It’s not unusual to find Black women who, despite the odds, make us proud. The year 2018 was no different. There were many who did just that.
Black women in politics opened many new doors, ran in many areas across the country, who won and helped others win. We’ve come a long way since Rep. Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to Congress.
Before I go to those who got credit for winning, I’ll say this: I use the phrase “credit for winning” because, under fair conditions, I have no doubt that Stacey Abrams would have won. I faced similar circumstances when I ran for Congress and was told I lost the election with less than one percent of the vote. When I ride through towns in Louisiana now, I haven’t found anyone who claimed not to have voted for me!
If you drove through Georgia today, I’m sure you’d find very few people who would admit to not voting for Stacey Abrams! The few who didn’t vote for her didn’t do so for lack of qualifications. She ran against someone who was a candidate and the referee! She was the best-qualified candidate in the race. No matter what, she ran a great race, made us proud, and became the first Black woman nominee for governor of any state. In our hearts, she did win. She ran an incredible campaign and she is to be commended for fighting all the way to the end — despite one of the worst cases of voter suppression.
In other national office races, Black women turned electoral power into political power where they did get credit for the victory. One of the new congresswomen is Lucy McBath, who lost her son, Jordan, to gun violence. She decided to take on gun control and she won! She did it from Georgia — a southern state. That’s something most Democrats have been afraid to do.
Lucy sent a powerful message to those afraid to take on the gun lobby when she said after her victory: “This win is just the beginning. … We’ve sent a strong message to the entire country. Absolutely nothing — no politician and no special interest — is more powerful than a mother on a mission.”
She made her declaration with the guts of Shirley Chisholm, and I believe she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in Washington.
Lauren Underwood, a nurse, with a pre-existing condition has a focus on health, was elected in Illinois and not just in a Black district. She won in a predominantly White and 86 percent Republican district! There again, many have thought that would be impossible — and maybe it was until she won! Her Republican Congressman had voted against the Affordable Care Act. That’s when she said, “The game is on.” She ran and she won what at one time was Republican Dennis Hastert’s seat!
Ayanna Pressley defeated a 10-term Democrat in Massachusetts, making her the first Black woman to serve in Congress from her state!
Johana Hayes, a Teacher of the Year, won a congressional seat against an incumbent, making her the first Black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress.
I pray that Democratic leaders have taken note of this election, and also see the huge number of Black women mayors of many key cities. Black women have been bringing victories to the Party for a very long time with our very strong vote for Democrats. Add the power of all other women of color and we can continue to win despite the slow rate at which many White women learn who votes and serves in their best interest, too.
Williams is national president of the National Congress of Black Women.