This week thousands of Black women from around the world will meet in New Orleans for a week of entertainment, empowerment, and community. For 25 years, Essence Fest has been a great party with a purpose and I am deeply grateful for the chance to share my story and vision for America on Saturday with thousands of Black women.

I’ve spent my career getting to the bottom of one urgent question: why America’s promise works for some, but others who work just as hard slip through the cracks into disaster. What I’ve found is terrifying: these aren’t cracks families are falling into—they are traps, deliberately laid by the wealthy and well connected. The result? Working families today face a tougher path than my family ever did and that path is even rockier and steeper for Black women.

The numbers tell the story. Black women are more likely to be breadwinners for their families and work more than almost any other set of women workers in America, including white women. Yet, Black women are paid less and they are less likely to be able to afford basic human rights like healthcare, childcare and housing.

This is no accident. It’s the legacy of decades of systemic discrimination. Discrimination in pay.  Discrimination in housing. Discrimination in finance. Discrimination in health care. Pile all that together, then make basic human rights out of reach, and it’s little wonder that many Black women have been held back one generation after another.

The numbers tell the story, but so do the shared experiences of Black women across the country. Early on in my campaign I made a decision: I wasn’t going to spend my time kissing up to ultra-wealthy donors and holding exclusive fundraisers for the rich and powerful. Critics and pundits were skeptical of my decision but I chose to run a campaign that is powered by the people. As a result I’ve meet thousands of people who share stories of their struggle against a rigged system. In Memphis I met Latonya, a young mother working and going to college. She struggled with childcare over and over. She recalled the years in which she was often forced to choose between letting her young son babysit his even younger siblings or staying home from class and giving up her dream to build a future.

Like millions of Black women in America, Latonya faced the tough odds, made do with what she had and came out on top. Today she has an associates degree, a bachelors degree and a masters degree.  But here’s the kicker. Even with all of her diplomas, all of the progress she has made, there is one thing still holding her back: childcare. Her youngest is five years old, and he loves his school, but it costs $400 a month. Latonya said she can’t afford it, and the cost still holds her back in taking on a better job.

How many Black women have this same story? How many Black women are sidelined today because they can’t get decent care for their kids? How many Black women are forced to put their dreams aside because they’re being crushed under a mountain of student debt?

That is wrong, it’s fundamentally un-American and it’s one of the reasons I’m running for President of the United States.

We’re the richest country in the history of the planet. Opportunity shouldn’t be a privilege reserved for the rich. It should be a right for every single person in America — and yes, that  includes Black women.

But it’s not enough to talk about what’s wrong in America — it’s time for us to join together and fight for the kind of future we want to create. And yes, I have a plan for that.

When I’m President we will create an economy, a government, a political system that doesn’t just respect Black women — we will create a nation that invests in Black women. I have lots of plans to make that happen. We will pass a two-cent wealth tax on the richest one-tenth of one percent — families with a net worth of more than $50 million. With just two cents we can pay for universal childcare, up to $50,000 in student loan debt cancellation for 42 million Americans, and free public two-year and four-year college. You can see how much these plans would change your life using our student debt calculator and our universal childcare calculator.

That two cents will also help fund Black entrepreneurs and counter the effects of redlining — it will go a long way toward leveling the playing field for Black women in America.

And today I’m announcing a new commitment to Black women.

On day one of the Warren Administration I will take a set of executive actions to boost wages for women of color and open up new pathways to the leadership positions they deserve. I’ll start by putting tough new rules on companies that contract with the government — who collectively employ a quarter of the American workforce. Companies with a bad track record on equal pay and diversity in management won’t get new contracts — which gives them a big financial incentive to shape up. I will prohibit companies that want to get government contracts from forcing employees to sign away their rights with forced arbitration clauses and non-compete agreements — restrictions that are particularly hurtful to women of color.I will also take executive action to make the senior ranks of the federal government look like America and strengthen enforcement against systemic discrimination. We need to demand that companies and the government properly value the work of Black women — and hold them accountable if they don’t.

These executive actions are just a first step. We need to do much more to make sure that Black and Brown women have a fair shot at opportunity and financial security. That means everything from my housing, child care, and student debt cancellation plans to passing legislation to expand protections for domestic workers and creating stronger enforcement mechanisms that protect the right of all workers – especially the most vulnerable – to call out discrimination when they see it.

It’s time to build an America that recognizes the role that Black women play in their families and in the economy, that fairly values their work, and that delivers equal opportunity for everyone.

The challenges we face are enormous and that is why our plans for change must be big and structural. We’re in an uphill battle, but I’m determined to dream big and fight hard  because as I travel the country there is an appetite for big structural change.

The kind of change that will make this country fairer, more equal, and more just. That’s why I’m in this fight and that is why I’m determined to earn the trust of every single voter, especially Black women because here’s the truth: Black women are trendsetting agents of change. If we’re going to save this country — we need to trust Black women to show us the way. I’m headed to Essence to listen and learn and I can’t wait to see every one of you there.


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