25 Oct 2016

By Jerrilyn Goodwater

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reads, “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Living in New England, we are familiar with the four different seasons; winter, spring, summer & fall. These seasons are marked by specific weather conditions, temperatures and length of the days. We have winter with the colder weather and snow, spring with the blooming flowers, summer brings our warmer weather and fall with the colorful foliage. We realize that people do different things in preparation for each season and also in response to the conditions, pressures, stresses of the season. This is also the case with the seasons in our lives.

Ecclesiastes 3:2 reads, “a time to be born, and a time to die: a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”

In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, the scripture goes on to demonstrate there are many different seasons in one’s life. If we look back at our history, the history of African Americans, there were seasons. There were times that our ancestors did things based upon what was going on in the world and the pressures they experienced. They held marches, sit-ins, demonstrations and boycotted. Through the struggles of our ancestors, we gained ground in our struggle for equality. We gained the right to vote!

As we approach the upcoming election, I want each one to take a look at the season we are in. See what is going on around us and think about how we should best prepare. How can we prepare for a season when our Black men are being shot and killed by the same ones authorized to protect them, when our children are being shot while playing with toy guns? How do we prepare for a season when candidates running for the highest office in our country are spending more time saying derogatory things about women and other minorities than addressing the issues facing our country?

Ecclesiastes 3:7b reads, “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

I propose that we as Black women are in a season that calls on us to NOT be silent anymore. We are in a season in which we ought to make our voices be heard. I propose that we are here for such a time as this. If we are to make a difference, then it must be a season of action, calling us to speak. It must be a season calling for us to speak up and speak out. If we are to be a part of the change, then it is a season calling on us to “Lift Every Voice”. Let’s help lift every voice through the vote!

Black Women had the highest voter turnout in 2008 and 2012 over any other demographic group. The power of the sistah vote is very real and can only happen when we collectively galvanize our power and show up to the polls in force. It’s our season, our time now.

I look forward to seeing you at the polls on Nov. 8.

Jerrilyn Goodwater is the mother of two and the wife of Rev. Issac Goodwater, pastor of Emmanuel Church of God in Christ in Norwich, CT.
25 Oct 2016

By L. Toni Lewis

I see you.

How are you?

I mean really…how are you? Because you know, it’s tough out here. Traumatic.

As we roll up on less than three weeks until the 2016 Presidential Election (aka the battle for the soul of our nation) it’s got me thinking about US — how we as Black women dig in, speak truth to power for ourselves and our families, catch hell for it, and somehow have been resilient over the centuries to keep moving forward through all sorts of drama and trauma. It’s as if generations of Black mothers are constantly looking at this child of a nation through our eyes and saying with tough love, ”I know you can do better.”

So, what of today’s trauma?

When I learned of Venida Browder’s passing, it broke my heart. Then I thought of so many Black women holding down so many spaces — with all of this trauma.

Naming and knowing that this thing we are collectively experiencing is “terror” and “trauma” is key to understand how we are feeling, moving, reacting, and acting. By getting in touch with all of that, we can then choose the way we live.

As a healer-doctor-yogi-activist Black woman, I have made it my life’s work to study how we move through this existence and create more space to not only survive, but to thrive. I love that the many generations of my social-justice-movement family have been so generous in sharing their tools. There are some basic themes to building resilience and power.

Put your mask on first. If you’ve been on a plane, it’s likely you’ve heard the flight attendants offer instructions of how to put on oxygen masks should the passengers need oxygen: Put yours on first before assisting others. How are you going to help folks if you are struggling to breathe?

Gather your team. Call in your fam, peeps, tribe, and counsel. Maybe you have one person, maybe you have many. You know who really gets you, loves you, supports you and listens. Reach out in the way you are accustomed. Consider sharing a meal, meeting up after work or whatever you do to create space to be with and support each other. Ask for help. Be specific about what you need.

Inventory and maintain your personal toolkit for resilience. Now that you’ve gone within, you begin to see what tools you already have and which ones you need. You can go to your team to both ask for help with what you need, and offer ideas on what tools work best for you. (More tools to come in my next post!) Your infrastructure for resilience is right here – and will always be a work in process.

Transforming our resilience into power

A way to leverage our power is to vote with intent up and down that entire ballot. Across the country we are electing many people to offices including judges, attorney generals, and city council members. Sometimes the local elections are decided by few votes. In my Brooklyn, NY neighborhood, Bedford Stuyvesant, our councilman Robert E Cornegy, Jr. won by less than 70 votes in 2013. Check your local results to see the margins of victory. If you think about it, 100 votes is easily a church convening or your block, your friends and their friends’ friends, or a party. We could truly be changing our politics in more ways than we are now. My dream is that we take the power of our resilience and our powerful circles, choose the political landscape where we will fight for our freedom, unapologetically hold anyone asking for the privilege of OUR vote accountable before, during, and after the election, and groom our amazing sisters to hold those seats in the very near future.

We know Black Women drive election results. When we show-up and show-out, for and with each other, we move things for our community.

Together we can do this.

Dr. Luella Toni Lewis is a devoted health equity and social justice strategist. Among other activities, she currently serves on the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Leadership Program, and is Immediate Past Chair of SEIU Healthcare, the arm of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representing 1 million nurses, doctors and healthcare workers throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Dr. Lewis is committed to health justice, especially for those that face the most injustice and inequity.
13 Oct 2016

By Jade Goins

There are five-hundred thousand elected offices in the United States. from school board, local government, fifty Gubernatorial slots, all the way up to the President of The United States of America. Across the country a staggering ,meager twenty-two percent of these offices are held by women. 

As a woman, a U.S. citizen, and a person of color, I deeply aspire to run for office one day.

