Gretchen's List: Advancing Black Women's Leadership

Dear Friends,

I made a tremendous mistake last week when I sent my June newsletter, which I realized very soon after sending it. I had neglected, entirely, to mention George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and their murders by police officers who were enacting a long tradition of systematized state violence against Black people and communities of color. Over the past week, I have considered at length how I made this error of omission. Though I think there are many small reasons, the bottom line is that it reflects my racial privilege that I did not recognize this failure until after hitting send. I am sorry. While I work very hard to consider my privilege and how it shows up in the work that I do, it's clear there is always, always more work to be done.

I decided to send a second email this month, not just to deliver a much-needed apology, but to send a list centered on uplifting the leadership of Black women. These are organizations and candidates that I have long supported, and I hope you'll join me.

Electing Black Women

Black women have always been the core of the Democratic party, but we still have very far to go in elevating them to the leadership roles. There have only ever been two Black women in the US Senate; there has never been a Black woman governor (though Jennifer Carroll Foy is looking to change that in Virginia next year; you can give to her here -- and trust me, you'll be hearing a lot more about this race!).

WomenCount put together this terrific slate of Black women who are running for office in close races right now. There are, of course, many more Black women running for office, but these are the ones for whom immediate support is especially important. The slate includes Congresswoman Lucy McBath (GA-06), Congresswoman Jackie Gordon (NY-2), and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14), who are in some of the closest congressional races in the country; Yvonne Lewis Holly, who is running to be the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina; and state legislative candidates for North Carolina and Ohio. (There are more state-level races to come, as more states finish their primaries.) You can use the slate to contribute to all or any of them.

Particularly relevant to this moment, I have put together a slate of five progressive Black women running for District Attorney seats across the country: Monique Worrell (9th Circuit, FL), Shalena Cook Jones (Chatham County, GA), Kim Foxx (Cook County, IL), Victoria Burton-Harris (Wayne County, MI), Kim Gardner (St. Louis, MO). Over 95% of prosecutors are white; only 1% are women of color. This must change for our country to see real justice.

One of the most important ways you can elevate Black women's elected leadership is by researching your local candidates for city council, state assembly, school board, etc., and getting them into the pipeline of elected office. Black women also need help getting out of primaries. Everyone loves Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (and they should), but in 2018 she had to beat six white men in the primary to become the Democratic nominee. I really encourage you to find a local-ish race where a Black woman is running and support her. (San Franciscans, meet Rhodesia Ransom for San Jaoquin County Commissioner. Everyone else, if you need help find a Black woman candidate to support, I am happy to help.)

Supporting Movement Building Led by Black Women

  • Black Voters Matter. Led by LaTosha Brown, Black Voters Matter was one of the driving forces behind Senator Doug Jones's victory in 2017. They are working on voter registration and get out the vote, as well as focusing on policy change around voting rights and access. They have both a 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 organization (so, tax deductible or not -- give to the c(4) if you can).

  • Higher Heights. Led by Glynda Carr, Higher Heights deeply invests in the full pipeline of Democratic Black women running for office, as well as mobilizing Black women as voters. They have a 501(c)3, 501(c)4, and a PAC.

  • She the People. Led by the visionary Aimee Allison, She The People works to advance cultural narratives about the power of women of color, continually holding the Democratic party and progressive leaders accountable to this base of support. Check out their organizing for Joe Biden to choose a woman of color as his running mate. They are a 501(c)4 organization.

  • Fair Fight. Led by Stacey Abrams, a once in a generation leader. Stacy has already transformed American politics, and will continue to do so. She is also my pick for Biden's running mate. Fair Fight is her PAC to protect the integrity of the vote in 2020 and beyond.

I am reinvesting and increasing my support of many of these organizations and candidates; they are needed now more than ever.

On a final note, I want to plug The Brown Girl's Guide to Politics, an excellent podcast with Emerge America President A'shanti Gholar. My favorite recent episode is an interview with DeJuana Thompson of ThinkRubix, who is mobilizing the Black vote in Alabama and was also essential to Senator Jones's win.

P.S. Here's your moment of hope for Black women's leadership: Ella Jones Is Elected First Black Mayor of Ferguson