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Black women continue stepping up, stepping out

By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent- | Last updated: Dec 26, 2017 - 8:33:48 PM

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(L-R) Rep. Fredrica Wilson of Fla., Activist/Organizer Tamika Mallory, Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans, Jemele Hill of ESPN

In 2017 Black women continued leading in areas of activism, political engagement and stepping to the forefront in the worldwide movement for justice, according to political scientists and activists.

A defining moment came when Black women in Alabama helped to thwart the election of Republican Judge Roy Moore to the United States Senate.

Ninety-eight percent voted for Democrat Doug Jones, while 63 percent of White women voted for Judge Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers.

Others tried to relegate Black women’s contributions in 2017 as invisible and take credit for their hard work, according to Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, author, commentator and founder of the Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women.

“Honestly, that has been something that we’ve seen in this country for centuries … but when you look at the data, the data shows the true story, and the true story, as usual, is that the majority of White women supported the Republican, which is especially repulsive in this particular situation, given that this is someone who clearly has a background that suggests that he was a pedophile, preyed upon teenagers, young girls,” said Dr. Jones-DeWeever.

The degree to which Black women over performed in the election was especially amazing, she said, putting matters in perspective.  It wasn’t only an off-year election.  It was a special one, for which participation is typically lower, she said.

“In this particular case, what we saw was groundbreaking!  Historic!  As a political scientist, I have never seen anything like it, where you have a demographic group that came out a level in a special election that actually exceeded their participation in a presidential election, and, especially as it relates to the presidential election that featured Barack Obama,” Dr. Jones-DeWeever told The Final Call.

Black women’s creativity and boldness were also on display this year as the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and abuse founded by Tarana Burke over a decade ago in 2006 took fire after White actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the hashtag in a call to action to women who were victims of sexual harassment.  This in the wake of more than a dozen women that accused Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and abuse.

However, Ms. Burke was excluded from Time Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year: ‘#MeToo SilenceBreakers’ cover. 

“It is once again an example of our creativity, our boldness, our leading the way, only to be big-footed by others who come much later to the party, but then get accolades as those who were the originators, when actually, they were the appropriators,” said Dr. Jones-DeWeever.

ZaZa Ali, educator, author and radio host, gave 2017 for Black women an eight on a scale of one to 10.  She said she understands the nonstop pressure and perseverance Black women endure just to navigate society, make strides in business, education, and other factors of American culture.

“I would give us an eight, because we are the glue to our families. We are the glue in our communities.  We set popular trends that may not always be that enlightening and that good for us, which is why I would say an eight and not a 10,” Ms. Ali told The Final Call.

Black women participated in the global movement in consciousness, and hopefully in the coming years, they will start to be at the head of moving the consciousness forward and her rating will increase, Ms. Ali explained.

She gave the United States and society in general a four in their handling of Black women over this year.

“There are a lot of underlying, hidden beneath the surface things that come with institutional racism that greatly impact Black women that a lot of us either are not aware of, or are not focused on,” said Ms. Ali.

President Donald Trump and his Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly were heavily criticized for demeaning comments and insults both hurled at U.S. Congresswoman Fredrica Wilson (D-Fla.). Mr. Trump was engaged in a war of words in an attempt to denigrate and smear Rep. Wilson  and Gold Star widow Myeisha Johnson. Mrs. Johnson’s husband Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, was one of a quartet of Special Forces soldiers killed in Niger on Oct. 4 following an ambush.

On Oct. 18, Rep. Wilson criticized Mr. Trump after overhearing his brief conversation with Mrs. Johnson, mother of two with another baby on the way. Rep. Wilson accused Mr. Trump of being insensitive. She said the president told Mrs. Johnson her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Rep. Wilson was in the car with the Johnson family as they traveled to Miami International Airport to meet Sgt. Johnson’s body when President Trump called.

Mr. Trump said via Twitter and when questioned by the media, that Rep. Wilson had lied and strongly disputed her account, claiming the call had gone well and that he was respectful and extremely courteous to the grieving widow.

But in a televised interview, Mrs. Johnson said the president did not remember her husband’s name. She said when his call came in to the master sergeant in the car with her, she asked that it be placed on speaker phone, so others could hear. Mrs. Johnson corroborated Rep. Wilson’s comments.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly also attacked Rep. Wilson. He fabricated a story that in 2015 she crowed about her political influence during the dedication of an FBI building in South Florida. He was dismissive of the former high school principal and founder of 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project, refusing to call her by name, referring to her as “this woman” while characterizing her as an “empty barrel.”

Mr. Trump also called for the firing of Jemele Hill after the ESPN host criticized him on Twitter.

Ms. Ali also cited the case of Cyntoia Brown, who is serving a life sentence for killing a “John” she was pimped out to when she was 16 years old as an example of the continued disregard for Black women. Ms. Brown was convicted in 2004.  Her story went viral in social media this year after celebrities began tweeting about her ordeal.

For a better year, really a better life beyond 2018, Ms. Ali urged Black women that they must take ownership of their roles as the mothers of civilization, be very intelligent in how they interact in the world, focus on emotional, spiritual, mental and physical well-being, and put themselves first when it comes to being well.

A high mark for Black women this year came through activist/organizer Tamika Mallory’s vision and leadership in the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington, D.C.

Ms. Mallory, co-founder of the Women’s March, ensured Black women and people of color not only had a seat at the table for the global event, but asserted they needed to lead it.

More than five million people of all backgrounds marched for social change on several continents, according to organizers.

Dr. Jones-DeWeever argued the Women’s March was another example where White women, the initial organizers, tried to appropriate the work of Black women by calling it the “Million Woman March.”

Empress Phile’ Chionesu convened that March 20 years ago on October 25, 1997 to tackle problems affecting Black women in America, she noted. This year marked the milestone 20-year anniversary of that historic gathering in Philadelphia.

Ms. Mallory and Women’s March organizers did not rest on the success of January and reconvened in Detroit, Oct. 27-29 for the Women’s Convention, themed, “Reclaiming Our Time.”

Dr. Jones-DeWeever said 2017 was also marked by the record numbers of Black women running for and winning office and leading in political engagement.  “We have more Black women running for Congress.  We now have a Black woman in the Senate (Kamala Harris).  We have Black women who are, particularly looking at what happened in Virginia, in the state legislature now,” she stated.

Among them are LaToya Cantrell, who was elected the first female elected mayor of New Orleans, La. in a landslide election. Vi Lyles made history as Charlotte, North Carolina’s, first Black female mayor. (Final Call staff contributed to this report.)