(Senate - March 22, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 50 (Thursday, March 22, 2018)]
[Pages S1941-S1942]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Ms. HARRIS. Mr. President, on behalf of myself and Senator 
Gillibrand, we rise to request that, for the 4th year in a row, the 
U.S. Government officially recognize the last week in March as the Week 
on the Status of Black Women. During the week of March 26, 2018, as 
part of Women's History Month and in honor of the UN International 
Decade for People of African Descent, several leading social justice 
organizations will be holding events across the country to honor Black 
women's momentous contributions to our country and to shed light on the 
struggles Black women continue to face in American society.
  Black women have long gone above and beyond the call of duty in their 
contributions to American civic society, particularly when it comes to 
voter turnout and political participation. They have routinely stepped 
up as leaders and bulwarks in their communities, sacrificing their own 
health and time for the betterment of others. Even in the face of grave 
oppression dating back to our Nation's origins, Black women have 
continued to stand strong and contribute to the well-being of families, 
communities, the economy, and our country as a whole. A recognition of 
the Week on the Status of Black Women would send a critical message 
that the government wishes to elevate Black women's role in history and 
contemporary society and recognizes the unique struggles they continue 
to experience today.

[[Page S1942]]

  Black women have played a critical role in this Nation's history and 
evolution, often with little thanks or recognition. Harriet Tubman 
escaped slavery and bravely returned to the enslaved South over a dozen 
times to herald her people to freedom on the Underground Railroad. She 
served in the Union army as a spy, a medic, and the first woman ever to 
lead an armed expedition; yet despite this immense service to our 
country, we are still debating her recognition on our currency. A 
century later, Rosa Parks resisted the continued oppression and 
marginalization of her people. Before she was the face and 
organizational leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, she led campaigns 
against the sexual harassment and assault of Black women. The Week on 
the Status of Black Women offers us a chance to honor and uplift the 
sacrifices of Black women such as Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, who 
gave us so much and received so little in return.
  It gives us an opportunity to add new names to celebrate to this 
list, for contributions that build the future as much as they ground 
the past. This week of recognition honors so many of whom we are proud, 
an infinite list at which we can only hint. It includes those hidden 
figures who did the math to get us to the stars--Katherine Johnson, 
Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden--and the 
interstellar figures who have actually been there, like Dr. Mae 
Jemmison, the first African-American woman astronaut to travel in 
space; those consciousness raisers who provoked thought and progress in 
a country that needed to catch up with them, like Pauli Murray, who 
graduated first in her class from Howard Law and offered up the 
visionary arguments that won Brown v. Board of Education, and 
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who has issued an international invitation to 
embrace feminism; those courageous testifiers who spoke out with such 
foresight, from Anita Hill's willingness to speak her own truth to 
power, to Tarana Burke, whose compassionate decision to say ``Me Too'' 
inspired and named a movement that is changing the world; those 
athletes and artists who inspire us with their unprecedented feats and 
the lyricism of their movement, from American Ballet Theater's 
principal dancer Misty Copeland to America's swiftest young icon on 
ice, Maame Biney; and those who hold and disseminate knowledge, 
expanding our horizons and our minds, like Monica Drake, who last year 
became the first African-American woman on the New York Times' print 
masthead, and Carla Hayden, a visionary librarian who is the first 
woman and first African American to lead the Library of Congress, the 
largest library in the world.
  We celebrate that this momentous week gives us an opportunity to both 
enrich the historical record, and to enliven our future possibilities. 
We know that raising the stories of Black women in every walk of life 
teaches little girls to see themselves in all their full and powerful 
  As we anticipate the future, we must also stand to recognize that, 
while Black women have dedicated themselves to bettering our country, 
they continue to face countless barriers to full inclusion and equality 
in American society. Black women are disproportionately subject to 
compromising health conditions, such as poor-quality environments in 
impoverished neighborhoods, food deserts, and a lack of access to basic 
healthcare--conditions that make them more susceptible to life-
threatening diseases such as HIV and heart disease and which often make 
highly treatable illnesses, like breast cancer, lethal. Single Black 
women's median wealth is just $100, while single White women have a 
median wealth of $41,000; and White households have a median wealth of 
13 times more than Black households. Even more alarming, around half of 
single Black women have zero or negative wealth, meaning their debt 
equals or exceeds their assets. On average, Black women workers are 
paid only 67 cents on the dollar relative to White non-Hispanic men, 
even after controlling for education, years of experience, and 
  Further, while Black women, especially trans Black women, are 
exceptionally vulnerable to violence, both at the hands of the state 
and at the hands of intimate partners, often they are not listened to 
or believed when they speak out. On all these fronts, we can and must 
do better, and we will.
  In conjunction with the congressional declaration, a coalition of 
organizations advocating for the well-being of women and communities of 
color will partner to elevate the stories, histories, and realities of 
Black women's lives through a series of events entitled ``Her Dream 
Deferred''. These events will address a number of issues facing Black 
women today, including maternal mortality, sexual assault and 
harassment, political participation, and police violence through 
artistic expression and academic fora.
  Exploring these issues and acknowledging the centrality of Black 
women to our history and social fabric, along with recognizing the 
uniquely gendered and racialized inequities they face, is critical as 
we seek to extend equal rights to all Americans. We hope and request 
that this year will be a continuation of years past in celebration and 
recognition of Black women through the Week on the Status of Black 
  Thank you.