, don’t continue to give the democrat party all your votes without putting forth your agenda to say, ‘I want this or you don’t get my vote.,” Belcher said. “Black women are a very powerful group in this country. Do not let them take your power for granted.”
“We are not making a demand of either party in the way that other groups make a demand on either party,” Belcher added.
“I say this as a voting member of the Democratic National Committee, Black women, you built the table. You do not need anyone to give you a seat at the table,” Sanders agreed. “If you do not like what is happening in the party where you continuously give your dollars and your time and your votes, don’t give them your money. Give your money to representatives that you care about. Demand a meeting and when they don’t do what you say, withhold your vote, you voice and your support.”
“But we have not been willing to do that,” Sanders continued. “I think we, the women in this room, need to tell them what it is we want because if we wait for the candidates to dictate to you what they would like it may not line up with what’s best for our community, we have to be extremely vocal about what it is specifically that we want and then repeat it over and over and over again.”
Or, as Setmayer eloquently put it, “Social repetition creates reality, Black women, and anyone who hopes to exact change needs to “continue to stay consistent on your message.”
Some of the issues the panel identified as key issues included universal health care, the wealth cap, the criminal justice system and the high incarceration rate of Black men, the school to prison pipeline, gun violence and more.
And of course, when we talk about black women, especially this year, it’s the fire that has been lit under some to not only cast their vote, but to run for office.
“There’s an upside to what’s going on in our political environment, it’s the fact that more and more people are paying attention and more and more people are saying I don’t have to have a perfect record, I don’t have to have all the traditional political resumes,” Setmayer said. “I see something wrong, I’m going to do something in my own community, even if it’s running for school board… it doesn’t matter. Anyone can do it.”
“Black women have been at the forefront of that, because we’ve been the heads of our communities and households for so long, why not be the heads of our local government, or President of the United States. It starts now,” she added. “I think now more than ever you can see how everybody can make a difference. Your political power is your currency. You don’t have to have millions of dollars in the bank, you don’t have to have a party apparatus behind of you. All it takes is connecting with people, having a message and being honest about it.”