Vote Like a Black Feminist

by Paris Hatcher, Black Feminist Future

Image of Shirley Chisolm, one of our inspirations to vote like a Black feminist.

This election season, we’re voting for Black futures and in defense of Black lives. Black people face longstanding, systemic obstacles to voting made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and the current political climate. We’ve seen active voter suppression all over the country because politicians and the systems they’ve designed recognize that voting has always been a critical tool for building Black political power.

Guided by past and current Black feminist electoral champions, Black Feminist Future has created Vote Like A Black Feminist (VLABF): a 4-point guide that encourages you to apply your Black feminist values when you vote. VLABF has 4 points: make a plan, vote down ballot, support your squad, and apply pressure.

Shirley Chisolm was the first African American woman elected to Congress, representing New York’s 12th House district from 1969 to 1983. Her outspoken advocacy for women and minorities during her 7 terms encourages all of us to follow the first point of our VLABF guide: make a plan. We are strongest when staying prepared, informed, and ready to organize. Make a plan for how you will vote — if you haven’t already. Understand the possible election outcome scenarios to give yourselves space and time to plan for safety within our families, communities, and organizations.

It’s also important that we think both on a local and national scale like Fannie Lou Hamer, a voting and women’s rights activist, community organizer, and founder and vice-chair of the Freedom Democratic Party. Like Hamer, not only do we want to encourage as many eligible, disenfranchised voters as possible to get to the polls, we also want to encourage them to vote down ballot. Voting down ballot means voting for local government officials, such as sheriff and district attorney, and local policies, such as divesting from police and investing in real public safety, found lower down on your ballot. Do your research beforehand to know what you’re voting for.

Our uprising in defense of Black lives has made history in the U.S. and across the globe. Movements are shaped by strategic leaders like Ella Baker, a civil rights and human rights activist who was a major force in the Civil Rights Movement and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Baker’s work and legacy is what drives the third point in our guide: support your squad. We all have a role to play in ensuring that everyone has the necessary information, access, and resources to cast their vote. Make a plan with your squad and keep each other safe through election season.

Our VLABF guide is rooted in building the people’s power by following Black feminists. Stacey Abrams exemplifies this. Abrams is a politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and author who served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 10 years and in 2018 was the first African-American female major-party gubernatorial nominee. Her non-concession speech and creation of Fair Fight, an organization to challenge voter suppression, exemplifies the fourth point: apply pressure. Up and down the ballot, we must hold our elected officials accountable on the issues that affect our communities. As we know from our past Black Feminist movements, our political power does not end with the ballot. In the weeks after the election, it is crucial that we tap into our power to apply pressure from the White House to our communities for the radical changes we fight for.

In order to reshape democracy in a way that is inclusive, equitable, and just, we must first address the challenges of patriarchal oppression, racism, and sexism faced by Black women and girls. This November and beyond, prepare, think, organize, build, and Vote Like A Black Feminist by making a plan, voting down ballot, supporting your squad, and applying pressure.

View our full voting guide here.

Paris Hatcher (she/her/hers) is Director and Head Rabble Rouser of Black Feminist Future, an initiative informed by the legacy of Black feminist organizing, grounded in the current pulse of movements and located at the emergent need to amplify the power of black feminist leaders, organizations, and movements for the 21st century. BFF is part of The Movement for Black Lives ecosystem.

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Movement for Black Lives

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M4BL is a national network of organizations and individuals creating a broad political home for Black people to learn, organize, and take action.