Jahana Hayes (Screen shot courtesy of PBS)
Jahana Hayes (Screen shot courtesy of PBS)

Black women made history during the midterms, breaking down barriers to win elections across the country.

But one District-based group — In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Agenda — said the election should also be a cautionary tale for those who take Black women and their votes for granted.

“We saw a number of first for Black women candidates — Leticia James will be the first Black woman to serve as attorney general in New York, said Marcela Howell, the founder and executive director of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, a national reproductive justice organization focused on lifting up the voices of Black women at the national and regional levels.

Newcomers Lauren Underwood and Juliana Stratton from Illinois and Jahana Haynes from Connecticut and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts, will be the first Black women to represent their states in Congress and Ilhan Omar counts as the first Muslim refugee elected to the House.

“Black women made history breaking down barriers to win elections across the country,” Howell said. “The strength of their wins is the direct result of high turnout by Black women — and men — at the polls. Black women’s leadership and GOTV efforts led Black women candidates to victory. And the Black women we elected will lead the country on a new path toward equality and justice for all.”

The turnout was a result of efforts like the  #IAMAVOTER campaign, dedicated to registering, educating and mobilizing our voters, Howell said.

“Through our #IAMAVOTER, the organization was able to engage voters,” she said.”With the celebrations that come from these victories, we must also acknowledge the increased efforts to prevent Black women and men from voting.

“We witnessed states across the country purging voters of color from the rolls — especially Black voters,” Howell said. “We saw the results of voter suppression in races across the nation, setting up barriers to voting by moving polling places out of town, enacting laws specifically aimed at Native Americans, throwing out absentee votes from minority counties.”

Howell noted that everyone deserves to have their vote counted and all must reject any attempts by politicians to turn the clock backward.

“With this election behind us, we are determined to continue to fight,” she said. “We will not rest until our country lives up to the constitutional promise of liberty and justice for all. Black women are leading the way — and we invite you all to follow.”

Another D.C.-based group, Think Rubix, which created the “Woke Vote” organizing model, said after an election that saw gains for Democrats and progressives, political strategists are contemplating ways to build a stronger base in going forward.

“This election has allowed us to do something rare in a political climate defined by xenophobic rhetoric and consistent rollbacks of progressive policies,” Think Rubix founders said in a news release this week. “With historic wins from Ayanna Pressley to Ilhan Omar, to a game-changing number of progressive women and women of color turning the House blue, to a possible runoff in Georgia governor’s race for Stacey Abrams to the restoration of voting rights to the formerly-incarcerated in Florida — we have reached a tipping point. When we look back on historic and critical wins, we must remember what it took and we must acknowledge who it took to make them.

“Think Rubix and other Black-led organizations paved the road for Black-focused campaigning efforts, but as we’ve seen, campaigns cannot simply rely on the charity of Black-led organizations,” the group said. “They must invest in Black voters and other voters of color, long-term and from the roots up.”

This election, Black-led organizations such as Think Rubix pushed efforts to overcome voter suppression and build Black political power. Think Rubix officials said the organization knocked on 200,000 doors, made one million calls and talked to tens of thousands of voters across the deep South.

It is a primary reason why the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition passed Amendment 4, the group said.

“That’s how we got Jahana Hayes and Lauren Underwood elected,” the organization’s statement read. “That’s how we got record-high voter turnout in states like Georgia. Investing in the new American majority and improving parity in dollars spent to engage Obama-Trump voters versus nonvoters and multicultural voters centering African Americans is the true way forward for the party.

“Any money the party spends in the future should be unencumbered, controlled by multicultural leadership in independent structures to avoid a pervasive colonizing mindset that continues to thwart the potential for big gains as it did in Florida and Georgia,” the group said.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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