Voting is our Love Language
Say their names. The ABC Original series “Women of the Movement” opens Season One centering Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, and exploring her fight for judicial relief in the bowels of an extremely confederate 1950s Mississippi. The events surrounding the August 28, 1955 lynching murder of Emmet Till and his mother’s fight to bring his murderers to justice propelled the Civil Rights Movement forward in the United States. Fast-forward 65 years - May 25, 2020 - the nation watches helplessly while a full grown Black man calls out for his mother as his life is literally extinguished in broad daylight, George Floyd. Emmett Till. Travon Martin. Tamir Rice. Grieving mothers, broken hearts, and hurtful unjust verdicts. The movement for human rights rests in the bosom of women’s pain, Black women’s pain. Say their names.
Women’s issues are nuanced at best. The fingerprints of so many women are enduring legacies in the heart and soul of Civil Rights Movement throughout the history of this country. Mrs. Mamie Till-Mobley, Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams, the women of the Floyd family, Representative Lucy McBath (GA), Sybrina Fulton and every mother enduring the pain of the loss, the sting of the injustice, and the exhaustion of the fight, these stories must continue to be amplified while simultaneously allowing space for new voices to enter the historical discourse. As the nation prepares for the Biden administration to announce the nominee for the vacant Supreme Court Justice seat (SCOTUS), the push for more women in leadership, particularly Black women and other women of color, has illuminated glaring double standards and disturbing patterns of intentional discrimination in the institutions responsible for protections and policies.
2022 opened up with all facets of the country in transition. Redistricting maps across the nation continue to capture headlines as some states in the Union display long established patterns of intentional discrimination. Utah, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Maryland are presenting the most gerrymandered maps for 2022. For Black women in leadership, the complexities of various women’s issues, compounded by the reality of the resistance challenging their authority, women like Fulton County, Georgia’s District Attorney Fani Willis and New York’s Attorney General Letiticia James are necessary to achieve transparent accountability and whose expertise is pivotal in the quest to establish a more perfect union through judicial equity.
The recent bomb threats at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), of which at least 25% of the presidents are women who identify as Black, the heightened potential for physical violence against Black people has become more real in recent years. The threats menacing the lives of Black faculty, staff, and students are too closely reminiscent of the collective pain.
The pain is agitated further by the aggressive attempts to take over local school boards as depicted in Southlake, Texas. The school board fights along with the statewide and national naziesque book bans overlaying censorship of curriculum all happening under the guise of anti-Critical Race Theory (CRT), puts a certain chill up the spine. The threats aimed toward Black voices seem to know no bounds and are bound by no laws. By removing authors and books like Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the established majority is deliberately ignoring policies meant to prevent censorship to placate an unreasonable group of parents with ideologies from the fringes of society. There is a popular social media meme that sums it up best that reads: ‘The people who threw rocks at Ruby Bridges for trying to go to school are now upset their grandchildren might learn about them throwing rocks at Ruby Bridges for trying to go to school.’
Locally, BIPOC candidates and constituents in La Marque, and other rural districts in Southeast Texas have allegedly been harassed and threatened with physical violence. Yet each of these servant leaders continues to stand tall in their perspective offices and are brave representatives of the daily harassment experienced by BIPOC public officials, when being confronted by angry local residents openly affiliated with and actively engaging white nationalist groups. These lived experiences highlight the need for local, state, and federal eyes and resources to be focused on the volatility of the area. These experiences in real time also demonstrate why it is essential to support, protect, and invest in the local, state, and federal campaigns doing the work of the people and working to uplift everyone fighting to defend our democratic Republic.
Intersectionality, as a life grid for Black women, is the cornerstone to why voting rights is such a serious matter in communities of interest. Redistricting has redrawn the lines on the battlefield of voting rights. Many jurisdictions are being confronted by cultural divisions as redistricting maps are setting the parameters for new, more confusing voting precincts and the process for mail-in ballots becomes more tedious for the elderly and alternatively-abled voting populations. These changes and ensuing confusion have already resulted in ballots being rejected at higher percentages than ever before. The fight for basic equity in the democratic process seems a birthright for some and a civil rights battle for others. State legislative bodies across the nation have invested heavily in massive disenfranchisement of the voters voted to put them in office. The lack of federal protections from states with enduring histories of intentional discrimination combined with the removal of polling locations, outlawing ballot drop boxes, and the overwhelming rejection of mail-in ballots are some of the main issues motivating grassroots organizations to double down on efforts to educate voters and get out the vote. Black women are integral components buffering the blunt assault on human rights. Texas voters can expect the tone and tenor of the primaries in Texas will set the stage for the political landscape in November. Women’s issues are on the ballot. All of them. Voting, health, the energy grid, equal pay, maternity leave, mortality rates, every issue; and every issue intersects with another.
There is a clarion call to women of conscious. Now is the time to be heard. Now is the time to move from ‘ally’ to ‘accomplice’. Now is the time. In spite of the evident disparities and blatant obstacles, local trailblazers continue to step up and bring dignity to the local municipalities they serve. Women like County Chair Tierrishia Gibson (Galveston County), Councilwoman Kimberly Yancy (La Marque), Councilwoman Sharon Lewis (Galveston) as well as candidates like Alisa Simmons (Tarrant County) who is vying for a county commissioner seat, Texas is a crucible for the most talented, brilliant, and fierce legislative advocates and defenders of the people who fight for the rights and humanity of all residents. Black Herstory Month lends to the public the life experiences and incredible narratives of the Women of the Movement (Fannie Lou Hamer) and Mothers of the Struggle (Shirley Chisholm). Quite a few of us ‘daughters of sorrow’ find solace in and through the intercessory prayers of our mothers, sisters, aunts, and cousins. In the spirit of their strength, let us take time to honor those who have allowed their pain to lead them to help others while we also remember and pay homage to women like late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Attorney Lani Guinier, and author Bell Hooks. The genius of their work is anchored in the depth of the intersectional life experience of Black people in the African Diaspora through the lens of North America and through the weighty veil of so called white supremacy in the United States.
Locally, the women of Galveston County continue to work tirelessly to defend and protect human dignity and preserve civil rights. Redistricting in Texas has been swift and brutal in vulnerable districts across the state and Galveston County continues to make national headlines as one of the most egregious illustrations of intentional discrimination through mapping. Recent litigation asks Texas courts to consider the current maps and the County Commissioners’ recent actions as part of an established pattern that began well over ten years ago. The dramatic redrawing of the county commissioners’ map demonstrates the severity of the intentional discrimination openly on display in the county. Though these tactics are meant to depress and discourage voter turnout, there are Black women in the county making herstory despite the challenges and stepping into the spaces required to amplify the voices of the people.
This Black Herstory Month 2022, identify, engage, and uplift all the legislators, municipal representatives and local community members who move forward as women of conscious and challenge policies and procedures that not only endanger our current quality of life but the lives of generations yet unborn. Summoning the courage, fortitude and determination of the ancestors who laid the path to liberation, we are all called to quash the negative agendas meant to delineate and disenfranchise voters while also implementing innovative strategies to preserve and expand the rights of all.