Brooklyn, NY - A Higher Heights Salon was held at Vodou Lounge on March 1, 2014. Twelve women participated in a thought-provoking conversation on the challenges and opportunities that exist for Black women who seek to enter into political leadership. Below you will find a snapshot of what the women at the Brooklyn salon had to say:
Challenges Facing Black Women
• Lack of access and knowledge around the political process;
• Lack of money
• Personal life and demanding family responsibilities;
• Lack of modeling and mentoring
• Internalized oppression, fear of failing; and
• Fear of personal attacks and lack of privacy that come with public life.
Opportunities that Exist for Black Women
• Our voice is powerful and resonates to diverse groups;
• Access to social capital, strength in our networks;
• Collectively we have access to money; and
• There is an untapped potential and unmet need.
Each group explored one challenge or opportunity and in our larger discussion found some similarities and differences. For example emotional intelligence was discussed as both a challenge and opportunity that Black women face. As a challenge, some felt that Black women often times have difficulties effectively networking and navigating diverse groups. While others felt that Black women’s ability to code switch, connect with diverse groups was a major attributes that had broad appeal.
Collectively, the group felt that strengthening our informal and formal networks and the potential to tap into Black women’s social capital would create an environment that would provide support for women seeking to enter into political leadership.
A strong theme that evening was the lack of financial support or the perceive notion that it is difficult to access funds from our community. There was a general agreement that there is potential to harness our economic imprint by educating Black women on the importance of political giving.
The last question we were tasked with was to think of “calls-to-action” that could strengthen opportunities and weaken challenges for Black women to pursue political leadership positions. One group suggested that we need to expand, strengthen and organize our social networks and associations. Another group suggested that we would need to formalize an infrastructure that would support Black women. We also discussed creating ways to change the conversation and reshape the dialogue on Black women’s leadership and the multiple pathways to said leadership from grassroots and community organizers to corporate and academic professionals.
Conversations like this salon are only as powerful as the action that follows them. In the coming year, Higher Heights will continue to engage Black women in a meaningful dialogue around a long-term strategy that expands and supports Black women’s leadership pipeline at all levels and strengthens their civic participation beyond just Election Day. We look forward to your continued engagement and involvement.