By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, jwright@afro.com

Black women political and social justice leaders encouraged Black Americans to stay engaged in the political process and continue the fight for positive change, at a DC town hall meeting, Thursday.

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference National Town Hall took place on Sept. 13 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District of Columbia. The theme of the event was “Advancing the Cause of Freedom, Justice and Equality: Black Women at the Forefront of Leadership” and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) said the town hall was “a call to action.”

In this July 26, 2018 file photo, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, center, speaks with the media during a campaign stop at the Ironworkers Local 709 apprenticeship shop to announce her “Jobs for Georgia Plan,” in Pooler, Ga. The history-making gubernatorial runs by Abrams of Georgia, Andrew Gillum of Florida and Ben Jealous of Maryland are turning them into stars nationwide and at the Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative conference. If elected, Abrams, Jealous and Gillum, would give America its largest number of Black governors ever. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File)

“Women have been standing, fighting and leading,” Jackson-Lee, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, said. “With power comes duty and obligation and we are surging to the front with action and justice.”

In the 2016 presidential election, 95 percent of Black women who voted cast their ballot for former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while 54 percent of White women voted for Donald Trump. Political analysts credit Black women for the election of Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama’s election to the U.S. Senate in 2017 and for Democrat Dr. Ralph Northam’s victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race that year, too.

Black women played key roles in the Democratic primary victories of Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Andrew Gillum in Florida.

A panel discussion took that place that talked about that type of power and how it could be used to benefit African-Americans. The panelists were Abrams, Jackson-Lee, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Proctor & Gamble executive Monica Turner, CNN Commentator Symone Sanders, president and founder of Black Mamas Matter Alliance Elizabeth Gay, and founder and president of Moms of Black Boys United Depelsha McGruder.

The moderator was Joy Reid, a host for MSNBC.

Coleman said that everyone needed to vote because if the Democrats win the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 election, she will be able to exert power on behalf of her constituents, and Blacks in general, as the chair of the committee that deals with transportation and infrastructure.

“We will not build walls but communities,” Coleman said.

Abrams explained that her race is winnable because Georgia is not the way it is in the novel “Gone with the Wind.”

“Georgia is 53 percent White, 32 percent Black, nine and a half Hispanic and four and a half Asian/Pacific Islander,” she said. “Georgia will be majority minority in 2025 and is the only state

where the leading minority will be Blacks.”

Turner said the private sector has to be part of the solution of the many problems that plague the Black community. Sanders said older Blacks needs to do a better job of convincing millennials that just voting will solve problems.

“Millennials have voted and have seen people shot and some millennials have to work two and three jobs in order to make ends,” Sanders said. “Voting is a necessary part of the puzzle but not the entire puzzle.”

Elizabeth Gay said Black women need to support organizations and other each other as they pursue political goals. McGruder said “we have to push for change in the system and accountability for government officials.”

U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) addressed the group and Booker brought down the house when he said “I miss Obama and her husband too.”