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 December 8, 2022, after a 7-year stent, 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, Black women can’t afford to f… around and find out.”
He further went on to encourage viewers/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 2022:
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 February 25, 2022. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 7, 2022, and sworn into office on June 30, 2022.
Claudine Gay, a Black woman elected President of Harvard University, on December 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. Those women are Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts, Lisa Blunt of 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 Black women-led organizations are coming from Goldman Sachs, Black Girls Freedom Fund and 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.
About Dr. Kerry Mitchell Brown
As a scholar-practitioner, Dr. Kerry Mitchell Brown draws on theory and practice from management, organizations, and social movements to construct a multidimensional framework for racial equity and organizational transformation that goes beyond slogans and outdated diversity and inclusion practices toward being highly equitable and highly cohesive.
Dr. Brown holds a Ph.D. in Organizations and Management, an M.B.A., and a BSBA in Finance, and is a Gestalt OSD Certified Practitioner.
For more than 20 years, Dr. Brown has facilitated discussions and group learning within progressive, social justice, non-profit, higher education, and Fortune 100 organizations about sensitive topics, such as the intersections of race/racism, gender/sexism, and privilege/class, as well as politics, democracy, and other social justice issues. She leads processes to enable organizations to make seismic shifts and eliminate the contradictions in their rightful space by working with constituents at all levels to examine how anti-Black racism impacts their work and how they function.