Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Forum is always an
exciting combination of a policy wonk reunion, a series of issues
forums, and the ever-present parties, receptions, and celebrations.
Some enjoy deriding the gathering as “nothing but a party”,
but in fact it’s an opportunity for networking, information
gathering, strategizing and more. This year, there were several
sessions focused on issues concerning African American women and
girls. There were posters in the Washington Convention Center that
lifted up some of the women who have been killed by so-called law
enforcement officers, women whose names have been swallowed by the
attention focused on the horrible murders of young African American
men. Some of their names – Kendra James, Shelly Frey, Yvette
Smith, Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna and too many others, need to be
invoked as often as we invoke the names of Michael Brown, Philando
Castile, and Laquan McDonald.
Black Women’s Roundtable has worked with Essence Magazine for
the past three years to survey Black women at the Essence Music
Festival and through other sources about our political concerns.
This year’s survey shows that the Democratic thrill is gone for
many African American women. In 2016, “Black women
overwhelmingly (85%) felt that the Democratic Party best represented
their interests”. This year, that number dropped to 74
percent, a drop of 11 percent. Some will say that Democrats aren’t
in such bad shape – three-quarters of African American women
still think the Democratic Party represents their interests. But I
don’t think the Democratic Party can afford to experience an 11
percent drop among their most loyal voters.
should not be licking their chops at the drop in Black women’s
support for Democrats, since they didn’t pick up support. In
the Essence survey, only 1 percent of Black women felt the Republican
Party had their best interests. Instead, the percentage of women who
felt that neither party represented Black women grew to 21 percent.
One in five black women simply trust neither party.
but two percent of the women surveyed were voters. Seventy percent
were active in their communities, with more than half active in their
churches and in other organizations. Most gave 45 a failing grade
for his performance in office. Only 3 percent gave him either a C or
a B grade – he did not receive any A grades from the Black
Republicans attempt to fast track the foolishness of yet another
attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act, preserving that
legislation was the most important issue priority for African
American women. It was more important than equal pay, childcare,
redistricting, and reproductive rights. Black women’s response
reflects the adage that if you don’t have health, you don’t
have anything. The next most important issues for Black women were a
living wage, quality public education, the rise in hate crimes, and
criminal justice reform.
in six of the women surveyed have considered running for public
office, primarily at the local level. That’s good news –
we need more committed activists “out there” and working
for the people. Indeed, during a recent visit to Greenville, South
Carolina, I learned that the women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority,
Inc., had their first-ever summit to encourage Black women to run for
public office. The Democratic Party may want to take note and
consider sponsoring workshops like this all over the country.
need to take a careful look at the Black Women’s
Roundtable/Essence survey, and try to figure out why they are losing
their most loyal supporters. They’ve spent millions trying to
woo the “working class white men” who look askance at
them, but little or nothing trying to work with the folks who have
been loyal to them, and because of that, they are losing that
loyalty. With 2018 elections fast approaching, Democrats have work
to do. The Democratic thrill is fading away for too many African
American women. Is the party willing to court us, or are they
willing to lose us to third parties or to independent status? The
2018 elections may hang in the balance.