Sen. Harris at Black Women’s Agenda Luncheon: “Black Women’s Agenda Should Be America’s Agenda”
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris, member of the Congressional Black Caucus, delivered remarks and accepted the President’s Award at the Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. 40th Annual Symposium Workshop and Awards Luncheon.
Founded in 1977, the Black Women's Agenda seeks to improve the lives of Black women and girls through developing strategies and providing resources to its member organizations. During her remarks, Harris discussed the importance of the Black Women's Agenda at a time when Black women are more politically and economically engaged than ever before, and enrolling in higher education in numbers higher than any other demographic.
Full remarks as delivered below:
I can’t thank you enough for your incredible leadership in this phenomenal organization, and for your friendship. Sister girls, know that, as we do, lift each other up every day, the words of encouragement, the prayers, just that look when we see each other on the street, know that it means so very much, it means so very much. So just a few words. When we talk about the Black Women’s Agenda, and congratulations on this being the 40th year, we know that the agenda of 40 years ago is in large part still the agenda today. When we look at the Black women’s agenda, we know we are still looking at a history where voting rights are something we cannot take for granted, after the United States Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
When you look at where we are today, we know there have been 10 separate federal court decisions, since 2013, finding intentional violations based on race, as it related to voting rights. When we look at an issue like healthcare, a big part of the black women’s agenda, when we talk about the agenda being to advance the health, safety, and well-being of black women and their families, and there are forces here in Washington DC that for purely political reasons are trying to undo President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and we know that the black women of America have benefitted in untold ways from that smart public policy.
We know the agenda is still very much something we have to fight for. I also would say, the black women’s agenda is America’s agenda. Let’s be clear about that. Let’s take a look at the numbers. Black women are 6.6% of the population of the United States, which is roughly 21 million people. Politically, black women have the highest turnout rates of any demographic in the national elections in ’08 and ’12. Economically, we are the fastest growing group of our workforce, 1.5 million businesses. Educationally, I am a proud graduate of Howard University. Educationally, there are a higher percentage of black women enrolled in college than any other demographic. So the black women’s agenda is America’s agenda and I’ll close my comments by just saying a couple of things with incredible appreciation for this award. I stand up here and I’m looking at a ballroom full of phenomenal women and then on this dais, people who have role modeled, who have paved the way, who have created the path, often with a machete in hand to create a road for us, each of us, to have opportunities.
I look over to my right at Symone, who is going to receive an award, who is 20 years old and who has accomplished so much and has so much ahead of her. And so then I look at Symone, for example, this is what I like to say as a piece of advice. Symone, you, like all of the women in this room, will find yourself often being the only one like you in the room. You will find yourself in a courtroom, or a boardroom, and the only one who has had the life experiences that you have had. But here is what you have got to remember. Look around this room. Hold onto this image. And know that when you are in that room we are all in that room with you. And that applies to all of us. I took that lesson into a United States Senate hearing room. And then the last piece of sharing with you, I’d like to share with you something that my mother used to tell me and my sister Maya. And she would look at me and say, “Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.”
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