Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been actively courting black voters, an essential part of any winning coalition in the party. On Thursday, she snagged an endorsement from a group of 100 black women and gender-nonconforming activists.
“We endorse Senator Warren with the full weight of accountability,” announced Black Womxn For, a collective of black women and gender-nonconforming organizers focused on the impact black activism will have on the 2020 election, in the group’s first candidate endorsement. “Our endorsement is not a blanket approval of all of her acts, both past, present, and future but rather a firm and calculated understanding that should she fall short of her commitments to us and our communities she will be held to account.”
Black Womxn For was born this summer out of group chat conversations between director Angela Peoples and other black women who do black liberation work. The group wondered, Peoples says, whether anyone was going to take the opportunity to organize progressive black women around choosing the Democratic candidate, when it was still early enough in the process to make a difference. They saw an opening to not only build upon black women and gender-nonconforming folks’ collective political power, but to flex it.
“The political process is certainly not designed for us to engage in a way that we thrive or that suits us best,” she said. “A part of the beauty of this project is: We created our own container and that allows us to engage, make asks and to operate with nuance.”
An endorsement flyer lists the names of well-known community organizers, writers, artists, educators, political strategists—such as Roxane Gay, Jamecia Gray, Dream Hampton, Renee Bracey Sherman, Ashlee Marie Preston, Jessica Byrd, Leslie Mac, and Amanda Hollowell—alongside working-class black folks intrigued by Warren’s campaign.
“Our sacrifice, our stories, our experiences, our organizing really has shaped this primary,” said Peoples of progressive black women and gender-nonconforming folks. “We can change the narrative about black voters in the primary. We can disrupt the dominant narrative that black voters are only looking for a candidate who can beat Trump.”
The announcement follows extensive consulting with black women and gender-nonconforming folks through gatherings in 14 cities across the country. The group also collected 500 survey responses in hopes of endorsing a candidate who resonated with people on the ground—and Warren generated the most enthusiasm.
Some political observers have speculated that winning the black vote will be a challenge for Warren and, in the process, have painted black voters as a monolithic voting bloc only interested in supporting someone who can beat Trump—i.e., another white dude. The truth is that black voters are far more malleable, open-minded, and policy-oriented than folks let on. Twenty percent of black voters surveyed said they would cast ballots for Warren if the Democratic primary were held today, according to an Oct. 24 Quinnipiac poll. Thirty-one percent of black voters surveyed said that, regardless of whom they intend to vote for, Warren had the best policy ideas.
Warren’s platform offers proposals explicitly designed to remedy the persistent gaps that prevent black Americans from having the same quality of life as their white peers, including those in wealth, wages, maternal mortality, and accessing startup capital. She’s voiced support for banning private prisons, eliminating tuition for historically black colleges and universities, and paying out reparations. (Warren has even reached out to Ta-Nehisi Coates to discuss the matter.)
According to the endorsement letter, Warren has agreed to work closely with grassroots organizers and to hold a People’s Policy-Making Summit within her first 100 days, in which people from marginalized groups can offer direct input to her policy agenda. Warren further agreed to appoint members of marginalized groups to her Cabinet, Black Womxn For said, and told them she was willing to be held accountable for any missteps.
“We write this letter, not with the belief that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a savior, but a stalwart who can be challenged when necessary, moved when appropriate, and held accountable to a base led by Black community leaders,” reads the letter. “We endorse her with the complete recognition that, upon her victory, the work is not over, nor is it just the beginning.”
Peoples said the group will be planning future actions in support of Warren.