For the sixth year in a row, Essence magazine and the Black Women’s Roundtable have surveyed Black women about the issues that concern them most. Melanie Campbell, convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable and president and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, summarizes the top concerns: “survival, safety and stability.” Black women are concerned about the rise in hate crimes and the persistence of structural racism. In light of the public lynching of George Floyd and the racist rhetoric of the incumbent president, these concerns are unsurprising. According to the Essence poll, 90% of Black women support the Biden-Harris ticket, and 80% give the incumbent president failing grades.
Black women aren’t only concerned; they are also active and activist. It is heartening to see Black women raising their voices in many arenas, not only at the top of the ticket but also with support for Biden and Harris and further down the ballot with state and local races. For example, Yvonne Lewis Holley is running for lieutenant governor of North Carolina. Nobody asked her to run, she said — she just stepped up. She is relying on Black folk all over the country to help her clear this hurdle — imagine a Black woman as second-in-command in a southern state! Some of her support is coming from the Divine Nine — the African-American Greek-letter organizations. While all of the organizations are nonprofit and nonpolitical individual members can be supportive, and the members of her sorority (and mine) have her back.
Political veterans such as Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) face well-financed challengers. They need Black girl magic to counter opponents who have been emboldened by 45’s racist rhetoric to attack these women. It would be one thing if these challengers had records of community service and involvement, but they are Republican props who have been encouraged to challenges these mighty women. The effort, of course, is to mute these strong community advocates and to marginalize Black women. Black girl magic isn’t having it.
So it is exciting to see Black women raising money to support Black women. Star Jones leads a group that has raised six figured for the Biden/Harris ticket. The Collective PAC, founded by Stephanie Brown James and Quentin James, is building Black political power. During this election cycle, they’ve endorsed an exciting group of Black men and women running for office and set up a mechanism where people can donate to these candidates. The PAC has been around since 2016 when it became clear that we must increase Black political power. Higher Heights PAC endorsed Kamala Harris for president and describes itself as “the only national organization providing Black women with a political home exclusively dedicated to harnessing their power to expand Black women’s elected representation and voting participation.” Using the hashtag #Blackwomenvote, they are galvanizing Black women around this election, both at the top of the ticket and down-ballot. They are one of the relatively new, inspiring organizations raising both money and awareness for Black women.
Voting is never the most we can do, but the least. These PACS, activists and organizations remind us that we must not only vote but boost our civic participation. As I write this, just a couple of weeks before November 3, 2020, I am hopeful that the Black women’s vote will increase from its 2008 level when we came out in droves to support President Obama. We have to vote like our lives depend on it because they do. But we can’t just vote; we can encourage others to do the same thing. We can ask our friends and family members if they’ve voted. And if we are well enough, we can volunteer to work the polls.
Black women are magic; we are Black girl magic. Now is the time to work it.
Julianne Malveaux is an economist and author. She can be reached at juliannemalveaux.com.