A progressive organization wants to send a message to the Democratic Party and other liberal groups in the wake of last week’s midterm election victories: Place Black women in leadership positions.
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African-American women have been the backbone of the party and the progressive movement, yet Democrats have been selective in rallying around some Black women candidates while giving little support to others. To add insult to injury, Black women are all too often overlooked for leadership roles in the movement.
Enter Yvette Simpson, who was named CEO of Democracy for America (DFA) on Wednesday and is poised to take the political action committee’s reigns on Jan. 1, when she will become the first woman to lead the organization. Simpson said she was on a mission to change the value that Democrats and progressives see in Black women.
“My being in this role is a big deal,” Simpson told NewsOne on Wednesday. “For one of the first times, the progressive movement is putting a Black woman at the helm of a traditionally white-led organization. I hope it sends a strong signal to the Democratic Party, the progressive movement and our nation. We know that our country is becoming more Black and Brown, and we need to have that representation.”
With a membership roll that exceeds one million regular donors and volunteers, DFA has a wide focus on progressive issues such as eliminating income inequality, dismantling structural racism and funding candidates of color. It launched in 2004 under the leadership of former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.
“After an election year defined by historic firsts and the profound impact women of color played in delivering them, I couldn’t be more excited about Democracy for America’s future with Yvette Simpson as its new chief executive,” DFA chair Jim Dean, the brother of Howard Dean, said in a statement.
Black women candidates, like Ayanna Pressley, are part of the 2019 freshman class in Congress who received no support from Democrats. The party opposed the progressive candidate during her historic run to become the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress. Even the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee backed her rival, incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano, in their primary race.
“We went out and supported Ayanna Pressley from the start saying she is the right choice for this district,” said Simpson, who served as DFA’s federal electoral manager for the 2018 midterms.
Simpson, a former Cincinnati City Council member who had an unsuccessful bid for mayor last year, said she planned to focus on recruiting and supporting candidates of color for the 2019 and 2020 elections.
“You’re going to see us on the ground and partnering with (Black) organizations like the Collective PAC, Color of Change, Higher Heights to make sure we are finding the best candidates, candidates that represent the new American majority, Black and brown people, women, progressives, and make sure we give them the support they need to win,” she said with great anticipation of things to come.
With a Black woman leading DFA, the organization will be able to build bridges to minority communities more effectively, she predicted that her crusade for the Democrats and the progressive movement to be more inclusive.
“You and I both know that Black women get things done,” she declared.