Dr. Kerry Mitchell Brown (Courtesy Photo/kerrymitchellbrown.com)

By Dr. Kerry Mitchell Brown

The unpaid work of Black women is the foundation of this country’s economic and political structures. Despite the significance of our contributions, our work must be more consistently valued and equitably paid. It is a tradition that we must be intentional about how Black women are honored, celebrated, supported, and protected.

During Trevor Noah’s sign-off from the Daily Show, on Dec. 8, 2022, after a 7-year stint, he gave a special shout-out to Black women, stating that “If you truly want to learn about America, talk to Black women cause, unlike everybody else, Blackwomen can’t afford to f*** around and find out.”

He further went on to encourage viewers and listeners that if “you truly want to know what to do or how to do it or maybe the best way or the most equitable way, talk (and listen) to Black women.”

What had been lost over the last several years in these viral moments of #ThankBlackWomen and #MeToo is the in-depth analysis and discussion around the inaccurate generalization about Black women’s homogeneity with respect to our needs and experience(s).

Not all Black women have the same reality. In fact, there is significant variation in our experience based on our choices–rational or circumstantial–regarding the issues that are important to us, to our families, and to our community.

However, energizing and motivating Black women to continue to make gains in companies, politics, institutions, communities, etc., is grounded in a common reality that both racial and economic justices are integral priorities for us all.

Black women are capable of leading in all spaces well into the future. Our power is in our unique lived experiences, the diversity of perspectives, and our tradition of leading successful fights for justice.

It is the challenge of the workplaces, political institutions, and communities at large to stop underutilizing us as leaders. It is our challenge to refrain from growing silent in the face of opposition or becoming complacent with personal success.

We must continue to speak up about the ways that racism and sexism impact the lives of all working people and remain vigilant in holding movements, organizations, politicians, etc.’ feet to the fire to eradicate these issues.

To that end, many organizations, institutions, and political spaces have been taking on new projects and conducting experiments for the development of an evidence-based framework to build Black women’s power.

Through shaping a racial and economic justice analysis and agenda, organizations have aimed to ensure that Black women are no longer left behind in organizations, our communities, or the nation.

Here are some of the major highlights from the last year:

  • Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson is a Black woman and American jurist who serves as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Jackson was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Joe Biden on Feb. 25, 2022. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 7, 2022, and sworn into office on June 30, 2022.
  • Claudine Gay, a Black woman elected president of Harvard University, on Dec. 15, 2022, will take office on July 1, 2023.

Black women were amongst the most effective, whether they won or lost, in standing up against Trumpism and extremism, and were, more than other candidates, targeted with an onslaught of dark money attacks during the 2022 Midterms:

  • Summer Lee became the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania.
  • Emilia Sykes becomes the third Black woman to represent Ohio’s House delegation. Sykes’ win in Ohio’s 13th Congressional District now means that three Black women will be serving in the state’s U.S. House delegation (along with U.S. Reps. Joyce Beatty and Shontel Brown).
  • Andrea Campbell was elected as the state of Massachusetts’ first Black female attorney general and the first Black woman ever elected to statewide office.
  • California’s Malia Cohen was elected as the new state’s controller. A position that oversees the world’s fourth-largest economy.

There were a number of Black female members of Congress who were elected for another two years — something that should not be overlooked this election cycle. In the balance of power, Black women were pivotal and are pivotal as leaders who are affecting the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats.

  • Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts
  • Lisa Blunt Rochester in Delaware
  • Jahana Hayes in Connecticut and
  • Lauren Underwood in Illinois.

While Val Demings, Cheri Beasleys, and Stacey Abrams lost their races, it would be a mistake for anyone of any party to write off these powerful Black women. They have a tremendous amount of support, and they’ve done it by actually meeting people in the streets, meeting them where they are, understanding their problems, and bringing solutions.

Continued investment, partnerships, and grants to support Black women and girls and the organizations they lead:

  • Goldman Sachs
  • Black Girls Freedom Fund
  • Black Girl Ventures

When we fight to raise the economic conditions and strengthen the workplace protections afforded to Black women, we improve outcomes for Black families, Black communities, and everyone else too. As a result, we improve our chances of having fully realized the American dream.​ If Black women don’t get justice, then it will remain elusive for all.

Dr. Kerry Mitchell Brown is an equity strategist with a background in organizational development and social justice advocacy is the foundation for her work with individuals, organizations, and corporations. She is also senior vice president of finance and operations for Race Forward, a non-profit organization that brings systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity.

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