Democrats Must Uphold the Political Power of Black Communities

Our leaders must realize that no gains can be made without the centering of Black women, and in order to hold on to power, they must continue to address the concerns and needs of this group and other marginalized communities.

We've Won the White House, Now Democrats Need to Uphold the Political Power of  Black Communities
Feminist lawmakers and activists are optimistic that the Biden-Harris administration will follow through on their promises to improve women’s lives and bring strong action for gender justice and racial equality. (Brandi Phipps / Ms. Magazine)

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris assumed their new roles as the leaders of our country, while Georgia’s new Senators Warnock and Ossoff began to represent America’s newest battleground state. Now, it seems, the time has finally come to begin the hard work of healing from four years of turmoil that resulted in almost 500,000 people dead because of inaction on COVID-19, millions of jobs lost, a rise in hate crimes, and an emboldened white nationalist movement threatening our ability to move forward as a country.

The opportunity for healing and political evolution in this moment is groundbreaking and incredibly fragile, especially for the women-led, multi-racial coalitions across the country that helped to save our election this fall. We can’t ignore that this historic moment took place against the backdrop of an insurrection at the Capitol fueled by white supremacy and a Republican party that is increasingly anti-democracy.

The historic and game-changing nature of this election cycle is clear not because of who won, but also how we won. In big ways and small we are seeing the hard, tireless work of building a multiracial people-powered movement—led by Black women—bearing fruit. The year 2020 made it painstakingly clear that both Black voters and Black culture are crucial to the Democrats’ winning strategy. Plain and simple, if Democrats want to keep winning, they need to prioritize and act quickly to increase and strengthen the political power of Black people.

To see the power of Black culture we need only to look back at the Georgia runoff election, where the incredible work activists like Nsé Ufot and the New Georgia Project helped change the political direction of the state. The New Georgia Project knocked on almost 2 million doors and made 7 million calls to those who are often left out of the electoral process. And they did it by infusing authentic Black southern hospitality into traditional get out the vote (GOTV) efforts, while being unapologetic about what it takes to meet voters where they are at.

In fact, popular hip hop artist BRS Kash went viral after he changed the lyrics of his hit song “Throat Baby” to “Vote Baby” during a campaign performance at the New Missionary Baptist Church parking lot.

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Over in Florida, Reverend Rhonda Thomas used the centuries-old traditions of the Black Church to galvanize the local faith community to bring people to the ballot box. She helped to host several ‘Souls to the Polls’ events across the state, making the direct link between faith and voting clear and forming new connections with community members. She reminded people from all faiths that they had a spiritual and moral obligation to have their voices heard and encourage others to recognize their power in casting a ballot.

We also witnessed the influence of Black culture in efforts to protect voters at the polls and to ensure that every vote was counted. The Election Defenders programs anchored by The Frontline under the leadership of Black women like Nelini Stamp, Tiffany Flowers and Jessica Byrd cultivated a team of trained volunteers and activists to support voters experiencing intimidation and suppression while trying to vote. The Election Defenders could be seen wearing matching bright yellow sweatshirts, jackets and hats reminiscent of the coordinated, uniform style of the Black Panther Party. They danced with voters and poll workers to keep them energized and upbeat during an otherwise uncertain and volatile electoral environment.

It is for this very reason that the newly elected Democratic trifecta in the House, Senate and White House must take meaningful steps to make it easier for the voters to practice their civic duty of voting. We’re already doing the work on the ground, but more support is needed. Our leaders must strengthen Black and Brown voters’ ability to wield the cultural and electoral power that has put Democrats in control of the government. Our leaders must realize that no gains can be made without the centering of Black women, and in order to hold on to power, they must continue to address the concerns and needs of this group and other marginalized communities.

The Biden-Harris administration must take immediate and urgent action in its first 100 days to cement our democracy and to rid it of the poison of white supremacy that continues to threaten every corner and foundation of our society. These actions include enforcing the National Voter Registration Act and the Voting Rights Act, removing barriers to naturalization, and investing in voter registration. It’s also time to pass critical legislation that could transform our country, including making Washington, D.C. a state and enacting the For the People Act into law to expand critical access to the vote.

Enacting immediate democracy reform measures will not just serve as an essential thank you to the Black and Brown people who saved this country, it will increase the political power of the communities that, election cycle after election cycle, show up to be the beating heart of democracy.

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Angela Peoples is the founder and CEO of The South and the Director of the Democracy Defense Coalition.