We are in the midst of a renewed focus upon Black safety and survival—and Black female political power—and yet, as we were reminded by our peers at Essence today, “While Black women have the highest turnout rate at the polls, they also have the [second] highest rates of sexual assault,” eclipsed only by Native American women, who remain the most vulnerable to sexual assault, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).
On Wednesday, August 19, from 7 to 8 p.m. ET, Essence is hosting Me Too; its founder, Tarana Burke; Pose star and TransTech Social Enterprises founder Angelica Ross; and Rutgers professor and co-founder of Black women’s advocacy organization A Long Walk Home Salamishah Tillet on its Facebook Live platform for the Black Women and Girls Survivor Town Hall.
Per a release from Essence:
It’s time for Black women to be the center of the conversation about sexual violence and public safety....In this significant political moment, it is important that we lift up Black survivors’ experiences by building a Survivors Agenda focused on transforming our communities, workplaces, and families into spaces that keep Black women and girls safe.
On tonight’s agenda? According to Essence, issues covered in the virtual conversation between Burke, Ross and Tillet will include:
- What it means to be a Black woman that identifies as a survivor, in a country that benefits from our existence and votes, yet but doesn’t prioritize us politically.
- The importance of creating platforms where Black survivors can safely share the issues that they care about, without attack or ridicule.
- The need to continue to build a constituency of survivors that is rooted in both political action and healing justice.
- Amplify the call for elected officials to be held accountable to the unique needs of Black survivors by passing laws and enacting institutional change.
“Black women and girls are so disproportionately impacted by the interlocking systems of oppression, and we are currently witnessing an opportunity to talk about why that is when our social capital and political influence is so significant,” said Burke, a 2018 Root 100 honoree who will be further exploring these issues next Tuesday in conversation with me, Maiysha Kai, as part of our inaugural Root Institute.
In addition to Tillet, whose work in arts advocacy has provided a much-needed platform for healing and empowerment for countless Black women and girls impacted by sexual violence, the inclusion of Ross (a 2019 Root 100 honoree) is deeply significant, as trans women and femmes are all too often left out of these crucial conversations, despite being equally, if not more, vulnerable to sexual violence, with 53% percent of Black trans women likely to have been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, according to a 2015 study.
“There is too much at stake for sexual assault survivors in this country, especially those holding Black and femme identities,” Burke continued. “It’s important that those who claim to advocate on our behalf understand what we want and the solutions we are ready to build. This conversation is happening on the evening of such a pivotal night as the country looks to Black women working across issue areas as survivors impacted by healthcare, housing, and immigration policies.”
According to Essence, tonight’s Town Hall for Black Women and Girls “is part of a series presented by the Survivors’ Agenda, a multiracial, multi-issue coalition that seeks to build power and change the conversation about sexual violence through movement organizing, policy change, narrative shift and accountability efforts.” The coalition’s collective efforts and crowdsourced agenda from survivors across party lines and varying lived experiences will be presented during the virtual Survivors’ Summit on September 24-26.
Join the discussion! The Root is hosting its first-ever, virtual Root Institute, presented by Target, featuring several of the leading minds in our community talking about politics, culture, health, community building and social impact. Subscribe for updates today!