The needs and issues concerning African-American women are often overlooked by politicians, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress entitled “The State of African-American Women in the United States.” But black women can fight for their rights and push for their concerns to be heard.
“Black women have become one of the most important voting blocs in the U.S. Having had the greatest turnout number across race, ethnicity and gender in the 2008 presidential election and helping to make history in the 2012 presidential election as black turnout surpassed the rate of white turnout for the first time on record,” Janaye Ingram, National Action Network’s (NAN) national executive director, tells MadameNoire Business. “As we look to the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 presidential elections, black women can again play a critical role in ensuring that our voices are heard and our issues are part of the conversation by using the power of our vote.”
Here are 11 ways black women can positively affect political change
“Make sure that we are registered to vote and then that we encourage our family members and friends to do the same,” says NAN’s Janaye Ingram, who, in her 30s, is leading one of the largest civil rights organizations in the country. This “is an important and necessary first step in being part of the political process,” she continues.
“In many states, there are new laws affecting voter participation. Registered voters need to familiarize themselves with the new laws and make sure that they know how to continue to participate in compliance with them. In addition to knowing the laws in your state, women need to identify the issues that are affecting them and their communities,” explains NAN’s Janaye Ingram, who works very closely with the White House on behalf of the civil rights.
“There are a wealth of issues that will be decided in any election. Knowing the positions and proposed solutions of any candidate is important in deciding which candidate is more deserving of your vote. Just remember, good is not the enemy of perfect. You might not find a candidate who aligns with you on every issue, but the key is to find the candidate who aligns with you on the most important issues affecting you.”
Don’t just register, you have to participate in the process. “Once you have registered, you know the laws regarding your participation and you have identified which candidate(s) you will vote for, the most crucial part of the process is going to the polls and casting a ballot,” explains Ingram.
The more black women who vote, the stronger the bloc. “Urge your female circle of family and friends to vote. “Each one of us can encourage and empower other voters to participate in the electoral process. It happens through each step of engagement, but we should be assisting others in our family and other circles to obtain the information they need to be active and engaged voters as well,” says Ingram.
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
Take the time to participate in peaceful protests or boycotts. There are some times that it will be necessary to take to the streets or withhold your business in order to really be heard. Make sure you know who the event’s organizer’s are and that you agree with the philosophy before picking up the picket sign.
Get the men in your life on board. Make them understand the various concerns and perspectives involved with the issue. And encourage them to show their support by voting, getting involved in events with you, donating money to your causes and spreading the word to their friends.
There are strength in numbers. Join organization that are promoting your causes. But don’t only attend meetings. Take in active role by helping to organize events, attract new members, and volunteer your ideas. It’s also a good idea to invite politicians to come meet and speak with the group. Go directly to the source of change!
PUT IT IN WRITING
If you want your representative to vote a certain way or disagree with an action she has taken, call or write to their office. Make sure the message is professional, succinct and that it gets your message across.
RUN FOR OFFICE
Don’t like the way things are being done, so them how to do it. Make a run for office in your community.
“There are a small number of women who run for political office and a smaller number are women of color. We need more women of color to run for office so we can have a seat at the table where important policy decisions are made,” Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine tells us. Devine is the first African-American female to serve on Columbia, SC’s City Council and the first African-American to be elected at-large.
SUPPORT CANDIDATES THAT SUPPORT OUR ISSUES
Back those who have a history of pushing the concerns of black women. “Even if we don’t run for office, we need to be able to influence policy. The best way to do that is to support candidates that support our issues. The more people in office that care about issues that are important to us, helps shape good policy around those issues,” says Councilwoman Devine
Make your voice heard. “Make sure you are speaking out on issues on all levels. From your school board members, county and city council, all the way to national offices, make sure you are communicating with your elected officials. When you see things that are not right, speak up about it. And when you see that they don’t know enough about an issue that you have a particular expertise on, offer to educate them,” says Councilwoman Devine, who is also a founding partner in the law firm of Jabber & Isaac, PA.