Before graduating college I wasn’t aware of this political disparity existed. What I did know were that few women ran or held elected office. Yet, was unaware how low the percentage truly was and more importantly, WHY, it was so low. A need to comprehend led me to become a fellow at IGNITE, a national non-partisan organization building a movement of young women prepared to be the next generation of political leaders. I need information and engagement with an organization actively tackling the problem and strategizing around methods for needle moving on this front of the movement. With what I know now, I must be an active part of making a difference. By joining IGNITE I have the opportunity to educate my peers and myself. 

Through IGNITE I am able to spread the news: Black women’s voices matter in our society. But the only way we protect and amplify these voices is through participation in the political process. No matter what type of women you are, beginning at age 18, the power is literally in our hands.This being an election year our responsibility should be more focused on asking ourselves how we can get engaged, who can we help get engaged and what must we be doing to stay informed during this time ? We have the power to choose, who is elected, what policies and laws are enforced and have a say in how they are carried out. For those of us 30 and under, this is truly a milestone and our stamp of independence in society. What could be more empowering than letting your voice be heard during an election year? 

Beyond voting, which you must, you can join a local or national campaign, lead a voter registration drive,or go to the #Blackwomenvote site and make a PLAN with your friends or family for election day. Who we elect nationally and to lead our neighborhoods locally makes a difference in your daily life, whether you realize it or not. 

What’s boss about being a millennial, is we’re inherently more civic minded group than our predecessors. We do nothing if we don’t believe in it. Which it’s why it’s also time to define ourselves as a group of individuals aware of why we should engaged in politics and elections. 

This election year everyone has strong views and opinions about the future of our nation. Now is your moment to do more than sit at home yelling at your television. or tweet for or against the candidate you hate more. Now is your moment to get proactive in this election. Make your voice heard and help others do the same by volunteering on a local campaign, reading and sharing insightful, fact based articles, discussing the debates with your squad, and even attend one of those political events you hear others talking about. See for yourself how easy and important it can be to take some of these steps converting your opinion into a voice.

Jade Goins is from Atlanta, GA., and is a national fellow at IGNITE, inspiring young women to #DeclareYourAmbition.
13 Oct 2016

By Carmen Berkley

The AFL-CIO recently released new data revealing Black women voters are a key demographic to electing the president in November. The data reveals that Black women turn out to vote in higher numbers than any other group of women. In fact, over 90 percent of Black women voted for President Obama in 2008, flocking to the polls at a higher rate than any other group of Americans. Without the strong support of Black women all across the country, not just exclusively in the southern states, President Obama would not be in the Oval Office today. As we set our eyes towards the November election, it is important to remember the role that Black women play in elections, in pushing the agenda and policies of the progressive movement forward, and within the American labor movement.

Black women cannot afford to sit this election out. We need to be involved in every race, from the local level all the way up to the national level. We as Black women need to let our communities know what’s at stake if we let hate and fear win this November.”

With other people of color, Black women form the foundation of the progressive coalition in the United States. And when politicians have a Black woman on their side, evidence shows they can also count on the support of their families and friends – especially if the women belong to a union or an organization. Issues like police reform, the minimum wage, social security and protecting the rights of working people rank high on the list of priorities Black women look for in a candidate. Any candidate running for office, on both the local and national level, who wants the support of Black women must present a clear agenda and concrete plans advancing policies that will improve the lives of not only Black women but their entire communities as well.

I know that Black women are born organizers, I have seen it first-hand. Black women know what our families and communities need to thrive and we vote for candidates who can deliver.

The new AFL-CIO data indicates that Black women participate in leadership in America’s unions at a greater percentage than their actual unionization rates. The benefit of this leadership is spread across Black communities, making these women a force and the foundation for political change.

Black women can and do affect the outcome of elections. If we want a country and a government that pursues family-friendly policies like paid sick leave and affordable healthcare over a government that supports building a wall to prevent immigrants from entering the country, we need to listen to Black women.

Carmen Berkley is the Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Director of the AFL-CIO.

13 Oct 2016

By Jamia Wilson

In spite of arduous barriers to voting access and free expression, our foremothers understood that our vote is our voice. To that end, it’s up to us to honor their hard-fought battle for the franchise by raising our voices to organize before and on Election Day.

African American women voted at greater rates than any other demographic in the last two presidential elections. But despite our unswerving pattern of showing up at the ballot box, there’s a disturbing message perpetuated by some commentators and researchers that we’ll have weaker turnout this time around. The good news is that we can resist that storyline by using social media to influence discourse, share critical information about polling protocol, and define ourselves on our own terms.

While the reality is that power and privilege determines who gets to speak, who makes decisions, and who is listened to in mainstream media, studies also show that social media controls pathways to news. With over 60% of millennials citing Facebook as their main news source, we have an opportunity to take our ownership of the conversation about black women’s stake in this election to new heights.

While the consistent underestimation and undermining of Black women’s power is old hat, it’s also true that we repeatedly defy and out do those expectations again and again. And it’s up to us to leverage our networks to drive the public narrative, center the issues Black women care about, and ensure that our friends, colleagues, and family members mobilize on November 8th.

We know we’re living in a time of profound urgency, warranting serious action because we’re experiencing it daily. From police violence, to health care barriers, to the drain the wage gap has on our livelihoods, we can’t afford to sit this one out.

From presidential candidates battling it out in late night Twitter battles, to legacy media outlets hosting online forums and live fact-checking debate rhetoric, social media is driving the battle for the White House in unprecedented ways. Whether we spread the word on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, text, or even good old fashioned e-mail, we’ll maximize our impact by leveraging the collective power of our voices.

Jamia Wilson is the executive director of Women, Action, and the Media and a Staff Writer for Rookie Magazine. Wilson is a movement builder and storyteller based in New York City.