Reflections on Women's Political Leadership this Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, as the Texas State Director for IGNITE, I am taking the opportunity to reflect on the critical need to encourage more women of color, especially African American women and Latina women to become political leaders.

Today, in 2017, women have had the right to vote for 97 years. For African American women, it has been only 52 years. African American women have faced two layers of discrimination: sexism and racism. During the civil rights movement, many African American women stood up and decided to distance themselves from the women's movement. African American women felt disenchanted and discouraged that they were asked to fight for equal rights when some of their white female counterparts would not fight for theirs. In the hierarchy of women's rights, African American women were left at the bottom of the barrel. 

Today we see the same ramifications of a two-tiered layer of racism and sexism for African American women. The statistics in politics are dismal. Overall women, only represent 22% of those in elected positions while African American women only hold 4%. There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that all voices are heard at the political table. 

However, in the state of Texas this is not the only issue for African American women as it relates to politics. In 2014, Texas was last in the nation in voter turnout. Civic engagement is an all time low. 

So our work is cut out for us at IGNITE. We must increase civic engagement among high school and college age women across the state. We must spark an interest in the political process from an early age, to ensure that the next generation of women step up and run for political office in order to make a difference in their communities. We confront apathy and lack of role models in their communities. We find we are asking the same elected women, again and again, to take the time to talk with our students. And while these fabulous women step up regularly, it is clear that we need more women to help pave the way for future generations. Simply put: We need more women in office, especially African American women, and we need hundreds of thousands of others to rally behind these women at the polls.

Where are the women standing up to make a difference? They are far and few between. For those that do - Thank you! We celebrate and revere your courage, fortitude and strength to stand up to the plethora of obstacles that stand in your way. You march on everyday to represent the voice of the women and specifically the voices of African American women. You speak both for equality for women and your race, but ultimately for the human race because we are ONE NATION UNDER GOD.

This essay is dedicated to the sister friends I know marching each day in the State of Texas. I personally admire and salute you.

Rep Toni Rose
Rep Helen Giddings
Councilwomen Candice Quarles, Amanda Edwards, and Bobbie Edmonds
Honorable Julia Hayes, Tonya Parker, Dominique Collins, and Brenda Thompson Hull
DISD Trustee Burnadette Nutall

Thank you for your service!