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.
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.
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.