Melanie Campbell

Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. (Photo by Shantella Y. Sherman)

(Updated March 24, 2016)  Hundreds of Black women and girls from around the United States recently convened at a national summit that gave them the tools to maximize their social power through civic engagement, political participation, and strategic advocacy.

The event, the Women of Power National Summit, was hosted by the Black Women’s Roundtable on Capitol Hill from March 17-20. The gathering allowed the women to network and lobby with each other to ensure candidates in local and presidential campaigns focus on issues important to Black women.  

“Our summit is not just about getting Black women out to vote, but also about getting policies enacted that will benefit the best interests of our communities.” Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said at the “Power to the Sister Vote” Town Hall. “We have to be cognizant of our school boards, city councils, and other offices so we do not have to read about Flint in the paper and we can hold our governments accountable.”

Members of the Roundtable said the Black female vote is particularly important in elections —though the needs of Black women, their children, and the institutions that undergird their lives such as health care systems, schools systems, etc., are often dismissed by politicians. 

Statistics from Avis Jones DeWeever’s report “Black Women in the United States 2016 – Power of the Sister Vote” show that Black women make up only 3.4 percent of Congress, despite Black women having the highest number of eligible potential voters. With 2.6 million more Black women voting between 2000 and 2016, members of the organization are critical of the 10 states with no Black female representation – local or state – as well as President Barack Obama’s failure to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court.

“We are disappointed and had hoped that an African-American woman would be nominated. We have and will continue to advocate for the next Supreme Court vacancy to be filled by an exceptional Black woman to bring about a balance that ensures the court is more representative of all Americans,” Campbell said in a press release. “We continue to believe it is time for African-American women to be represented in all sectors of government – including the U. S. Supreme Court of the United States, which in its 227 year history has not had a Black woman nominated to serve on the highest court in the land.”

The Rev. Regena Thomas, former secretary of state of New Jersey, told the town hall participants that it is not enough to vote because it is the right thing to do or for your ancestors who could not vote, but because the stakes are too high not to vote.

“We continue to create a cycle where even when we do vote, we are leaving our young sisters at home. We have to be strategic in our own space. So I challenge each woman here to work within their own social media space at least,” she said. “Make sure that every one of your Facebook friends, Twitter associates, LinkedIn, Snapchat, all of them, get out and vote. If they don’t have a ride, need a babysitter, need help getting identification – help them.”