Increasing the Ranks: Black Women in Elected Office

with the Rev. Leah D. Daughtry and Minyon Moore of Power Rising

Black women made historic gains in the 2020 election cycle, yet the resulting changes in their political representation remain incremental.

The Rev. Leah D. Daughtry and Minyon Moore, Co-convenors of Power Rising, shed light on the increasing number of Black women elected to public office and the importance of representation.

Posted on:

February 02, 2021

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: Black women have been historically underrepresented in elected offices, but, over the past decade, that's changed. In fact, in 2020, a record-breaking 26 Black women were elected to serve in U.S. Congress. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. While more Black women have been elected to Congress than ever before, they're not making similar gains in other levels of government. Joining me to talk about all of this is Bishop Leah Daughtry. She is a principal of On These Things, LLC. She is here with Minyon Moore, who is a principal of Dewey Square Group and, together, they are the co-conveners of Power Rising. Ladies, thank you so much for being here.

Moore: Thank you for having us.

Daughtry: Thank you.

Anderson: And, speaking of power, you know, we saw a display of that in 2020, when we looked at some of these women who were elected to office. Cori Bush became the first Black woman to represent Missouri's 1st District in Congress. She unseated a longtime Democratic incumbent. There was also Marilyn Strickland. She won the 10th Congressional District in Washington to become the first Black member of that state delegation. And, Leah, we're seeing more inclusion with what happened in 2020, but, in your opinion, is that enough?

Daughtry: Well, no, it's not enough. And let's not forget Nikema Williams, who is taking John Lewis' seat and representing Georgia, the first Black woman to sit in that seat, and so we're tremendously proud of her, and Cori and Marilyn and all of the others. And this is great, we celebrate them, but let's also remember that there are no Black women in the United States Senate at this moment. There are no Black women who serve as governors at this moment. Fortune 500 corporate boardrooms are bereft of Black women. There are not enough Black women leading colleges and universities. There are tremendous strides that have been made, but there's so much more we can do and we hope that the example of now having the first Black woman as vice president of the United States will give us some more motivation and help the country understand the leadership of Black women.

Anderson: And, Minyon, what's being done to motivate, to groom, and to actually help Black women to run next cycle?

Moore: Well, for one, Leah and I co-convened a group, almost four years ago, now, called Power Rising, and one of the impetuses was because we wanted to see more Black women run for office, so we are actively grooming women every day. We have another group that we constantly meet with on Sunday. And I think what we have to do is make sure that people understand that public service is still honorable. Public service is something that can happen to everyday Americans, everyday Black women. You don't have to have a PhD to run for office. You just have to have a will to serve, raise a little money, get your message out. And we're calling on every Black woman in America that chooses to serve this country to pick up that mantle. We'll help you run.

Anderson: So, you know, we did see that historic number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020, but, notably, none of them were from the Republican side. Leah, why do you think that is?

Daughtry: You know, it's hard for women of any party to run for office. The hurdles are many and they are high. And I think, you know, in a party that is oftentimes not seen as receptive to African-Americans and I think it's just harder on their side to get women to run, women who identify with the values to run, to have the teams that they need to win elections. But I don't think that that is just a Republican problem. I think that's across the board on all sides. It's tremendously hard for women to run for office. They often don't get the support, the donors, the infrastructure that they need, and so that's an American problem.

Moore: I think one of the things we have to do is just simply lower the barrier to entry because most people believe that running for office, working in politics, there's some big mystique behind it. It really is really very simple and I'd like to appeal to people to just understand that, if you have something in your neighborhood that you don't like, then you have a right to serve your neighborhood. If you have a school that the conditions are not good, think about serving on the school boards. Part of what we have to do is continue to educate people to make them understand that politics is a service. It is not something that is handed to us. It is a service, and everybody can serve. And so I'm delighted to know that there are so many people out here that's even thinking about.

Anderson: Both of you two are clearly political heavy hitters. You've served at the administration level, at the party level, at the level of coordinating strategy. What would you say to women, in general, of all colors, of all political affiliations, about the importance of getting a seat at the table? Minyon, let's start with you.

Moore: Well, first of all, I think it's incredibly important because, one, when you're in the room, you get a chance to speak about issues, not just that impact you personally, but impact women, in general. And I have been a party to and I've witnessed the impact of having women's voices at the table. It's not that men can't talk or speak up on behalf of women, but we're very nuanced in how we see things. We're very nuanced in how we articulate our views and so being at that table, being at that table that is perceived to be power, is quite important. Talk about issues that impact women, specifically, daycare. We talk about issues of healthcare. We talk many women are now caretakers for their their moms and their dads. So all of these issues that are not talked about will be talked about when we have a seat at the table.

Anderson: And, Bishop Leah, we've all seen tumultuous times. How important is it that women get that seat at the table, in order to really help the nation come together?

Daughtry: You're right, Tetiana. We are in a moment in American history, the fractiousness and the division that is apparent every single day, but it's also an opportunity for us to make significant change. First, of course, is the acknowledgment you can't heal what you won't acknowledge. And so just the reckoning that we are having, that there is a problem that we can no longer ignore or dismiss, will hopefully help us to heal, just by saying, "Yes, there is something here." Secondly, then begins the work, and that requires us raising our voices and those of us who have been complicit, through our silence or our inaction; and those of us who've been fighting all along, this is a time for us to band together, to lift our voices, to make our voices heard, to suit up and fight a little harder for the unity that is necessary. People think that good relationships just happen, that unity just happens, that peace just happens. No. Any of the married people I know will tell you it takes work.

Moore: [ Laughs ]

Daughtry: We're in a marriage, here in America, a marriage of 320 million people. All of us have to work for unity. It's not just that person or him or her. It's all of us together. And, by raising our voices together, by advocating for the issues we care about, then we can really begin to talk about unity and community and healing.

Anderson: And, Bishop Leah Daughtry and Minyon Moore, both co-conveners of Power Rising, thanks to both of you for your work and for taking the time to join me.

Moore: Thank you.

Daughtry: Thank you.

Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, be sure to log on to... I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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