The Democratic National Convention (DNC) kicked off in Philadelphia yesterday, and although Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee, black women were front and center.
From the convention chair, Representative Marcia Fudge to Georgia House Representative Stacey Abrams to the incomparable Michelle Obama, it is clear that black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party and will be an essential component of progressing the party into the future, should they choose to do so.
Yesterday was a contentious day at the DNC, due to revelations of favoritism within the national Democratic Party staff towards Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Sanders supporters were quick to boo any mention of Hillary Clinton at the opening of the afternoon session. However, the convention chair, Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio went old school, telling the crowd that she respects them and expects the same respect back.
Presentations followed from Mayor Shirley Jackson of Atlanta and Georgia House Representative Stacey Abrams from Georgia. Abrams discussed growing up economically insecure, but being taught to engage in public service and give back to those in need. Abrams emphasized that no one succeeds alone, that we must stand together and help each other.
Of course, undeniable highlight of the night was Michelle Obama, whose eloquence and grace somehow rose above the dreadful discourse of this election cycle, and centered American children—specifically her black daughters.
Obama’s speech resonated deeply with audiences due to the truth of her conviction as a mother and as a role model. She underscored that the role of the president is to preside over American conversations, over the disposition of the country, ultimately chiding the tone of the Trump campaign without even mentioning his name. She additionally demonstrated the historical significance of her speech last night, noting that she wakes up in a house built by slaves and watches her daughters, beautiful black young women, growing up in that house, playing with their dog on the White House lawn.
Though the political façade of national electoral politics will only get us so far, seeing these black women take up the mantle of the Democratic Party resonated with me last night. I thought about when Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party fought for recognition as the Mississippi delegation at the 1964 DNC. Hamer was a civil rights activist and organizer who fought for the right to vote in Mississippi. Her historic speech challenged the Democratic Party to recognize black humanity and citizenship.
Hamer’s speech and the black women running the show yesterday leads me to conclude that black women have been and will be the crux of progress for the Democratic Party, pushing it forward and challenging its inherent racist, sexist, and capitalist structure. They need us, they need our agenda and our presence. Any message of progressivism, feminism, and racial progress is absolutely empty without our voice and our support.
It is up to each of us to decide if we will engage in this type of politics, which often comes up very short for so many black women and mothers in the United States. If the Democratic Party wants our voice, our activism, they must return the sacrifices that black women make on behalf of this party with policy, not rhetoric, and not just our faces on a national stage. Since so many black women showed up for Hillary Clinton, we must expect and demand she show up for us.
Photo Credits: NY Post, Reuters