On Jan. 6, we woke up in awe of Stacey Abrams, Felicia Davis, LaTosha Brown, Nse Ufot, Deborah Scott, and many other Black women organizers who carried Georgia and the rest of the country to victory. Finally, we were able to see the exit out from the nightmare of the past four years. These Black women were our embodiment of possibility.
A couple hours later, the brute vengeance of white supremacy was on full display at the Capitol, and in statehouses around the country.
We’re just three weeks in and the emotional ups and downs of the new year have already exhausted and traumatized many of us. But for the cis and trans Black girls and gender expansive Black youth I work with at Girls for Gender Equity, it has felt like a direct attack on their lives, their communities, and their hopes for the future.
Days after the second impeachment of Donald Trump, we witnessed the swearing in of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the first Black, first South Asian American, and first woman vice president. And what a sight it was for many of us, particularly young Black people, to see our image and that of our ancestors reflected right back at us in that moment.
As a young Black girl, I was always looking for pockets of places where I felt accepted and seen for who I was. I was hungry to find leaders who had a similar aesthetic and vernacular as I did. I can only imagine how overjoyed the little Black girl from Brooklyn born to Jamaican immigrants would have been to watch the inauguration like I’ve seen with the young people I organize alongside.
But neither this singular moment alone, nor representation in a vacuum, will ever be enough for Black girls and gender expansive Black youth. The only way for them to truly feel that they are valued is for elected officials to finally take decisive steps to protect them from the forces that cause them harm in their schools, on the streets, and by the lifelong insidious violence of being disregarded, not trusted, and always treated as an afterthought.
Black girls need to be given the same level of care and concern that we as a society believe we must give our youngest members. Given the racialized bias and adultification that Black girls and gender expansive Black youth face starting at a very young age, they are often excluded from policies and the nurturing care they need to thrive as young people.
Girls for Gender Equity has created A National Agenda For Black Girls, a roadmap to guide the Biden-Harris administration as well as local and state elected officials’ commitment to improving the lives of Black girls and gender expansive youth. As an intergenerational organization dedicated to the physical, psychological, social, and economic development of girls and women, particularly cisgender and transgender girls and gender non-conforming/nonbinary youth of color, we have done the legwork and believe now is the time to act.
We’re not asking for accolades for all that Black women have done. We are demanding action because the data speaks for itself. Black girls are six times more likely to experience school-based expulsion, suspension, and arrests than their white counterparts, they are more likely to attend schools that are underfunded, and the homicide rates of Black girls between the ages of 10 and 24 is higher than any other group of women—including Asian and white men.
The Black women who we now credit for the democratic upswing in Georgia and the Senate were once Black girls who looked like the young people I work with. Their childhood stories likely resemble my story and the ones that I hear from Black girls and gender-expansive Black youth every day. The running themes in their stories are of feeling unsupported, unprotected, and unnourished. And yet in these stories, there is often a strong current of determination and resolve to change not just the trajectory of their lives but that of their families, community, and even this country.
It amazes me how these young people like the Black women organizers and voters of this election cycle and ones prior continue to show up for the highest ideals of justice, equity, and fairness despite getting the exact opposite. Whether it is with teachers who are quick to punish Black girls and gender expansive Black youth for the very things their white peers get away with or with Black women organizers who speak of not having had the resources and credibility they needed in order to do their important work, Black women and girls still make way to fight for who they believe we can be at the polls and beyond.
Black women should be able to vote in their own interest knowing that their vote and hard work will be reflected in policy and in the highest office held in this country. Black girls and gender-expansive Black youth deserve to be treated with dignity and not have their light dimmed by the daily assaults and harm of systemic racism, misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia.
We are able to breathe a little better because of Black women community organizers and the millions of Black women who stood outside for hours waiting to cast their ballots. It shouldn’t be up to us to save this country and yet we do it time and time again with little fanfare and appreciation. Black women and girls mobilized and we did our part. Now it’s time for this country to do its part for our Black girls.