5 Unforgettable Moments From Black Female Politicians in 2019
It’s been an incredible year for Black women in politics. Here are the highlights.
What we have always known to be true is that Black women are not only the backbone of the Democratic Party, but the soul of this nation. Black women stand up when others sit down, they speak out when others choose to be silent, and they tell the truth even and especially when it is uncomfortable to hear.
What we also know is that being a Black woman and a politician in a country that has consistently disrespected every aspect of your being takes a special type of resilience and power. While 2019 surely had more than five unforgettable moments from Black women politicians, these particular snapshots will indeed go down as amongst the most memorable.
- Senator Kamala Harris announces her bid for the presidency: On January 21, Kamala Harris, only the second Black woman to serve in the United States Senate, became the third Black woman in the history of the United States to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Harris announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is also within the same calendar week that Representative Shirley Chisholm had announced her candidacy 47 years prior. She made her slogan: Kamala for the People and said this of her candidacy: “Nobody is living their life through the lens of one issue. And I think what people want is leadership that sees them through the complexity of their lives and pays equal attention to their needs. Let’s not put people in a box.” Sadly, after running a vigorous campaign and fending off an unprecedented amount of bot attacks, Harris suspended her campaign on December 3.
- Stacey Abrams delivers Democratic response to the State Of The Union: On February 5, rising political star Stacey Abrams became the first Black woman to deliver the response to the State of the Union in its 53-year history. Abrams was also the first Black woman to be nominated by a major party for governor when she ran in Georgia but narrowly lost due to voter suppression. In her response to Donald Trump’s stream of consciousness address to the nation — no one would pretend it was a speech — Abrams recounted her upbringing and the values of faith, service, and responsibility that her parents instilled in her. She also spoke passionately about what she believes, and many people understand as the next real battle of our democracy — voter suppression. “We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a ‘power grab.’ Americans understand that these are the values our brave men and women in uniform and our veterans risk their lives to defend. The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders — not where politicians pick their voters.”
- Representative Ayanna Pressley shouts down protestors at a detention facility: On July 1, Rep. Ayanna Pressley gave an impassioned speech in front of a children’s detention facility where hundreds of children were placed after having been separated from their families at the border. The congresswoman’s speech was met with rabid protestors spewing vitriol and racist rhetoric at her and the families of these children. However, despite their shouts, Pressley refused to back down and brought a powerful message to them. “I learned a long time ago that change happens because people see the light, or they feel the fire. Today we are lifting up these stories in the hopes that you will see the light, and if you don’t, we will bring the fire.”
- Representative Ilhan Omar Responds to Trump’s Racist Taunts: On July 14 in a series of racist tweets, Donald Trump exclaimed that the four outspoken freshmen women of color in the House known as “the Squad” should “go back to their home countries.” Three of the four women were born in the United States. The exception was Ilhan Omar, who became a naturalized citizen after fleeing Somalia as a refugee. Many denounced the president’s remarks as nativist, but Omar’s response drove home a great message in a New York Times op-ed. She spoke about the chant “send her back” as being a defining moment in our history. “This fight is not merely about policy ideas; it is a fight for the soul of our nation,” she wrote. “The ideals at the heart of our founding — equal protection under the law, pluralism, religious liberty — are under attack, and it is up to all of us to defend them.”
- Representative Val Demings opening statement at the articles of impeachment markup: On December 11, the House Judiciary Committee began its markup of the articles of impeachment against the President of the United States. In her remarkable opening statement, Rep. Demings discussed her childhood and being the descendant of enslaved Africans. She reminded those of us that have lost faith in a broken system not to lose faith in America because only in this country could her story be possible. “Only in America can a little Black girl, the daughter of a maid and a janitor growing up in the South in the ’60s, have such an amazing opportunity.” She ended her remarks by stating simply that she is “an American dream, complete.”
As we close out one decade and begin the countdown to the 2020 presidential election, one thing is clear: Black women politicians will continue to light the path toward justice, reminding us why we must all fight for the soul of this great nation.