By Kimani Francois | Guest Writer
Kimani Francois is a writer, poet, theologian, and Theo-Activist. She graduated from Wheaton College in May of 2019 with a degree in Communication, concentrated in Rhetoric and Culture. She is currently pursuing her Master’s of Divinity at Candler School of Theology at Emory University and was recently elected Deputy Vice President of External Affairs for the Graduate Student Government Association. She is the host of Kiki’s Korner: Where Biblical Principles Meet Culture.
Preserving democracy is a mass social justice movement. Since the 19th century, Black women have defended the true ideals of what American democracy represents. As we saw this past week from the attack on Capitol Hill, their work is crucial to the survival and growth of our nation.
Surprisingly, the word democracy isn’t mentioned in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. This is not a mistake. The American Founders believed that the wealthy and the knowledgeable would make the best decisions for the nation, instituting the representative democracy. This overall formula has been critiqued throughout history with shouts of abolishing the electoral college.
Representative democracy in America has mainly favored white males who make critical decisions on behalf of the nation. These decisions have caused inequities for communities of color, including African American communities. Issues of poverty, mass incarceration, education, and healthcare are directly connected to those who are in leadership and have the power to affect legislation.
However, Black women have fought for voting rights so every voice could be heard even when they themselves could not vote. Fannie Lou Hamer was beaten, sexually assaulted, and fired for attempting to register to vote. Ultimately, she founded the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party to combat the all-white male Dixie Democratic party in Mississippi in 1964, and she laid the groundwork for other organizers and politicians.
A Moment of Jubilee in 2020
In November, it was announced that the state of Pennsylvania would go to Joe Biden. Joy and celebration filled the streets when he and Kamala Harris were projected winners of the 2020 Presidential election. One commentator noticed global citizens reacting as if a dictator had been overthrown.
The moment of jubilee lasted into the night; other nations celebrated and announced, “Welcome back America!” For many Americans, it felt like a weight had been lifted.
President-elect Joe Biden isn’t a savior, and his presidency will arguably be the most scrutinized of all time, but in his acceptance speech he told the Black community, “You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”
We’re Here Because of Stacy Abrams
In 2018 Stacy Abrams ran for governor in the state of Georgia. She would have been the first African American woman to become governor in that state, but she did not win. She claims that the loss was due to her opponent Brian Kemp’s fraudulent practices of purging voter rolls and the disenfranchisement of Black voters in majority-Black districts.
Abrams lost the race by under 60,000 votes. She might have lost that battle, but she did not give up the fight. Instead, she started two organizations to combat voter suppression: Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project. In doing so, she furthered voting equity and made a way for people like me to have a voice.
Congressman Jamaal Bowman tweeted, “Stacy Abrams channeled the spirits of Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B Wells and Mitte Mause Lena Gordon.”From Twitter
Due to Abrams’ funding and direction through Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project, thousands of Georgians whose votes were taken away in 2018 were able to cast their ballots in the 2020 Presidential election. Abrams and other Black women helped restore voting rights among all Georgians, and as a result, Joe Biden received sixteen electoral votes and flipped Georgia.
My mother and I were sleeping on the couch when Georgia turned blue this November. We held each other tight and started to weep in each other’s arms as we prayed. I voted in Fulton County, GA, and it counted.
Finally, Black Women Can Be Represented Too
The VP pick of Kamala Harris was a key reason Joe Biden won the election due to all the molds Harris fits and the ones she breaks. Her profile intersects with so many modern American stories: She’s female, Black and Indian, is a second generation American, has step-children, was married at the age of 50 to a Jewish man, is an HBCU alumna, and is part of the Divine Nine.
Black women have had to serve as the backbone of democracy even though they don’t benefit from everything within our democratic society. Black women were some of the last people to gain voting rights, but in nine more days, the United States will have a Black woman in one of the highest positions of power. There aren’t many people of color with that honor, particularly women of color, despite the demographics of this nation.
Explore these charts to learn more!
Picking Kamala garnished votes that only Black women are capable of gaining due to her political positioning as matriarch and truth-teller. There is a trust of Black women in politics because usually they are advocating for the entire household. If Black women move up in American society, so does everyone else.
But if Black women are preserving democracy, who is preserving them?
After the Inauguration
Preserving democracy takes work. The attack on the Capitol revealed that to those not already aware. But Black women shouldn’t have to carry the weight of democracy by being everything to everyone.
One way other Americans can assist is through the work of mobilization. This happens by joining in the work of fighting for every vote to count. The prep work happens on the off-years, and results are seen during the election seasons.
Invest in a grassroots movement led by Black women, one that is already doing the work for future elections. Lastly, celebrate the work that has been done by Black women on behalf of democracy, helping to defend, preserve, and protect the true ideals of the United States.