When it comes to getting things done, Black women are bosses. At least that’s what the creators of #BlackWomenVote and voter education campaign are counting on.
“We’re doubling down over the next several days because when you get Black women fired up, they don’t go to the polls alone,” says Glynda Carr, co-founder of Higher Heights for America, which created the #BlackWomenVote initiative, and former executive director of Education Voters of New York. “They bring their house, their block, their church, their sorority.”
Launched Oct. 6 on voting and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s birthday, #BlackWomenVote encourages Black women to make their voices heard in the Nov. 8 election, from local levels to the presidential race. The #BlackWomenVote site lists ways to get involved such as a push for Sister to Sister phone calls every day through Election Day and a national call and webinar taking place Wednesday, Nov. 2 from 7:30-8 p.m. ET to help Black women mobilize their social networks.
Carr said #BlackWomenVote ran a microcampaign in 2014, but this year scaled up and solidified partnerships that provide information such as online tools that point people to their polling place and information on states that will allow registration at this point in the game.
According to a 2014 analysis by the Center for American Progress, women of color voters played a crucial role in Democratic victories in 2008, including the White House and Congress, President Obama’s 2012 re-election and the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race, according to Kierra Johnson, executive director of D.C.-based URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity.
“Now, don’t misunderstand,” says Johnson. “This doesn’t mean Democrats can take Black women for granted; on the contrary, it means campaigns should be making even greater efforts to shore up our votes because they are among the most powerful in the country since losing Black women in many cases means losing your seat.”
There has been much speculation about the role of women of color to tip the scales toward a decisive outcome in races at every level at the national, state and local levels. “Some people are speculating [that] we’re going to come out in record numbers,” Carr said, also noting that early voting with Black women in North Carolina is heavy among Democrats but down in Ohio. “Black women have been a strong voting force since 2008 and 2012 when we voted in record numbers.”
Much is at stake with surveys showing Black women may be channeling Hamer in being sick and tired of being sick and tired.
For example, 49 percent of Black women in battleground states queried said the country is going in the wrong direction, according to a 2016 survey by Center for American Progress. In thinking about the election, Black women said unemployment (31 percent), the economy (27 percent) and race relations (28 percent) are the most important issues facing Black people.
And 63 percent of Black women said the lack of good-paying jobs and low wages are the most important economic issues facing Blacks that politicians should address. Sixty percent of women surveyed said they are interested or very interested in politics, and 86 percent said they are absolutely/very likely to vote.
In terms of harnessing technology to create buzz and critical mass at the polls, Nielsen’s recently released Young, Connected and Black report also offers perspective. The Black population is relatively young, with a median age of 33.4, compared with 40.4 for Whites and 36.5 for Asians. After Asian-Americans (94 percent), African-Americans are the second-largest multicultural group owning smartphones, 91 percent.
“The use of social media for community-based activism brought national awareness to issues affecting the Black community, and African-Americans, especially Millennials, are leading the charge to bring about institutional change,” says the Nielsen report. It also found: “The #BlackLivesMatter, #BankBlack, and #OscarsSoWhite social media movements, all of which sparked national conversations, are just three viral examples of how savvy applications of social media and technology are increasingly able to focus national attention on issues of social, civic and political importance.”
From the grassroots to the notables, Black women have already started tweeting about #BlackWomenVote. For example, writer Feminista Jones wrote, “As people who were once doubly disenfranchised from voting by being both Black and women, I think we exhibit a unique commitment to voting as citizens.”
Tianna Gaines-Turner, an anti-poverty activist wrote, “We have to make sure that we continue to fight for all of our African-American sisters who have paved the way for us in the past, like Shirley Chisholm.”
Whatever issues vex Black women or drive them to action, Carr is clear: “This is about making sure Black women are prepared to vote up and down the ballot to move this country and our communities forward.”