3 Black Congresswomen Create 1st Caucus on Black Women and Girls

The caucus came about in response to a petition from the #SheWoke committee, which includes Sandra Bland’s sister.

Sharon Cooper, sister of Sandra Bland, attends the 2016 Tina Brown Live Media’s American Justice Summit on Jan. 29, 2016, in New York City. Cooper is one of seven women who petitioned Congress to create the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls.
Sharon Cooper, sister of Sandra Bland, attends the 2016 Tina Brown Live Media’s American Justice Summit on Jan. 29, 2016, in New York City. Cooper is one of seven women who petitioned Congress to create the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

On Tuesday three African-American congresswomen announced the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, a body committed to creating public policy that “eliminates significant barriers and disparities experienced by black women,” Huffington Post Black Voices reports.

U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.) confirmed the news in a press release issued by the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“Black women and girls are disproportionately affected by myriad [of] socioeconomic issues that diminish their quality of life and threaten the well-being of their families and communities. The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls gives black women a seat at the table for the crucial discussion on the policies that impact them while also providing a framework for creating opportunities and eliminating barriers to success for black women,” Rep. Kelly said in the release.

The announcement came the same day as the arraignment of the arresting officer in the Sandra Bland case—which is significant because one of the women who petitioned to have the caucus created is Sandra Bland’s sister.

Bland, 28, was pulled over by a police officer in Texas and mysteriously died in police custody last summer.

Black Voices reports that a collective of seven black female activists calling themselves the #SheWoke committee petitioned Congress to create the caucus earlier this year: Ifeoma Ike, Nakisha M. Lewis, Tiffany D. Hightower, Shambulia Gadsden Sams, Sharisse Stancil-Ashford, Avis Jones-DeWeever and Sharon Cooper, Bland’s sister.

“March 22nd will undoubtedly be an emotionally charged day for my family,” said Cooper in the release. “Brian Encinia, the officer charged with perjury in my sister Sandra’s case, will be arraigned in a Texas court the same day. Sandra’s case has served as the reverberating wake up call that we cannot treat these situations as one-offs or isolated incidents.”

Encinia pleaded not guilty to charges of perjury Tuesday.

In years past, there has been consternation and even outrage from many corners that President Barack Obama’s first initiative that specifically dealt with the black community, My Brother’s Keeper, was exclusionary to black women and girls, who face significant barriers as well. The White House later offered new initiatives aimed at black women, but many thought they just didn’t compare to the comprehensive outlay of MBK.

Ike, co-founder of Black and Brown People Vote, actually worked to help form My Brother’s Keeper and says she wants to bring that experience to this new caucus.

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