Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
WEEK ON THE STATUS OF BLACK WOMEN
(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] WEEK ON THE STATUS OF BLACK WOMEN 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 potential. 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 location. 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 Women. Thank you. ____________________