Being Black, Bold, and Intentional

By: Nykidra Robinson

November 30, 2020

When I started Black Girls Vote, five years ago, I chose to do so on November 30, 2015. That date was neither random, nor was it chosen out of convenience; it was intentional.  November 30th, 1924 is the birth date of Shirley Chisholm, America’s first Black Congresswoman.  Chisholm’s boldness in the face of opposition and demand for what was constitutionally mandated for her, has always been an inspiration for me. She was intentional in all of her endeavors.    There will be many stories, themes and narratives from the 2020 election specific to Vice President Biden and the African American vote, but intentionality, for me, is the most resounding of them all.  African Americans throughout the 2020 campaign refused to play nice, refused to be measured in their speech, we were intentional, and this awakening proved more beneficial than decades of playing small.

Take for example, the April 26, 2020 exchange between former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and anchor Chuck Todd, on Meet the Press. When asked about her desire to be Vice President of the United States; instead of a meek and evasive political response, Abrams deadpanned: “As a young black girl growing up in Mississippi, I learned that if I didn’t speak up for myself, no one else would, ” and she did.  Abrams was not the only one to speak up.  We all did.

Three weeks later on May 22, 2020, while interviewing  Vice President Biden, radio personality Charlamagne Tha God, referencing news that Senator Amy Klobuchar was being vetted for Vice Presidential consideration,  boldly declared to Vice President Biden: “… Black people saved your political life in the primaries this year, they have things they want from you and one of them is a Black woman running mate.”   A startled Vice President Biden assured the host that there were “multiple Black women being considered,” before the infamous “ain’t Black” gaffe heard around the world.

Three days later, on May 25, 2020, outside of Cups Foods, a convenience store in the Powderhorn Park section of Minneapolis, eight minutes and forty-six seconds of police brutality unleashed 400 years of pent up anger from African Americans. The murder of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department, increased the pitch of our political resonance by demanding more from a party that appeared to only care about our political residence.  We were so intentional that the killing of George Floyd ended the Vice-Presidential consideration of one-time Minnesota County Attorney, Senator Klobuchar, and elevated the candidacy of Sister Kamala Devi Harris.

For Blacks in 2020, acknowledging us would no longer suffice.  We wanted and needed, a seat at the table.   On June 6, 2019, when the Los Angeles Times published the article “The Women of MSNBC are reshaping the television landscape,” we balked at the fact neither of the five accomplished female anchors lauded for blazing trails at a network where many women of color turned to for the news, was a woman of color.  All five women were white. We demanded representation. Just weeks after our demand, journalist Joy Reid was announced as the network’s weekday evening host, making her the first Black woman to anchor an evening cable news program.  

We made the NFL apologize for ignoring our cries, worrying more about one man’s knee than the plea it was intended to evoke. On August 26, 2020, our brothers in the NBA, and those in other leagues even stopped playing, and I don’t mean sports.  Our athletes paused to show us the value of protest over profits. We were intentional. With calls to lock up the killers of Breonna Taylor, we forced the State of Kentucky to investigate what would have ordinarily failed to make the news.

 What a glorious time to be Black, Bold, and Intentional. What a wonderful time to abandon the retrograde view of progress by way of posturing. We are intentional.  We are no longer finding solace in running on the treadmill of activism, finding ourselves exasperated yet not having gone any further than our forefathers. 

We are and must continue to be intentional.  My mentor, the late great Congressman Elijah Cummings had a saying: “Children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see.”  This year, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the granting of Women’s Right to Vote, I am heartened by the intentional messages that these distance-learning Corona-Generation youth are getting. They watched Black folk in Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta become the deciding factors in a race for the leadership of the Free World; and they also watched Black folk make demands.

They watched the reelection of a member of the Squad, the first Black female congresswoman from the State of Massachusetts , Ayana Pressley, who sporting her beautiful shaved head, this year, intentionally declared that “I’m not here just to occupy space, I’m here to create it.”  Pressley remains one of my favorite stories of intentionality.   After the Congresswoman’s first election two years ago, she drew the 38th pick for congressional office space.  Disappointed, Pressley let it be known that she desired the same office that was occupied by Shirley Chisholm. Pressley’s assertiveness paid off, as fellow congresswoman Katie Hill, swapped offices with her, bringing to fruition Pressley’s intent.

As Black Girls Vote turns 5, we celebrate accomplishments such as “Party At The Mailbox,” an initiative that we created that assisted in increasing the vote-by-mail participation of voters in Detroit, Philadelphia and Baltimore. We are also boldly and intentionally calling on the incoming Biden-Harris administration to honor the support of African Americans to their campaign, and the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in two ways:  First, we demand, One Hundred (100) internship opportunities for young Black women from Historically Black Colleges and Universities within the administration’s first year.  Next, to commemorate the fact that it took another 45 years for Black Women to obtain the right to vote, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we demand One Thousand Nine Hundred and Sixty-Five (1965) internships for Black young women by the end of the administration’s first term in January 2025.

Representation matters, especially for young Black women. It is Black Girls Vote’s hope that in 2025, entering our tenth year, this administration would have lived up to our expectations. We wish the Biden-Harris Administration luck and intend to hold them to the charge of truly making this a country of possibilities.