The political power of millennials and Black women were topics of discussion at issue forums during the 46th Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference.
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.)
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) hosted an issue forum, “Black Millennials: Building National and Local Political Power.” Meanwhile, the International Black Women’s Public Policy Institute hosted its Eighth Annual Policy Forum with the theme “Choosing Our Leaders…Setting Our Agenda” on Sept. 16 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, D.C.
Edwards said that it is critical that millennials assert themselves politically.
“Every powerful movement that this country has ever had has been led by young people,” the representative said. “It is your time to really seize the moment. There are some who say that you are not ready but don’t listen to them. Trust yourselves.”
In the 2016 election cycle, millennials—Americans born between 1980 and 2000—are on pace to outvote the Baby Boomers. Barack Obama’s election to the presidency in 2008 and his re-election in 2012 has been credited in part to the support of millennials.
The issue forum that Edwards hosted consisted of Marc Baynard, director of the Black Worker Initiative; Carmen Berkeley, the civil and human rights director for the AFL-CIO; the Rev. Tony Lee, senior pastor of the Community of Hope AME Church in Prince George’s County, Janae Bonsu, national public policy chair of the Black Youth Project 100, Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change and Dayvon Love, director of research and public policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle.
There has been talk among some millennial leaders that their generation won’t vote in large numbers because of discontentment with the presidential candidates offered by the two major parties. Bonsu said that perception is simply not true.
“We are going to be fully engaged in the November 8 general election,” she said. “We are going to get people to vote. There are a number of ways that will happen. We can engage you at the party, at the bus stop and at the grocery store.”
Love said that a lack of interest in the political process may be result of the actions of past generations.
“We need to be clear, racial integration has been a failure,” he said. “When integration took place, it replaced the institutions that helped Black communities thrive during segregation. The government and corporations took up the slack and we as Black people have suffered for it.”
Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner
While Love made it clear that he doesn’t support segregation, he said that Blacks should be doing for themselves.
While the millennials were talking about how to engage their generation, the panel hosted by the International Black Women’s Public Policy Institute advocated ensuring that Black women are ready to vote in the general election. The moderator for the panel was Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner, a motivational speaker, religious leader and executive coach and the panelists were Melanie Campbell, the convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable; Clayola Brown, president of the Black Women’s Roundtable; Mignon Clyburn, Federal Communications Commission commissioner; LaDavia Drane of Hillary for America and Beverly Evans Smith, national first vice president, Delta Sigma Theta.
In the 2012 election cycle, Black women voted at a higher rate than any racial and gender group. Democratic exit polls during this year’s primaries showed that Black women outvoted Black men.
Drane said her candidate, Hillary Clinton, recognized the power of Black women’s votes.
“She understands that she can’t get to the White House without you,” Drane said. “I urge you to do your part to make sure that Love Trumps Hate.”
Skinner said that this year’s election is no time “for foolishness.”
“Black women cannot be talking ‘we don’t like her,’” Skinner said. “We need to talk about who will help our families. We need to also look at the races down the ballot. Don’t complain if you don’t know who the judges are. Get educated before you get in that poll booth.”