02.23.2021

California Black Women Leaders Organize to Open Paths for Others

California Black Women Leaders Organize to Open Paths for Others Photo via Zoom call screenshot

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media

After launching a campaign last year to push for another Black woman to replace Vice President Kamala Harris in the United States Senate, a coalition of California Black women leaders say they are not defeated. They are organizing.

Many of the women – federal or state legislators, other elected officials and political leaders –have made history in California and across the nation. Now, they have come together to organize, launching an effort to ensure that more Black women are voted into elected office in California.

On Feb. 15, the California Black Women’s Collective (CBWC) hosted “Conversation with Congresswomen Karen Bass, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters.” Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, moderated the virtual event.

“After we were disappointed that we were not able to keep the seat for the United States Congress, we wanted to make sure that we did not lose our momentum, so we brought together this collective of Black women across California to make sure that we stay visible and active and engaged,” said LaNiece Jones, Executive Director of Peralta Colleges Foundation and Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA).

According to the event’s organizers, the goal of CBWC is to amplify the priorities of Black women and organize with the goal of securing adequate representation for Black women in government. They also work in solidarity with the #WinWithBlackWomen initiative, which advocates for Black women lawmakers nationally.

The congresswomen spoke about how they ended up serving in the state legislature and later Congress, with all of them mentioning that they were ushered in by other Black legislators who called them to serve. Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA-37) said she entered the race for the California Assembly because other Black legislators were going to Congress and there weren’t going to be any African American women serving in the state legislature had she not run and won.

“That was very motivating to me because all of the issues that we had worked on in the community. When people leave, everything that you've worked on can be reversed. So, that's what led me to run for office,” said Bass.

When asked who had been critical to their success in their career, the congresswomen spoke about Black women community leaders and local government leaders who have worked with and inspired them, including Mary Henry, Opal Jones and Lillian Mobley in South Los Angeles, Maudelle Shirek in Berkeley, Nolice Edwards and Kellie Todd Griffin in Sacramento, and Edith Austin in Oakland.