Congresswomen Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) launched the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls yesterday, the first caucus to focus specifically on ways to combat discrimination and reduce disparities faced by Black women.
“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,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman. “Black women deserve a voice in a policy making process that frequently minimizes, or altogether ignores the systemic challenges they face. This caucus will speak up for them.”
There are currently over 430 registered congressional caucuses and Member organizations, but until yesterday, not one focused on the needs of Black women and girls. The Congresswomen intend for the newly created Caucus on Black Women and Girls to provide a forum for these voices to be heard on national policy issues.
“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,” explained Congresswoman Clarke. “This caucus will be purposed to ensure that the infrastructure of inclusion fully incorporates the varied and unique needs of Black women. Our experiences must and will inform the direction we take as a nation and we can no longer afford to be excluded from important conversations.”
Notably, the House of Representatives has had a Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys since 2013. That caucus was formed after the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
According to the Congresswomen, the new Caucus on Black Women and Girls was inspired by the #SheWoke Committee, a collective of seven black women leaders – including Sharon Cooper, the sister of Sandra Bland – who created a petition in January calling on members of the House of Representatives to create policy, in conjunction with Black women and girls, that would prioritize Black women’s experiences and work to end social and economic disparities.
“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,” said Cooper of the new caucus.
Media Resources: Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman Press Release 3/22/16; MoveOn.org; Feminist Newswire 12/22/15; Feminist Majority Foundation Blog 7/8/13