#BlackWomenLead: Meet Black Women In Down-Ballot Races Across The Nation

Rallying cries of “trust Black women” and “listen to Black women” have shaped the contours of 2020 politics in historic, strategic ways.

Black women have long been acknowledged as the backbone of the Democratic Party, but 2020 has proved to be the election cycle where many of us are unapologetic about demanding to be the head.

From Higher Heights’ #BlackWomenLead movement, to African American Policy Forum’s “From the Base to the Face” series, to Black Women Roundtable’s and ESSENCE’s “Power of the Sister Vote” survey, rallying cries of “trust Black women” and “listen to Black women” have shaped the contours of 2020 politics in historic, strategic ways. Sen. Kamala Harris, the first Black and Asian-American woman to be nominated as the vice-presidential candidate of a major political party, is evidence of that—as are down-ballot races across the country.

Currently, 24 Black women are serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, making up 4.3% of all state legislators and nearly 15% of all women state legislators. According to the Center of American Women and Politics (CAWP), at least 130 Black women—98 Democrats and 32 Republicans—were congressional candidates in 2020 primary contests. That number included 117 Black women candidates—89 Democrats, 28 Republicans—for the U.S. House and 13 Black women candidates—9 Democrats, 4 Republicans—for the U.S. Senate. CAWP reports that “this is the largest number of Black women candidates who have run for the House or Senate, overall and in both parties, in a single election year.” Further, Black women are a larger percentage of all women running for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate in 2020.

At least 61 Black women—48 Democrats and 13 Republicans—will be on ballots across the nation in November, and during one of the most pivotal elections in recent U.S. political history, the time for leadership that centers our lived experiences and those of the broader Black community is now. 

“People are becoming more comfortable with seeing different kinds of people in Congress. You don’t know what it looks like to have powerful Black women in Congress until you see powerful Black women in Congress,” Pam Keith, a Navy veteran and attorney who is running in the Democratic primary for a Florida congressional seat, told NBC News.

This is also a historic year for Asian or Pacific Islander (API), Latina, Middle Eastern or North African (MENA), Indigenous, and/or multiracial women, according to Tides.org, with each group running for Congressional races in record number. 

“There will be a resistance to your ambition. There will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane,’” Harris said during the Black Girls Lead 2020 conference. “They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be. But don’t you let that burden you…I want you to be ambitious.” 

In the video below, ESSENCE highlights ambitious women of color running for office in 2020. Become familiar with their faces. Become familiar with their names. 

Get very familiar with seeing Black women and other women of color in positions of power.

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