By Melissa Conyears-Ervin
It is what it is…
100 years ago, the voting polls saw women cast their votes for the first time. Women who look like me were forced to wait another 45 years to exercise their right to vote. Now, our country just made another shift in the narrative with two simple words. “I accept.”
Despite being oppressed for centuries, I couldn’t be prouder of what it is in this moment—and of what this moment means for so many women like me and the generations to come.
Wednesday night my husband, daughter and I watched the first Black woman accept the Democratic nomination for vice president. Watching it from our couch wasn’t the most ideal way to celebrate Senator Kamala Harris inking her name in history books, the significance of the moment was not lost. My daughter looked to me, a first-time delegate, with a smile on her face when Kamala appeared on the screen to accept the nomination, as if somehow aware of my joy for the possibilities in her future and connected to the struggle women have had to endure to have a seat at the table.
Black women have long been the backbone of the Democratic party and this country. We vote faithfully and like our lives depend on it, because we know they do. Even amidst the women’s suffrage movement, Black women found themselves fighting solely for the rights of white women and being ignored despite the value they brought to the table. But today, this narrative shifts with another door opened that my daughter and so many other Black girls around the country can step through one day.
As a member of the trio of women of color who hold a top citywide elected office in Chicago, I’m aware of the challenges and level of scrutiny that comes during a campaign. These challenges intensify when you’re campaigning for a national office as a Black woman, evident by the vicious attacks Kamala has had to already endure. That’s why it’s so important that we support and protect each other, not just during this election season, but in our support for policies that will impact our children as they grow up.
Our country continues to grapple with systemic racism and sexism that has held women and minorities back for centuries. The wealth gap still places typical white families at a net worth ten times greater than that of a Black family, women still earn just 79 cents for every dollar men make and banks aren’t just disproportionately investing white communities compared to Black communities—they’re actively disinvesting in communities by removing branches.
Since I’ve been in this office, I have worked to break down the barriers that have oppressed communities of color and women by pushing initiatives through the Chicago Community Catalyst Fund and the Advancing Equity in Banking Commission, in addition to educating citizens of Chicago on financial resources available through a web series we call Money Mondays with Melissa. These programs are aimed at bridging the gap to fight for equity in Chicago and I look forward to a national conversation that focuses on the issues that impact our cities, as well as our children’s futures.
While I know this is a huge win for our country to have a Black woman as the vice presidential nominee, I know we still have work to do and we need more people in the fight for equality to ensure our America is reflected in our country’s political leadership, boardrooms and corporations. Our children are watching and we want to show them what they can be instead of telling them, which we’ve done for centuries.
So, I encourage you, on Tuesday, November 3 to vote as if your children’s lives depend on it, because it does.