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Joy and pain: New report on mixed status of Black women

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Apr 7, 2014 - 10:26:29 AM

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Contributors to Black Women’s Roundtable report, Black Women in the U.S., at the National Council of Negro Women headquarters. Pictured (L-R):Dr. L. Toni Lewis, SEIU Healthcare; Joycelyn Tate, Telecom Talk; Melanie L. Campbell, Black Women’s Roundtable; Felicia Davis, Building Green Network; Avis Jones-DeWeever, PhD, Incite Unlimited; Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Ph.D.; and Carol Joyner, Labor Project for Working Families. Photo: CIT-VISUALS
WASHINGTON ( - Some progress has been made for Black women in America over the past 50 years but critical areas such as health, education and retirement require “dire national attention” and “urgent action,” according to the first in a series of reports by the Black Women’s Roundtable Public Policy Network.

Before a standing room only crowd March 27 at the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women, the report “Black Women in the U.S., 2014” received thunderous applause at times and sighs at others.

“Black women are a powerful force and we plan to demonstrate that power by working collaboratively and intentionally across issues to usher in a new set of progressive polices and leaders to champion our cause,” said Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation and convener of the roundtable.

She called the report a roadmap for use during the Black Women’s Roundtable Summit, which was held here March 27-29.

The report found the following:

Black Women’s Health Still in Need of Dire Attention

“For Black women, having a baby can be deadly. The maternal mortality rate for Black women is fully three times that of White women and is on par with several developing nations.”

Sixty Years Post-Brown,
Education Still Separate, Still Unequal, Yet Black Women Still Excel

“Black girls experience an out-of school suspension rate fully 6 times that of White girls. In spite of these challenges, over the past five decades, the high school graduation rates of Black women have jumped 63 percent, virtually eliminating the gap with Asian women (down to 2 percent), and significantly narrowing the gap with White women (7 percent).”

Black Women Work, but Lag Behind in Pay

“As they have from the beginning of their experience in America, Black women lead all women in labor force participation rates. Yet, despite their strong work ethic, Black women remain behind economically largely due to a doubly disadvantaged wage gap and over-representation in low-wage fields.”

No Golden Years for Black Women

“Largely due to years of pay disadvantages, decreased access to employer-sponsored pension plans, and a stunning lack of overall wealth accumulation, Black women over 65 have the lowest household income of any demographic group in America.”

“We looked at the tragedies and the triumphs surrounding Black Women’s lives across a variety of different indicators and areas of inquiry,” explained Avis Jones-DeWeever, Ph.D., of Incite Unlimited and editor of the report.

The report also found:

Black Women Vulnerable to Violence and the Criminal Justice System

“Black women are especially likely to be a victim of violence in America. In fact, no woman is more likely to be murdered in America today than a Black woman. No woman is more likely to be raped than a Black woman. And no woman is more likely to be beaten, either by a stranger or by someone she loves and trusts than a Black woman.”

Black Women Mean Business

“Black women are the fastest growing segment of the women owned business market, yet Black women-owned firms trail all other women when it comes revenue generation. Black women receive only 6 percent of the revenue generated by all women-owned businesses. That compares to 29 percent received by White women.”

Black Women and Politics, Still Unbought and Unbossed

“Black women make up the most dynamic segment of the Rising American Electorate. In the past two Presidential elections, Black women led all demographic groups in voter turnout.”

On the streets of Washington, D.C., Black women provided an “amen chorus” to the report’s findings. “You heard the song, ‘It’s hard out here for a pimp?’ It’s hard out here for a Black woman. I feel like I have to do everything.  I work, take care of the children, take care of my parents, and on and on. People really don’t understand just how hard it is,” Benita Gregory from Alexandria, Va. told The Final Call.

When told there was a report about the status of Black women, Rachel Brooks from Baltimore, Md., just shook her head. “A report about us? Just look at TV or cable and you can see what’s going on with Black women. We’re loud, want to fight, sleep around and have an exaggerated sense of ourselves. What is the report saying about that?  Look at our girls, which are a direct reflection of us. What do you see?” she asked.

The Black Women’s Roundtable has developed a Public Policy Agenda for 2014 and Beyond that includes job creation, increased funding for Black colleges, protecting the Voting Rights Act, increasing the minimum wage, ending Stand Your Ground Laws and full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“We need a comprehensive initiative to reduce homicides - especially youth homicides. We know from the work in Boston that brought and kept youth homicides down to zero in the late 90s that we have the know-how,” commented Makani Themba of The Praxis Project.

“We just need the commitment to make the investments in jobs, supports and protective policies for our families to see it through so every child has a chance. Also, better bank and corporate regulation, address student loan debt,” she added.