Politics of Poverty

Celebrating women’s herstory

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Black women leaders
Black women leaders from the business and nonprofit worlds at the 12th Annual Women of Power National Summit in 2023 (from left, Cheryl Dorsey, Michelle DuBois, Melanie L. Campbell, Theresa G. Kennedy, Heather Foster, Rita German). Their message: reset, rejuvenate, reimagine, resist, and act. Photo: NCBCP

Black women are owning our power and fighting for justice. Giving up is not an option.

As we celebrate the close of Women’s History (Herstory) Month, I am reflecting on the relentless attacks Black women are experiencing on our rights and freedoms, and on every avenue to our upward mobility. But there is a lesson we learned well from our mothers and grandmothers and sisters and daughters: fight back.


For hundreds of years, Black women have been at the forefront of the battles for civil rights in America.

Black women have steadily led the way for centuries,” wrote Marianne Schnall and Tulu Lawrence in an article published in Forbes. “Black women led the Underground Railroad, were the unsung leaders of the suffrage movement, organized freedom riders, paved the way for constitutional protections against sex discrimination, and remain the most consistent voting block in the United States to stand up for the rights of marginalized people.”

In 2024, Black women are carrying forward that legacy of leadership by expanding our power in politics, business, education, economics, labor, environmental justice, sports, and more. We are changing the face of the federal judiciary and expanding our power as political candidates from City Hall to the White House. We are leading in business from entrepreneurship to the C-suites and boardrooms of major companies. We are striving for quality education, and in the battle against those who seek to erase our history, we are standing on the front lines.

We are owning our power and leading the fight for justice.

And we have broken some of the very highest glass ceilings. The Honorable Kamala Harris was the first woman and the first Black and South Asian woman elected vice president of the United States, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was the first Black woman nominated and confirmed to serve on the highest court in the land.


In these perilous times, Black women are leading the fight for voting rights and protecting democracy. We are advocating for reproductive rights and justice and online privacy rights, and shining a spotlight on their impact on civil rights and economic opportunity. We are at the forefront in campaigns for police and criminal justice reform; economic, environmental, and climate justice; workers' rights; and protecting the social safety net. Now, we are in a protracted battle for equal access to higher education.

Over the past 30 years, I have had a chance to work with phenomenal Black women leaders who are deep in these fights. Let me call the roll:

Clayola Brown, Latosha Brown, Sherrilyn Ifill, Maya Wiley, Janai Nelson, Rev. Shavon Arline-Bradley, Monica Simpson, Tamika Mallory, Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Bishop Leah Daughtry, Bishop Vashti McKenzie, Minyon Moore, Jotaka Eaddy, Fatima Goss Graves, Jocelyn Frye, Alexis McGill Johnson, Rev. Dr. Bernice King, Michelle DuBois, Cora Masters Barry, Rachel Noerdlinger, Felicia Davis, Deborah Scott, Helen Butler, Salandra Benton, Rev. Dr. Judith Moore, Elizabeth Powell, Becky Pringle, April Verrett, Dr. Regena Thomas, Stacey Abrams, Karen Boykin-Towns, Arnrea Waters, Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, Glynda Carr, Star Jones, Rhonda Ridley, Ebonie Riley, Donna Brazile, Roslyn Brock, Alicia Garza, Petee Talley, Cassandra Welchlin, Edna Kane Williams, Tameka Ramsey, Stephanie Moore Williams, Letetia Daniels Jackson, Honorable Sheila Tyson, Holli Holliday, Rene Redwood, Dr. Elsie Scott, Dee Marshall, Joycelyn Tate, Tonya Tyson, Diane Babineaux, Meshelle Foreman, Robin Williams, Tiffany Dominique, Lawana Brown, Monica Ray, Gwendolyn Hughes, Mary-Pat Hector, Janice Mathis, Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Joi Chaney, Kara Turrentine, Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw, Barbara Arnwine, DeJuana Thompson, Christina Cue, Dominique Sharpton, Ashley Sharpton, Trudy Lucas, Tara Murray, Muthoni Wambu Kraul, Tarana Burke, Angela Rye, Carol Joyner, Gwen McKinney, Christal Jackson, Brittney Packney Cunningham, Sarah McKenzie, Glenda Gill, Stefanie Brown James, Barbara Perkins, Dr. Claire Nelson, Dawn Stewart, Nykidra Robinson, Dr. Lezli Baskerville, Aimee Allison, Marcia Johnson, and so many more.

I feel blessed. Inspired. And not alone.


Black women are experiencing an all-out assault by white nationalists and right-wing ideologues. It is part of a backlash that extends to the US Supreme Court—with the rolling back of voting and reproductive rights, and affirmative action in higher education—and to state houses across the country, such as Florida, which is banning the teaching of Black history and critical race theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, and undermining voting and abortion rights, and the rights of workers, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

But I am here to tell you that we will never quit this fight, and that attempts to set us back are only strengthening our resolve. We will vote in record numbers in the 2024 presidential election and continue to lead the fight for racial justice and equity—for ourselves and for future generations. Our power to resist, act, and win is unparalleled.

We must remember to lean on each other and prioritize our own wellness. Being on the receiving end of racism, sexism, hate, and violence takes a toll on our minds and bodies, as the statistics on cancer, heart disease, and diabetes reveal. We must learn to navigate health systems that discriminate against us, and no matter how many hate-filled messages come our way, we need to love ourselves.

“When you can’t go on any longer, take the hand of your sister,” as the song goes (more or less). “Every victory brings another. Carry it on. Carry it on.”

That is exactly what we will do. Together, we are unstoppable.

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