Three members of Congress, House members Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Robin Kelly (IL-02) and Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) announced today the formation of a Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. All three are Democrats, but then, you could have guessed that. The aim? Nothing less than to give Black women and the girls that become them a “seat at the table” in discussing policies that impact them, and a hard look at the opportunities and barriers that can determine their future. There are 23.5 million Black women and girls in America.
Incredibly, despite 430 registered congressional caucuses and Member organization – seriously, here’s a list – no group on Capitol Hill has organized this way to make Black women and girls a priority in the kind of policy debates that go on in Congress. The congresswomen hope the new group will fill that gap and provide the same attention for women that President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative has given to Black men and boys. The Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys formed three years ago and in their first hearing in 2013 heard from the father of Trayvon Martin.
This is what Rep. Watson Coleman had to say to Blue Jersey today:
“This Caucus seeks to dismantle barriers African American women face, and give them the praise they deserve for the amazing things they’ve accomplished despite those barriers. It’s incredibly personal to me, as the only Black woman representing New Jersey, Delaware or Pennsylvania. This caucus has the potential to positively impact Black women of every age, here in New Jersey and across the country, and I’m excited about what we will accomplish.”
Watson Coleman discusses the challenges she sees Black women having to overcome –
“From barriers in education, to a gender based pay gap that widens with race, to disparities in both diagnoses and outcomes for many diseases, our society forces Black women to clear many hurdles faced by no other group, and asks them to do it with little assistance. Black women deserve a voice in a policy making process that frequently minimizes, or altogether ignores the systemic challenges they face. This caucus will speak up for them.”
The Caucus was inspired by the #SheWoke Committee, a collective of seven national women leaders with a shared vision of advocacy, equity, and sisterhood. One of the women is Sharon Cooper, the biological sister of Sandra Bland. In January, she and the other women in #SheWoke launched a petition asking national leaders to create something that prioritizes Black women and girls. The Caucus announced today was part of the answer.