Win with Black Women - in conversation with Yolanda Caraway
During one of the 2020 Democratic debates, now-President Joe Biden made a groundbreaking announcement. He promised his fellow Americans that his running mate would be a woman.
Black women have a deep understanding of the relational nature of freedom. This comes from years of intersectional oppression. Hence, Black women’s leadership isn’t confined to strength and perseverance — it’s so much more. It’s about them fighting consistently, for the common good. Whether they’re fighting for free and fair elections, narrowing the wealth gap, or preparing to assume one of the highest offices in the nation — with Black women, we all win.
This has been further proven by a group of 1,000 women, who were instrumental in helping to secure a seat on the ticket for Kamala Harris as future Vice President. A group of women came together to form “Win With Black Women” in a moment that quickly became a movement that has sparked lasting change.
Here to share this inspiring story from 2020, we have award-winning author and change catalyst, Yolanda Caraway. Yolanda was one of the brilliant 1,000 women who joined forces to raise the voices of Black women all over America.
Yolanda, you told me you helped create a group, which sparked a movement. Starting with a group of women who decided ‘we need to do something. Tell us how that happened and how did you manage to mobilize 100 women, and in no-time up to 1,000 women?
“Back in August, there were six Black women who were being considered for the position of Biden’s running mate. This seemed to spark a lot of ugly comments, especially from white male Republicans. Some really hateful statements were made, along with memes and gifs that circulated on social media. We had all had enough when a white Republican mayor from a small town in Virginia made a statement that ‘Joe Biden just hired Aunt Jemima’ as his running mate.
“The next day, I was in a grocery store and received a text message from Jotaka Eaddy (who is described by Forbes magazine as the ‘Olivia Pope of Silicon Valley’) saying “Are you as sick of this as I am?” And I replied, “Yes, what are we going to do about it?” And that’s when it all began. That afternoon, Jotaka sent a Zoom e-vite to about 100 women inviting them to participate in a call that evening to discuss how to support the Black women being considered for Vice President. That night, we had a Zoom call with 90 women. This was the start of our movement. We call it Win with Black Women.
“We are not an organization and no one person is in charge; we are an intergenerational (19 to 90 years old) group of women from all walks of life: doctors, teachers, writers, entrepreneurs, actors, producers, politicians, journalists, and more, who came together for a common cause. Everyone has a talent, we are all working women, and we combined each other’s talents to help us reach our goal. We created four sub-committees and everyone was given the freedom to choose one if they were so inclined. If anyone saw a void — they would create a new committee to fill it. The PR people created stories and pitched them, the younger women handled graphics and social media, there was a fundraising team, and eventually, a transition group that collected names of qualified Black women who would be ready on Day 1 to go into the new Administration.
“For our first initiative, we wrote a public letter to then VP Biden and through our collective networks were able to obtain the signatures of 1,000 high profile Black women representing every region of the country. The letter demanded that a Black female VP was seriously considered. We sent the letter to Biden and released it as a petition where we received thousands of additional signatures from other Black women and allies that included men. It was picked up by the media in several national outlets. The Biden-Harris campaign reached out to us and we designated a small group to represent us on a call with VP Biden to build a rationale for our case.
“This moment of frustration and anger and wanting to bring about a positive change, sparked an entire movement. Throughout the campaign, we had a standing 8:30 pm Zoom every Sunday to discuss our goals and achievements. During the last few weeks, Cicely Tyson, Oprah, and several other celebrities and opinion leaders joined calls to cheer us on. We raised money as well, a half-million dollars for the Biden-Harris ticket, and even continued to raise funds for the GA senate races. We paid for food trucks for poll workers, paid for busses for people to get to the polls, made calls, wrote letters, sent texts, everything we could do in a Covid environment to win back the presidency and the Senate.”
Tell us a little about these weekly calls — the logistics, what is discussed, etc.?
“We have had up to 1,000 women at one time on these Zoom calls. I didn’t even know that was possible! Jotaka serves as moderator and her staff sends out notices and an agenda for each weekly call. We start on time and usually end by 11 pm — with an “after hours” session for those who want to continue the conversation, which is usually the younger crowd. I hear some of these calls have lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
“We accomplish a lot during these sessions. We always start and end with a prayer and a five-minute “get up and move” session with celebrity trainer Donna Richardson. We’ve also had songs from gospel greats like Shirley Murdock. Kamala joined us one night and we did a tribute to her. The incomparable Bebe Winans joined us to sing a song he wrote called ‘You Were Born for This.’ That was truly a special evening.
“After prayer and a little exercise to pump us up, we usually start the agenda with one of the elders, amazing women like Dr. Johnetta Cole and Dr. Hazel Dukes, passing on some words of wisdom and inspiration. One of the things I love most about this group is the interaction between the generations. The younger women are starving for leadership and guidance and they have gotten real-life lessons on how to use your voice and your power.
“We go on to discuss what needs to be done for the upcoming week, whether it be bombarding social media with support for a candidate or calling out someone for disparaging remarks about Black women.”
Has this movement proven that if we choose ‘we’ over ‘I’, we can accomplish real change?
“Oh, there is so much power in being together, working together, and doing together. When all of us came together, we helped each other and used each person’s collateral, and accomplished so much in such a short period of time. In fact, Kamala was selected to run with Biden on August 17th, and we began our movement on August 10th. It all happened very quickly — we knew what we wanted, we were razor-focused and we just went for it.”
What has this movement taught you about joining forces for good, on a higher level?
“To see these many women come together this quickly, to give of their time and their money is seriously amazing and has been so inspirational. A lot of us didn’t even know each other, but we were brought together around a common purpose and that’s what binds us and will keep us active. Whether it’s around an election, passing legislation, fighting for our families, healthcare for all, cleaning up our environment, or educating and protecting our children, we will make certain that Black women’s voices are heard. We’re now 1,600 strong and still growing. And still doing Zoom every Sunday night at 8:30 pm.”
Thank you for sharing this inspiring story, Yolanda. We look forward to learning more in our next conversation.