Hundreds of Black women from across the country gathered last weekend in Atlanta at the inaugural Power Rising Summit to create and strategize around a new political and economic agenda centered on the needs, hopes, and aspirations of Black women.
Organized by a powerhouse collection of Black women leaders—including Leah Daughtry, former Chief Executive Officer of the Democratic National Convention Committee in 2008 and 2016; LaToia Jones, co-founder of Black and Engaged; Minyon Moore, a founder of Women Building for the Future; Tamika Mallory, national co-chair of the Women’s March; Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and more—the Power Rising Summit was an intentional space for Black women to assert their priorities for themselves and their communities.
The idea for the Summit came out of a retreat organized by the women members of the Congressional Black Caucus after the 2016 presidential election. Though Black women’s preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, who earned 94 percent of the Black women’s vote, did not win that election, co-conveners of the Summit, citing the special election in Alabama and recent elections in Virginia and New Jersey, reminded participants of Black women’s political power as well as their economic and cultural power, noting that Black women own more than 1.5 million businesses in the US and are the largest users of social media. The goal: leverage that influence “to ensure equity, opportunity, and representation” for Black women and Black communities.
The Summit was organized around five pillars of activism and engagement: (1) Business & Economic Empowerment; (2) Culture, Community, and Society; (3) Education, Technology, and Innovation; (4) Health & Wellness; and (5) Political Empowerment. Attendees, including staff from the Feminist Majority Foundation, heard from keynote speakers that included Congresswomen Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Robin Kelly (D-IL), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY), together the co-chairs and co-founders of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls; black feminist professor Brittany Cooper; transgender rights activist Elle Hearns; political commentator Angela Rye; and legendary actress Cicely Tyson.
Through workshop sessions, the co-conveners of the Summit gathered toplines for the Black women’s agenda, which included action, among other things, to support Black women-owned businesses, protect Medicare and Medicaid, and reform the criminal justice system. Participants also discussed maternal and reproductive health, violence against Black women and girls, advocacy for Black undocumented women, support for Black women and tech, civic engagement, and digital organizing.
Summit co-convener Star Jones also challenged participants to create their own personal agendas: to register 5 new Black women voters, support 5 Black women candidates, support 5 Black women-owned businesses, give 5 hours per month to community service, mentor and learn from 5 Black women, and dedicate 5 hours per week to self-care.
Apart from developing an agenda, the Power Rising Summit provided a space for joy, wellness, and transformation. It was a restorative space just as much as it was a space to design collective and individual action. As Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) stated while delivering remarks in a workshop session, “The story of this weekend is going to be Black women doing what we want to do just because we feel like it.”