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Black Women Rally Together In Preparation For Midterm Elections

Black Women in winter coats some with black face masks stand in front of a stage
Women in Leadership courtesy of Jamila Fynes of The NYC Black Women's Political Club

MARK GILCHRIST, HOST: As midterm elections loom in the fall, political candidates in New York are beginning to engage with voters and community groups. Shantel Destra reports on how one group is leveraging this moment to bring attention to the needs and concerns of Black women in the city.

MODERATOR RASHIDA ELSTON: Thank you everyone, we’re going to jump right in and get started….

SHANTEL DESTRA, BYLINE: Last week the New York City Black Women’s Political Club held an online forum with gubernatorial candidate Jumaane Williams.

ELSTON: I'm going to say we are ecstatic to have you here, Mr. Williams.

JUMAANE WILLIAMS: You so much for giving me an opportunity to speak today. About seventy- five women were on the call. After introductions, the floor was open for questions.

ELSTON: So bringing attention to inequities has been a huge priority for you. How would you look to expound on that work as Governor?

WILLIAMS: One of the reasons I'm running for governor is because I've been advocating these things, it would be great to have the tools to actually do the things that I've been advocating for.

DESTRA: This event is part of a series created by the New York City Black Women’s Political Club leading up to the midterms. Jamila Fynes is the President of the group. She says they are important because they allow Black Women to connect with candidates in an intimate setting.

JAMILA FYNES: We're holding open, free-flowing discussions, where black women have in a relaxed space, an opportunity to engage all of the individuals who are running, speak discuss and share what their concerns are, and also hear from these candidates directly on where they're going, what they're looking to do, and what their vision is for the community.

DESTRA: Fynes says candidates often haven’t engaged directly with Black women, because they felt that they’d already had their votes. And to an extent, she says, they were right. (0:12)

FYNES: A lot of times people just check down - oh, yeah, Democrat, Democrat, Democrat but they're not really always thinking, Hmm, who do I think will do what I need to be done for the community?

DESTRA: Robert Shapiro is a Professor of Government at Columbia University. He agrees that Black Women tend to vote democratic in New York City–when they vote. He says - the question is really what can a Democratic candidate do to ensure that voters turn out.

ROBERT SHAPIRO: They can't take these votes for granted in the sense that it's possible people might not vote. And so where they need to pay attention to is basically making sure they get out, get out to vote, they know the votes reliable, but it's only reliable if people are actually voting.

DESTRA: During a recent event, the Political Club partnered with Shirley Chirsolm’s Women’s Business Leadership Circle to screen a documentary focused on Chisholm’s presidential campaign.

DESTRA: After the screening, community leaders discussed the importance of organizing to strengthen the political power of black women. La’Shawn Allen Muhammed leads the group hosting the event. She says it's important to establish a community to see progress.

LA'SHAWN ALLEN MUHAMMED: This is our time. Black women are banding together, black women are showing up in a way, as a collective that we have not seen in a long time..

DESTRA: Fynes believes that local organizing can help implement change nationally.

FYNES: Start making changes on a local level and watch and see as you take more and more chunks and bytes and make more and more changes how things eventually are going to be forced to change on a higher level.

DESTRA: Fynes says the New York City Black Women’s Political Club has a series of forums planned this summer to identify community needs and concerns leading up to the elections in November.

Shantel Destra, Columbia Radio News.

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