Congressional Black Caucus on Black Women & Girls symposium attendees stand to take a pledge / Photo: Arionne Nettles

Congressional Black Caucus on Black Women & Girls symposium attendees stand to take a pledge / Photo: Arionne Nettles


Congresswoman Robin Kelly, along with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke of New York, hosted the ultimate empowerment and public policy symposium for Black women and girls.

The inaugural 2016 Congressional Black Caucus on Black Women & Girls symposium was held on Aug. 26 at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center. The event explored public policy and community-based solutions to eliminating the barriers and disparities that Black women experience. Congressional Caucus on Black Women & Girls members Congresswomen Kelly, Coleman, and Clarke co-hosted the symposium, and Congresswoman Gwen Moore attended as a special guest.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly / Photo: Arionne Nettles

Congresswoman Robin Kelly / Photo: Arionne Nettles


“Black women have long been the backbone of our communities. Our strength in being the foundation of our families is a great source of pride for us, but it can also cause us to neglect our own needs.  As they say on airplanes, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. That’s what the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls is about – prioritizing the needs, concerns and lives of Black women,” Kelly said.

The Congresswomen said that the symposium stemmed from the need for inclusion and diversity programs that extend past grades K-12. Although there is a wide range of topics to be covered, they chose the areas of economics, health, and self-image as a starting point.

YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago CEO Dorri McWhorter / Photo: Arionne Nettles

YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago CEO Dorri McWhorter / Photo: Arionne Nettles


Panels included Combatting Health Discrimination Against Black Women, Black Women as a Global Economic Force, and Counteracting the Stereotypical Depictions of Black Women in the Media. Moderators and panelists spanned a number of industries and included Melody Spann Cooper, president of WVON 1690 AM, Shari Runner, president of the Chicago Urban League and actress Drew Sidora. YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago CEO Dorri McWhorter was the keynote speaker.

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke / Photo: Arionne Nettles

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke / Photo: Arionne Nettles


“My passion is in the area of really building equity for Black women and girls,” Congresswoman Clarke said. “That means entrepreneurship, that means skills training, that means education; that means that we are empowered with the ability to connect with one another to know who, where, and what’s going on.”

Congresswoman Moore said that Black women issues are often overlooked, but start at an early age.

Congresswoman Moore

Congresswoman Gwen Moore / Photo: Arionne Nettles


“My experience is that we bring these beautiful Black girls into the world and right from the very beginning, all of the burdens and adverse conditions in America fall squarely on their backs,” Congresswoman Moore said.

The inaugural event was the first stop on a nationwide tour that will also include U.S. areas that do not have Black representatives in Congress.

“We feel that those African-Americans get left out because we’re not there to represent them,” Kelly said.

In addition to empowering women along the tour, the event series also serves as a way to gather information for policy recommendations. At the end of the tour, the Caucus will present an analysis of its findings.

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