25 Sep 2016

Today Higher Heights sent the following letter to the 2016 Presidential Candidates highlighting the issues important to Black women entering the 2016 Election

Dear 2016 Presidential Candidates:

In an effort to hear what issues Black women are most concerned with this election cycle, Higher Heights asked Black women across the country (at events and online), what is the most important issue facing Black women and their families. 49 percent stated that economic security was the most pressing issue.

No wonder this was the top response, considering Black women are paid just 60 cents to every dollar paid to a White man.  In addition to economic security, the other top issues included Education Equity (19%), Police Violence (16%) and High Quality Affordable Housing (14%).

According to 2013 U.S. Census data, 71 percent of Black women are in the labor force (69 percent for women overall).  Black women are more likely than women nationally to work in the lowest-paying occupations (like service, health care support, and education) and less likely to work in the higher-paying engineering and tech fields or managerial positions.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the percentage of Black women who are full-time minimum-wage workers is higher than that of any other racial group.

The late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan once said, “What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.”

Higher Heights is asking you, as a candidate for the highest executive job in the country, to pledge to make good on this promise by putting forward a comprehensive economic security strategy and plan at the top of your list of priority issues on which you will focus in the first 100 days of your administration, should you be elected.

Higher Heights is also asking Black women across the country to raise their voices on this issue at the ballot box this November. We know that when you fire up a Black woman she does not go to the polls alone, she brings her house, her block, her church, her sorority, and her water cooler. For us, this election is about harnessing the power of Black women’s votes to ensure that you, as candidates feel compelled to address and support building economically stable communities and the other issues of the greatest importance to Black women.

It really isn’t that complicated.  Black women are voting this November and economic security is the No. 1 issue they care about. The next President of the United States will take office at a time of great opportunity for our nation. In the final weeks of the election, we encourage you to listen and devise a course of action to address the concerns of this very important constituency.   
 
Sincerely,
Higher Heights

08 Sep 2016

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post Black Voices | 10/1/2016

Monday night’s presidential debate might as well be described as an exercise in futility when it comes to what Black women want out of this election. Debate moderator, Lester Holt brought up race in broad terms, asking both candidates Clinton and Trump what they would do to bring racial healing in light of recent slayings by police in Oklahoma and North Carolina. Trump invoked the now unconstitutional “Stop and Frisk” saying he would re-implement it. Clinton made debate history by asking everyone to check their implicit bias that ultimately leads to tragedies like those we’ve seen play out in Ferguson, Baltimore and Charlotte.

But what does this ultimately mean for women of color? How does this translate to Black women getting their needs met come Election Day? Black women are a powerful voting block at the ballot box. In 2008 and 2012, 70 percent of eligible women cast ballots accounting for the highest voter turnout of any racial or gender group, giving Barack Obama the margin he needed to win two presidential terms. Black women’s engagement have demonstrated that they are the building blocks to a winning coalition.

What is lesser well-known are the myriad issues important to Black women voters and how the candidates actively lobbying for our critical votes will address them. These issues include economic dignity, parity in education, legislation that ends police overreach and quality affordable housing.

What we heard Monday night spoke to very little of this. It was encouraging to hear Secretary Clinton open her remarks with pay equity and universal child care, both of which if enacted by our next president would impact Black women’s lives immeasurably. But it is also why #BlackWomenVote is calling on all Black women across the country to help us mobilize more Black women than ever. Regardless of who is elected to hold the highest office in our land, our voting power must go beyond the presidential election and continue all the way down to state and local officials.

In fact, this November, 34 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats and all of the 435 House of Representative seats are up for election. There are Governors races in 12 states and 5,920 of the country’s 7,383 State Legislative seats are up for election. There are municipal elections in 46 of the country’s 100 largest cities including 25 Mayors races.

What Black women want are long term initiatives and strategies able to secure the future of their families, communities and neighborhoods. Black women want investments in education, the roads they drive their children to schools on, safe schools for their children to attend. Black women want economic dignity, equal pay for equal work and an end to discriminatory practices across the board whether that be in employment, education or the environment.

The late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan once said, “What the people want is very simple. They want an American as good as its promise.” The issues important to Black women matter all the time, not just during presidential elections. This November after casting their votes, Black women will work to ensure the return on their voting investment beyond Election Day.

Glynda C. Carr is the Co-Founder of Higher Heights, a national organization building the political power of Black women from the voting booth to elected office.
08 Sep 2016

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post Black Voices | 9/27/2016

Without a doubt, women will play a critical role in the presidential election this year. In 2012, women overall had a higher voting rate (64 percent) than men (60 percent),according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, the most powerful group of voters will be African American women. In both the 2012 and 2008 presidential elections, black women voted at the highest rate of any racial, ethnic or gender group. Four years ago, 74 percent of eligible black women went to the polls.

The next president cannot win without the support of black women. But despite our political power—or because of it—our voting right is under siege. Today, more than 30 states have introduced voter suppression legislation, with laws passing in 14 states and laws pending in 8. For example, in North Carolina, where black women made up more than 23 percent of registered women voters in 2012, a League of Women Voters-led lawsuit successfully resulted in a federal appeals court overturning a controversial law that sought to restrict early voting and eliminate same-day registration. Other voter suppression laws enacted by states make it significantly harder for millions of eligible voters to cast their ballots by requiring that voters present government-issued photo IDs in order to vote, cutting early voting hours, taking away the voting rights of ex-criminal offenders, and requiring proof-of-citizenship documents in order to vote. While there have been several key victories to overturn these challenges in recent months, the struggle for full voting rights remains.

Rather than become discouraged, we must use these voting restrictions as motivation. Today is National Voter Registration Day, a nationwide, nonpartisan effort to register thousands of voters in a single day in communities and online. When millions of women head to the polls in November, they will elect the entire U.S. House of Representatives, decide who will fill one-third of the seats in the U.S. Senate, and determine many gubernatorial races. Nationwide, thousands of races and ballot initiatives will be decided. But nearly a quarter of all eligible Americans are not registered to vote, including disproportionately high numbers of young adults, minorities, low-income Americans and those who have recently moved. These are the groups most at risk of being affected by voting restrictions. With so much at stake for all of us this election year, now is the time to ask our family, friends, neighbors and coworkers if they are registered to vote and if their voter registration is up-to-date.

The stakes in this election are especially high for black women and political candidates that want to earn our votes must address the issues that matter most to us: affordable health care, living wage jobs, college affordability and criminal justice reform.

To me, voting is a key form of taking action on the issues that affect our lives. It was the tragic events on June 17, 2015 that awakened my inner activist. On that day, my mother was sitting in church in Columbia, South Carolina when a shooter walked into a church two hours away and systematically murdered nine people.

The Charleston shootings awakened my commitment to standing up for the rights of others and the underserved. And it awakened my desire to engage in the important conversations on the issues that define our society. That commitment is also what led me to the League of Women Voters.

For nearly 100 years, the League of Women Voters has worked tirelessly, day in and day out, to ensure that all eligible voters—particularly those from traditionally underrepresented or underserved communities—have the opportunity and the information to exercise their right to vote. For many Americans, the League is synonymous with candidate forums, voter guides and election protection. 

There is still work to be done. Regardless of party affiliation, now is not the time for us to rest on our laurels. Now is the time to make our voices heard, to awaken the activist inside each of us, and the most powerful way to do that is to vote. The next president cannot win without black women.

Visit www.VOTE411.org to register to vote and get information on early voting options, voter ID requirements and candidates running for state house office or higher in every state.

Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE, is the Chief Executive Officer of the League of Women Voters of the U.S.