There are many professions we think of doing and there are many more that we don't. Why is that? Do we predominately think we can't? Are we told we can't? Is it a colonial belief that is entrenched? Or is it simply that we are not interested...
What ever our reason Black women don't do politics. No don't shout me down, of course there are Black female politicians, prime ministers, mayors and presidents and their position, power and ability to change the world we will discuss a little later, but why do we, you and me not give it a go?
Politics is something Black women have an opinion on, even when we don't know that is what we are doing. For instance, those of us that write a complaint or compliment to our local council, fill surveys on our local view or experience or support our local community by undertaking a worthwhile cause, are all showing an interest in the running and organisation of the community, this is politics.
To elaborate further, politics is a set of activities that involve collaborative decision making or other power relations between those that are in a position to distribute resources or status, to others. So could it be that we confuse doing our bit or reduce our contributions to just being kind or passionate or compassionate instead of recognising the politician in all of us.
What we are currently doing is right and we should all continue to make a difference where-ever we can, but, for some of us our bit can be so much more. We are here to add a little influence, maybe some gentle persuasion, some thoughts about where to start and a big helping of inspiration.
So sis, for those of you with the backbone, ability and capacity to rise to the challenge why not get paid, obtain privilege and gain the momentum for your movement that encourages, enlightens, enables and elevates other Black women and society. In short 'be the change you want to see'!
If you have thought about getting into politics you should know there is no specific qualification required to do the job. That said, politicians commonly have degrees in academic subjects like History, Law and Politics although many more work in a specific industry or live in particular communities where they have been exposed to failings or reductions that cause damage to those effected.
For most countries getting into politics isn't something you apply to do, its more about networking, engaging, undertaking education or business in the right places and spaces. Definitely become a member of the party you support and show your commitment to the party and their policies. This is generally regarded as more important than formal qualifications.
Previous experience within political societies, working within the teams of currently elected politicians will also put you in good stead. In most countries you must be over 18 years of age, to run for an elected position and nominations are likely to be fruitful if led by those in a position of power, although not a necessary prerequisite.
Whether you are on the fence or wanting to know more, here are some Black women who are doing politics and they are making waves that are felt locally, nationally and globally! From 1-8 in no particular order here are:
Mia Amor Mottley is the Prime Minister of Barbados and has held this position since 2018. This Bajan politician and attorney is also the leader of the Barbados Labour Party. Mia is the first woman Prime Minister in Barbados. She was educated at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Olukemi Olufunto Badenoch is the Minister of State for Levelling Up Communities since September 2021. Olukemi is a British politician who has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Saffron Walden since 2017 and was the first woman to win this seat. She was educated in Computer Systems Engineering at the University of Sussex.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was Africa’s first democratically-elected woman president, in Liberia. She led her country through the recovery that followed a long civil war and proactively responded to the 2014-2015 Ebola Crisis. Ellen was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her work to empower women and remains an influential voice for the participation and involvement of women in politics and the wider decision making process.
Diane Julie Abbott MP is a British politician who is the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington . Diane was the first Black woman to be elected to British Parliament in 1987 and the first Black female Shadow Home Secretary. Diane is the longest-serving Black MP in the House of Commons. She was educated at Newham College, Cambridge where she obtained her Master's degree in History.
Meaza Ashenafi is the first female Chief Justice of Ethiopia. She is the co-founder of the Ethiopian Women’s Lawyers Association (EWLA), where she is known for her legal advocacy for women rights and laws protecting them from discrimination. She was educated in law school at Addis Ababa University, where she was the only female graduate from her class.
Dame Sandra Mason is set to become the first president of Barbados. Sandra is currently serving as Governor-General and when she takes up her new position she will remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Sandra has worked in education the financial sector and earned a law degree which she utilised as a Magistrate of the Juvenile and Family Court for over ten years. She has been an Ambassador to several south American countries and in 2014, she became the first Barbadian to be appointed as a member of the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal.
Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard is the first African Nova Scotian woman to serve in the Senate Chamber. She is also the first Black Canadian to become a full professor at Dalhousie University, where her research focuses on anti-oppression and diversity. Wanda has a strong affiliation with Social Work and racism and diversity and the status of women in Canada.
Kamala Devi Harris is the vice president of the United States. Kamala is both an American politician and an attorney who is the first African Asian American vice president. She graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Politics is by no means an easy road, but it is a road that leads from many career and aspirational paths. Done well, politics frees individuals, communities and countries, and so even if its not your career projection, we at Onyx Yaya's urge you to get/stay informed and make it your prerogative to be heard when the opportunity arises.