Black women — now and then — lead a recalcitrant America toward justice

Though words are my primary business, I never underestimate the power of images, especially when they so clearly represent different chapters of the same old story — one that’s frustrating, exhilarating and powerful.

What was Gloria Richardson thinking, as she seems to casually push aside the bayonet-tipped firearm wielded by a National Guardsman attempting to control civil rights demonstrators in Cambridge in my home state of Maryland in 1963? Maybe the same ideas she expressed to The Washington Post last year in the wake of protests after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police office: “Racism is ingrained in this country. This goes on and on,” she said. “We marched until the governor called martial law. That’s when you get their attention. Otherwise, you’re going to keep protesting the same things another 100 years from now.”

Richardson may not have been as well known as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rep. John Lewis, but she was “born a leader,” as her granddaughter told The Associated Press. Richardson was right there on the stage at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, though her speech was cut short after her first “hello,” perhaps for fear of what she would say next. “Before I could say another word, an NAACP official took the mic away,” Richardson once recalled.

The icon of the movement, who was a 40-year-old mother of two when she initiated and led a SNCC affiliate, the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee, died recently at the age of 99.

In photos taken just last week, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, can be seen unapologetically carrying on the spirit of Richardson, marching to maintain hard-earned voting rights now threatened by a rash of voting restrictions across the nation. Two bills to strengthen voting rights, heirs to the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the U.S. Supreme Court seems intent on dismantling, are hitting roadblocks in Congress, from Republicans using the filibuster and Democrats hesitant to meddle with it.

But Beatty and the women and men who protested on July 15 no doubt remember that Richardson and activists faced legal obstacles as well as death threats and countered it all with more activism.

Reform Redo, Evolving Elections & the Voice of Black Women

Mary C. Curtis (columnist for “Roll Call” & host of the “Equal Time” podcast), attorney and political analyst Jessica Holmes, and writer Courtney Napier break down some of the week’s headlines through the eyes of Black women. Marcella Howard (In Our Own Voice) and Omisade Burney-Scott (“Black Girls’ Guide to Surviving Menopause”) also break down the growing reproductive justice movement.

The power of Jill Biden and the women Joe Biden trusts

When Barack Obama won the presidency, many tipped a hat to Michelle Obama, his wife and partner, including Barack Obama himself. It was true in 2008 that the candidate was a smart man, a gifted orator and an exceptional politician as he broke through to become the first Black president of the United States. But he could not have done it without Michelle Obama.

That’s my take, anyway.

It’s Time to Cover Black Women as the Norm and Not the “Other”

Though I’ve seen the way the media portray Black women evolve over time, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done exactly right — or at least with the complexity and nuance we deserve. I say we intentionally, though journalists are not supposed to be part of the story. But seeing — and not seeing — myself in the newspapers my family read and the television news shows we watched was what spurred me to choose the profession.

Or, maybe it was the reason the profession chose me.

Now, with Black women rising in visibility in fields from culture to politics, journalists are being tested in reporting on a group of Americans who have been, at turns, ignored and stereotyped. I have viewed the situation from the inside and outside.

Opinion: Dems to African-American Women: This Time We Mean It

So why was Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, making an appearance at this year’s Essence Festival in New Orleans, an event known for its high-powered mix of music, culture and empowerment, geared to engage black women globally? Did he see and enjoy “Girls Trip,” the 2017 mega-hit about the reunion of four black female buddies, set against the backdrop of the festival, and decide to get in on the fun, maybe take in a Janet Jackson concert?

Or was he connecting with his party’s most loyal base, which has carried the electoral load for years, and has also expressed dissatisfaction when that contribution was downplayed or overlooked?

Opinion: A Not Entirely Unexpected Campaign Roadblock for Women of Color

The women of color who are still standing in an electoral slog that ends in November know their road to continued success will be hard. This is the United States, and the fact that they are still pioneers for getting this far in 2018 is not just news-making but also a little depressing.

It is also true that they can’t always count on the support of some of the same feminists they may have joined — in marches, #MeToo protests and the ballot box.

Women Score Big in Key Primaries

In the United States, an African-American woman has never been elected governor. That may happen in 2018 if Stacey Abrams is elected in Georgia. Though she has a tough road, she passed the first hurdle Tuesday night when she was overwhelmingly chosen to be the Democrats’ nominee. In many states, in races for state and federal offices, women are stepping up. What are their chances in November? It’s unclear for now – but you can’t win if you’re not playing, and this election season, women are definitely in it.

Michelle Obama Cuts Donald Trump Down to Size

Michelle Obama is a powerful voice to have in your corner. She is a singular presence who is — at the same time — Everywoman. But if you get on her bad side, if you demonstrate with word and deed that you disrespect the people and things she cares about, watch out.

In Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday, a campaign appearancefor Hillary Clinton became much more. But I’m sure Clinton didn’t mind. The first lady, with raw and visible emotion, put into words what many have been feeling since a cascade of revelations, video tapes and recorded conversations filled in any possible blanks on the character of Donald Trump, on his treatment of — and judgments about — women.

Powerful yet vulnerable black women: A contradiction rooted in history

A recent study on black women in America delivered a mixed, even contradictory message. The report from the Black Women’s Roundtable found that while black women in the United States are making strides in education and business and affecting political trends with stellar voter turnout numbers, they remain more vulnerable to health problems and violence than any other group. Their strength at the polls is not reflected in elected positions. So, the situation is — at the same time — hopeful and frustrating, many steps forward with persistent, historical hurdles still blocking the way.

What is at first glance confusing makes perfect sense, though. Despite the reality show image of sassy, in control and intimidating black women taking charge and needing no help from anyone, the American story is consistent with the study. It is a tale of black women as invisible, misjudged and resilient through it all –integral and nurturing, yet set apart. They have survived, thrived and led, in spite of obstacles that have often kept them vulnerable, a term seldom used to describe black women.

Why We Love Michelle

Michelle Obama is certainly a different kind of First Lady – in style and substance. The moment she appears before a crowd, people reach out to touch her. She shakes hands, leaning in to share a laugh. She is the first African American to occupy the unelected but strategically and symbolically important position, but her special talents have made her influential across the world.