Jamia Wilson is supremely proud of this fact: In 2008 and 2012, black women voted at a higher rate than any other group. Four years ago, 74 percent of eligible black women went to the polls — and 96 percent voted for President Obama.
Some pollsters and pundits are betting against a three-peat of that level of turnout in this year’s election because Obama, whose historic campaign and presidency electrified black voters like never before, will not be on the ballot. Wilson and other black women active in politics are determined to prove them wrong.
But they aren’t looking to the political candidates for inspiration. In interviews, they said the motivation to head to the ballot box will come from the energy generated by efforts to confront racism and other forms of economic and social inequality. The Black Lives Matter movement (which was launched by women), the campaign for higher wages in low-paying industries dominated by women of color and various online spaces in which women are sharing information and opinions all feature black women organizing, motivating and fighting to retain their political influence.
“Sisters are going to represent,” said Wilson, a writer who also works for a nonprofit women’s organization. “We are in a time of urgency and we have to take urgent action.”
The importance of black women in the Democratic Party is not lost on the candidates, notably Hillary Clinton, who has built a network of volunteers, surrogates and paid staff members to reach out to these voters. It was black women and other women of color who were responsible for Obama winning the female vote in 2008 and 2012; most white women (and white men) voted for the Republican presidential nominee in each of those years.
Less clear is whether candidates’ efforts will be the motivating factor.
Last month, more than a dozen black women, including Debra Lee, the chief executive of Black Entertainment Television, and former labor secretary Alexis Herman hosted a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for Clinton in New York City. The campaign has scooped up many of the strategists who mobilized black voters for Obama, including several young African American women. LaDavia Drane, 32, is director of African American outreach for the Clinton campaign.
Last month, nearly 1,000 women dialed into the campaign’s first conference call for “African American Women for Hillary.” An invitation from Drane read in part: “We’ll hear from some inspiring black women leaders from around the country, including a few of our most successful sorors and some very special guests, like Representative Marcia Fudge, Cicely Tyson, Star Jones and Glenda Glover. Then we’ll talk about next steps for how we can all reach out in our communities to get more black women involved in this campaign.”
Drane, in a recent interview, said Clinton has done events at six historically black colleges and universities, including one in the fall at Clark Atlanta University in which the crowd filling the bleachers in the school’s gym was overwhelmingly female. Before the rally, Drane said she met with students from Spelman College, a historically black women’s school.
“Everywhere I go on behalf of Hillary Clinton I meet with black women,” Drane said.
SOURCE: Vanessa Williams
The Washington Post