The annual Essence Festival is a time to celebrate all-things Black women. That much is an undisputed fact. But this year’s installment took on an added significance in part because of Democrats’ apparent recent realization that Black women are the backbone of the party, which was in the beginning stages of its nomination process for who would run for president on its ticket next year.
And, of course, there is a Black woman who has continued to prove how formidable her candidacy is in the face of the standard political template of old white men running for president.
That woman, California Sen. Kamala Harris, was joined by three of her 23 fellow presidential candidates — Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg , former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — over the weekend in New Orleans to plead their campaigns’ cases to festival-goers eager to hear about policies that will behoove them.
They came with presidential policies, plans and proposals that clearly made Black women and people, in general, a priority, should they be elected, of course.
Keep reading to see all the things we learned at the 2019 Essence Festival about the race for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 Election.
Joe Biden vs. Kamala Harris was still fresh on the mind of people
Michelle Obama refused to comment on the racially charged confrontation between the California senator and the former vice president during a Democratic debate last month.
Joe Biden apologized during a trip to South Carolina over the weekend for recent comments about pro-segregation senators that Harris called “hurtful.” The absence of Biden — the Democratic frontrunner — absence from Essence Fest was noticeable as candidates tried to capitalize on the convergence of the powerful and proven voting bloc.
Black maternal health matters
Cory Booker spoke about the restrictive reproductive laws such as the one in Alabama that was disproportionately threatening the health of Black women and unveiled his plans to combat them.
Warren also chimed in on the topic that has proven to be a top campaign issue for Democrats as Republicans keep working to repeal Obamacare and dismantle all aspects of the former president’s signature health care law.
Stopping the white supremacy movement
Booker also unveiled his plan to stem the rising tide of white supremacy, something that has been linked to the election of Donald Trump.
Closing the racial wealth gap
Talking about the racial wealth gap was a common refrain among the candidates who appeared at Essence Fest. However, it was the racial wealth gap along gender lines that took center stage as candidates repeatedly reminded people in attendance that Black women earn 61 cents on the dollar compared to white men.
Harris proposed a $100 billion plan for Black homeownership, something that has been elusive to Black people in America in part because of predatory loans targeting them.
O’Rourke talked touted his plan to “end discrimination in the workplace” as a means for Black women, in particular, to make financial gains on their white counterparts.
Mayor Pete stressed how important not just Black-owned businesses are, but also businesses owned and operated by Black women in particular.
But Warren, who seemingly has based most of her career on consumer protection, came with what appeared to be the most comprehensive proposal to close the racial wealth gap. The Massachusetts senator released a plan called “valuing the work of women of color” that she would achieve “on day one of the Warren Administration to boost wages for women of color and open up new pathways to the leadership positions they deserve.”
While there is a long way to go before Democrats choose their candidate to run against Trump, the fact that Black women and the overall Black vote is being valued so much so early in the process can only bode well for a portion of the population that has been historically underserved and neglected.
Scroll down to see each of the candidates’ speeches at this year’s Essence Festival as well as Michelle Obama’s complete interview with Gayle King.