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Meet 7 Black Women Who Are Taking Power in Politics

During the last few years in politics, I’ve become acquainted with more African American women in leadership. There is my queen, Michelle Obama, the former First Lady, a J.D. and now a Ph.D. She led her own public health initiatives, from lunch programs in schools to fitness campaigns for kids. And I can’t talk Black leaders without mentioning Senator Kamala Harris, a best-selling author and one of the fiercest adversaries during her run for the Democratic nomination. 

Still, when you think “Black woman politician,” are these the only women that come to mind? If you can count how many Black women politicians you know on one hand, there’s a problem. So while these two women captured attention for obvious reasons, there are a slew of rising leaders working on important political endeavors. Check out these seven women working in politics who will surely transform policy in 2020


London Breed

Transforming the world many times starts at a local level, and this mayor shows exactly how much impact you can create when you know your neighborhood’s problems intimately. London Breed started out as a bright student with a dream of working in government. Her young life familiarized her with the pressing issues of impoverished communities. She suffered from drug abuse deaths in her own family, insecure housing, and need for government assistance.

After interning in local government, Breed joined the state’s Board of Supervisors and then finally became the Mayor of San Francisco. Since then, Breed has passed many policies for cleaner energy, increased housing for lower-income residents, and drug-buyback programs. Thanks to Breed, one of the U.S.’s hotspots for jobs and entertainment is planned to run 100% on clean electrical energy. She is the first Black woman to be mayor of San Francisco, and possibly one of the first women we’ll hear of change-making in 2020. She has all the makings of a future congresswoman, NGL. 

Stacey Abrams 

Triple threats just don’t impress anymore once you see the work of Stacey Abrams. She was the House Rep. for Georgia until 2017, then she made headlines in 2018 for her run for Governor of Georgia. Her run earned an enormous amount of support from not just Georgia, but across the U.S. Although Abrams was unable to win that 2018 election, she’s become an avid defender against voter suppression and launched multiple voter protection organizations. Fair Fight Action, Fair Count, the Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP) were all founded by Abrams.

Abrams is also a popular author, writing romance novels under her pen name, Selena Montgomery. So yes, I can vouch my support for her policies by day, fangirl over her books by night. A woman of many talents, Abrams will stretch them far to propel democracy forward, and I’m here for it! 

Karine Jean-Pierre

Chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org and political analyst for MSNBC, Karine Jean-Pierre may be a familiar face to those who followed Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign. Jean-Pierre was seen defending Harris from a protestor, which is never an easy thing to do for just the average person—and she is anything but. In addition to coming out as a gay woman and becoming an advocate for mental health accessibility, Jean-Pierre has a strong pride in repping disenfranchised individuals like herself. 

Jean-Pierre has been a focused Democratic strategist who chimes into White House discussions, pushing for specific changes for specific communities. An author and Columbia University alum as well, I expect this talented activist to design strategies for the Democratic nominee in the upcoming election. Whe will shake things up for sure. 

Ayanna Pressley 

Ayanna Pressley embodies leadership in more ways than one. At the end of 2018, she was elected into the U.S. House of Representatives, repping Massachusetts as its first Black congresswoman. Pressley has sparked change across many political areas, from decriminalizing consensual sex work to legalizing marijuana. She’s also one of the favorite faces of the House, standing alongside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar in efforts to grant Medicare for all and enforce the Green New Deal.

Pressley impresses us more for her recent posts on social media, where she revealed she has alopecia areata (an autoimmune condition affecting the hair follicles, resulting in patches of hair loss). In her posts, she dawns her bald head with captions like, “However you show up in the world, you are beautiful and you are enough” and “Thank you for the warm welcome #alopecia nation #hairlosscrew.” It is clearly brave to stand up to social issues but it is also brave to redefine beauty.

Lauren Underwood

Underwood started her illustrious career as a registered nurse with the Obama administration, assigned the task to take her experiences and reform public health policy. Her vision and aptitude for comprehensive, progressive policy reform earned her a seat as the U.S. Representative of Illinois. While serving her Illinois constituents with her perspective as a millennial, Underwood created an organization focused on a more specific but greatly tragic cause. Underwood designed the Black Maternal Health Caucus (BMHC), a coalition devoted to reducing mortality and infant mortality rates among Black women and their children. A very young organization, the BMHC acknowledges issues of women’s access to proper post-partum and pre-partum health care and has recently held its first summit last July to discuss solutions to this horrifying issue. The disparities in health care for Black mothers are worth further reading, but Underwood has made a profound impact on spotlighting this issue and solving it through critical thought-driven activism. 

Marilyn J. Mosby 

Acting as Baltimore City’s State Attorney, Marilyn J. Mosby leads with a thick skin and firm message against inequality. We can expect Mosby to be incredibly vocal about injustice. She recently sparked intense conversation when she released a racist voicemail she received just two days before MLK day (the irony is appalling). Mosby calls for African Americans to never bow down to oppression and bigotry, and she drives those views forward in her decisions as State Attorney. Mosby was one of few prosecutors to immediately take legal action against cases of police brutality toward African Americans in her city. She is also a leader in the immediate reform of justice systems’ approach to violent crime. A stern but determined leader in combating, never mess with a black woman with this much fire in her political strides. 

Rhiana Gunn-Wright 

Yeah, do not underestimate this woman’s genius. Rhiana Gunn-Wright was one of the key designers of the Green New Deal, a comprehensive plan for the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and promote new jobs in clean energy industries. A Yale graduate, Rhodes Scholar and former intern to Michelle Obama. it’s no surprise Gunn-Wright was behind this awesome plan. And what’s the most charming thing about her? Her down-to-earth and youthful personality makes her relatable to many young women who aspire to be like her. I mean, look at her adorable Instagram posts.

While the Green New Deal hasn’t gone into effect, Gunn-Wright continues to push her ideas forward through her constant research and advocacy for environmental protection. She is also the Policy Director for the New Consensus, where she brainstorms new ideas to combat climate change with other bright minds. I’m basically waiting for her to save the Earth, is what I’m saying (if Congress lets her that is). 

These women are trailblazers in every sense of the word. Honestly, finding a vast number of Black women politicians was difficult because they are still a minority among the leaders in the political arena. Still, these women are making their presence known solely through their devotion, intellect, and hard work. What’s the most admirable is most of them came from backgrounds where they were engulfed in the country’s worst problems. They turned their difficult experiences into productive avenues for change and their unique perspectives that will truly transform the world. We can’t wait to see where these Black heroes will take politics this 2020! 

Iesha Ismail studied as a double major in English and Women's Studies at the University of Florida. Iesha is the High School/Her Future editor, a Feature Writer, and Style Blogger for Her Campus National. She was also the senior editor for Her Campus UFL and senior content editor for UF's Sparks Magazine. She is currently working in editorial for a financial research publication firm, and a guest contributor for Muslim Women Professionals. Iesha loves to observe nature and fashion as inspiration for all kinds writing she's into. Fashion, culture, drawing, and animation are just a few of the passions she plays with on the daily. Whether it's writing colorful stories or sketching in her worn out sketchbooks, Iesha always dabbles in anything art.