Historic Congressional Caucus for Black Women, Girls Created

The caucus will prioritize the needs of Black women and girls in policy making.

Inspired by the advocacy of the #SheWoke Committee, three women in congress created The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls – the first-ever caucus dedicated to removing barriers and disparities experienced by Black women.

U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) formed the caucus to make Black women and girls a priority in policy debates.

Sharon Cooper is one of the seven founding members of the #SheWoke Committee, a grassroots organization of activists who advocate for Black women’s rights. “Woke” refers to being aware and in the know. Cooper is also the sister of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old Black woman who was found dead in a Waller County, Texas jail cell three days after being pulled over.

“In January, we launched a petition asking our national leaders to create a space that prioritizes Black women and girls, and here we are in March with a platform that will serve as a vehicle towards change,” she said in a statement.

Rep. Watson Coleman stated the caucus will “speak up” for Black women, who deserve a voice in a policy making that addresses systemic challenges.

“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,” she said in a press release distributed last week.

Related Story: State Trooper Who Arrested Sandra Bland Fired 

Out of the more than 430 registered congressional caucuses and member organizations, no group on Capitol Hill has sought to bring attention to the needs of Black women and girls in creating policies. For example, Black Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites, and 1 in 100 Black women are in prison. And, Black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or ethnicity.

Related Story: School Cop Fired Following Violent Arrest of Black Student

The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls intends to 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.

“Black women and girls are disproportionately affected by myriad socioeconomic issues that diminish their quality of life and threaten the wellbeing of their families and communities,” said Rep. Kelly.

Rep. Clark offered the caucus will ensure the “infrastructure of inclusion” incorporates the needs of Black women.

“In many ways, 23.5 million Black women and girls are consistently left out of the national discourse on a variety of policies that will affect their lives,” stated Rep. Clarke. “I am proud to stand with my colleagues at the inception of this caucus to be a vehicle for change and look forward to the great work that we will do.”

Cooper said the #SheWoke Committee will support the efforts of the caucus.

“We lift up all the Black women and girls who have lost their lives without press coverage, all the Black women and girls who are fighting for our collective liberation, and the chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, who responded in the way all elected officials should: with urgency,” she said.

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  • This is awesome news! I am sure many people who cannot identity with the challenges so many black women face will not see how significant this is. As a black woman who serves as a higher education administrator, it brings me joy to see issues concerning black women being discussed on a national level. It is alarming that black women carry the highest amount of stress that any other group of people in this country. We don’t have the privilege of being viewed as multi dimensional beings. Maybe this initiative will start to create dialogues that help create more support for our issues.

  • In this 30 year age of Neo-Liberals and Neo-Conservatives, of which the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) aligned with the Clinton inspired Neo-Liberalism, I have had some difficulty identifying what the CBC has achieved for the Black Community. We have reached the tipping point on several key indicators of the “failure to thrive” within Black communities for women, men and children. The apparent inability of the CBC to achieve anything significant positive on behalf of Black communities begs the question of the real potential of a new caucus for Black women and girls that would contribute to meaningful and sustainable improvements in the quality of life for Black women and girls. What I have witnessed is the rise of grassroots community activist groups such as Black Lives Matter, Black Girl Power, and many other in response to significant systems failures in education, criminal processing, access to health care affordable housing and safe environments, employment opportunities and more. So I am curious about what we really can expect from this caucus that will have a broad based benefit Black women and girls. Lofty statements about obvious needs that should not exist in a just society have not been addressed by such government coalitions to date, especially in the context of all time low performance of Congress.

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