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We Must Center Black Women

Shirley Chisolm, the first Black women elected to congress, famously advised those who do not have a seat at the table to bring a folding chair. I challenge us to do better this Women’s History Month and beyond.

We need to start centering Black women’s voices and those who are directly affected by policies, not just provide a seat at the table as an afterthought, but at the beginning, middle, and end. It is those voices that are the experts. They cut through the noise, and when they do, we redistribute power, and free people from the violence of poverty, low wages, and white supremacy.”

I was born and raised in rural Virginia. However, it’s when I got to Oakland in 2008 that I became a social justice minister. It’s also where I was a Lyft driver and part of the fight against Prop 22 to try to maintain workers’ rights in the multi-billion dollar ride-share industry.

Whether I am preaching to a congregation or shouting through a bullhorn on the streets, my call to the mountaintop remains the same: We must challenge racism, gender discrimination, and the myth of scarcity.

Part of the responsibility of the faith community is to address the narratives of scarcity that keep us apart from each other when we actually live in abundance. There is more than enough to for all of us to live in freedom and joy and transform our communities. But until we liberate Black women, their families, and communities, no one is free.

We can’t just look at policies without first addressing racism. We need to get beyond race being a four-letter word, and get comfortable acknowledging and healing racist wounds. The conditions that make police killings of Black people possible and inevitable are the same conditions that make the exploitation of Black and brown workers possible and inevitable. They are also the same conditions that have erased or abused the efforts of Black people mobilizing for freedom.

We cannot idly listen to the news, eat dinner, and pass the potatoes around while saying ‘God, ain’t it awful!’ It is our moral duty as justice seekers to transform this history of betrayal. To do so, we must be in alignment in our understanding that racial justice is economic justice, and economic justice is racial justice. Therefore, we must be intentional about the practice of centering Black and brown voices. We must require it of ourselves and each other. Me. And you.

I invite you to join me this Women’s History Month and work to ensure that the voices of the most affected have a seat at the table in a just recovery to the pandemic.

By Minister Cherri Murphy, EBASE Faith-Rooted Organizer