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Statement by In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda President Marcela Howell
WASHINGTON — This week, Ella Jones became the first African-American elected mayor in Ferguson, Missouri. In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda founder and President Marcela Howell issued the following statement in response:
“Congratulations to Ella Jones for her historic election as Ferguson’s first Black mayor. The seeds for her election were planted six years ago, when people took to the streets after police killed Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager. Those protests transformed Ferguson’s government, resulting in a more diverse police force and city council before voters, ultimately, elected a Black woman mayor.
“We know that diversity is important and helps governments run better. The highly-praised performance of Black women mayors across the country — in the face of duel crises — is proof positive that Black women are exemplary leaders. Atlanta’s Keisha Lance Bottoms, San Francisco’s London Breed, Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot and other Black women are successfully leading large cities into recovery from COVID-19 while handling massive protests against police violence. They are leading with the courage, integrity and strength common among so Black women in this country.
“Our everyday experiences shape and build our leadership. As the mother of four Black children, Keisha Lance Bottoms said that when she saw the murder of George Floyd, she “hurt like a mother.” When police officers in her city’s department engaged in excessive force during the recent protests, Bottoms quickly took action firing two of them and took the others off of the street.
“Black women are leaders in our jobs and in our communities. We know how to navigate difficult situations because we’re used to having to take care of our families while also struggling to overcome the racist, sexist barriers we encounter every single day of our lives. The skills we learn from living while Black come in handy for Black women public officials, especially during times of crisis.
“Just as Ferguson was transformed by protests, we must emerge from the current unrest to change the face of power in the U.S. Today’s organizing in the streets must turn into tomorrow’s votes. Ella Jones’ election reminds us that Black votes matter, too — especially Black women’s votes. Let’s be sure that all of us do our part to register and turn out voters in the next election. Black women and communities need to vote like our lives depend on it — because they do.”