Florida March for Black Women: A Manifesto

This is our clamor for our basic human dignity as Black women. For too long, our needs have been neglected or purposefully ignored, destabilizing our communities and limiting our opportunities to exit cycles of poverty and political marginalization. The glaring proof: outcomes for Black women on all major indicators are significantly lower than their white counterparts.

Black Women’s Work, Education and Health

In regards to our contribution to the work force, Black women work more hours than white women, but the pay gap relative to white men has widened: Black women are paid 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-hispanic men. In Miami, Black women make 63 cents to the white woman’s dollar. And despite Black women receiving advanced degrees at rates higher than any other racial category, academic achievement also does little to narrow the wage gap. Black women with a bachelor’s degree are still paid less than non-hispanic white men with only a high school degree. Black women have to earn Master’s degrees to make slightly more than white, non-hispanic men with just an Associate’s degree. In regards to health, 4 out of 5 Black women are overweight; Black women are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than their white women counterparts; Black women have rates of depression nearly 50% higher than white women; and Black women account for 66% of new cases of HIV among women.

Youth & Reproductive Justice

Across the United States, Black infants die at a rate that’s more than twice as high as that of white infants, regardless of education level, socioeconomic status, or prenatal care of the mother. In fact, Black women who received prenatal care were still losing children at high rates than white women who never saw a doctor during their pregnancies. Black women are also nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Once our children are born, we also face dehumanization from the child welfare system. In 2014, 415,000 children were in foster care. More than half of those children entering U.S. foster care were young people of color.

Black Immigrant Women & Criminalization

Our pathway to citizenship is also laden with barriers and obstacles. Studies suggest that there are as many as five million Black immigrants in the U.S. Black immigrant women earn significantly lower incomes than U.S. born white women. Black immigrants have the highest unemployment rates amongst all immigrant groups. Additionally, Black immigrants are overrepresented amongst immigrants facing deportation. Black women and girls also face significant criminalization. Black women are imprisoned at more than twice the rate of white women.

Gender-based Violence

We also fare worse in our relationships. Black women comprise about half of female homicide victims — the majority of whom were killed by current or former boyfriends or husbands. Black women are victimized by domestic violence at rates 35% higher than white women. Black women are less likely than their white counterparts to see their sexual assailant penalized — especially if the attacker is white. Another study also showed that men found guilty of raping Black women receive shorter sentences than men found guilty of raping white women.

Black TransWomen

“More concerningly, it is important to note that trans women of color are disproportionately impacted by physical violence, discrimination and structural oppression at every intersection. Structural oppression manifests in many ways. Transgender people of color are legally denied access to housing, education, healthcare and employment opportunities.” In 30 states, it is legal to have your employment terminated for being transgender. Trans women are nearly 50x more likely to be impacted by HIV. HIV rates are even higher among trans women of color. Nearly one in five Black trans women are living with HIV. Over 40% of trans women attempt suicide. Trans women of color are disproportionately impacted by high rates of criminalization and over-policing. Trans people are nearly four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000 per year. This number is even higher for trans people of color. “The vast majority of Trans women that have been murdered in 2017 have been Black trans women, with the youngest victim being 17 year old Ava Le’Ray Barrin. It is time that the U.S. divest from legal structural oppression and invest in the economic, social and cultural rights of all Americans including transgender people of color.”

The future seems bleak for Black women, unless we take action now.

We recognize that despite the dehumanizing efforts of capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and imperialism, Black women, girls, and femmes are whole human beings that deserve protection. We are entitled to dignity and security regardless of our many intersections. We demand freedom of movement, freedom to marry, freedom to bear and raise children in healthy communities. We demand the freedom to work and in the instances where we cannot, we demand a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of ourselves and our families, which should include: food, clothing, housing and medical care, and necessary social security. We demand the freedom of safety for all of our Black women, girls, femmes, and women-aligned folks.

We demand an acknowledgement that we are worthy of human dignity and protection. Simply put, we demand safety, stability, and sanctity for the lives of our people.

We are not only asking for civil rights, which might afford us the appearance of legal equality but leave us behind on the full range of social and economic indicators. We are demanding our full range of human rights and freedoms, fundamentally necessary for the full realization and actualization of the humanity of Black women, girls, femmes, and women-aligned folks.

As such, here are our demands:

Safety: The condition of being protected from danger, risk, or injury.

Invest in lifting Black girls up.

  • Redirect the Miami Dade County Public Schools Budget from policing, security, and surveillance towards counselors, staff training, human development curriculum, and other restorative services.
  • Invest in curriculum that acknowledges and addresses students’ material and cultural needs, physical activity and recreation, high quality food, free day care, and freedom from unwarranted search, seizure, or arrest.
  • Implement restorative justice and end exclusionary discipline.
  • End zero tolerance school policies and arrests of students.

Protect Black Transwomen.

  • End discriminatory hiring practices based on gender expression and sexuality.

Divest from the police.

  • Reallocate funds towards affordable housing for families living at or below the poverty line.
  • Invest in restorative services, mental health services, job programs, and other programs that address prevention, specifically supporting those impacted by the sex and drug trade.
  • End the privatization of criminal justice services and the shackling of pregnant people.
  • Decriminalize marijuana and sex work.

We are here to stay.

  • Stop using local police departments to enforce or act in conjunction with ICE or immigration protocols.
  • Implement sanctuary city policies, protecting our families from deportation.
  • Extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to tens of thousands of Haitians and African folks.

Stability: The quality, state or degree of being stable. Such as: the strength to stand and endure.

Invest in affordable, safe housing for low-income residents.

  • Housing is a human right.
  • The land must be controlled by the community through Community Land Trusts.
  • Prevent the displacement of communities of color by gentrification and overdevelopment.

Acknowledge the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color.

  • Climate change is real and we must begin to combat its effects by being proactive with how we consume resources.
  • In light of Hurricane Irma and other natural disasters, institute a moratorium on rent increases and evictions for tenants that are impacted, to give our communities time to rebuild.
  • No one should lose their job or their income because they are forced to evacuate for natural disasters. All workers should be paid for time missed because of Hurricane Irma and any other uncontrollable natural disasters.
  • As government officials design programs and allocate funding to rebuilding and infrastructure projects, people of color, specifically women of color, who are disproportionately impacted must have a seat at the table.

End the war on Black trans, queer, and gender nonconforming people.

  • Provide full access to employment, health, housing, education, and social services.
  • As we honor the dead and missing, we must continue to fight ferociously for the living.

My Body. My Choice.

  • Reproductive health services should be affordable and accessible for all women, black girls, trans, and gender nonconforming youth. These services should include: full reproductive services, mental health services, paid parental leave, and comprehensive quality child and elder care.
  • Comprehensive sex ed curriculum should be taught in all schools, increasing positive outcomes for youth.
  • Universal comprehensive health care services should be affordable and accessible regardless of age, pre-existing condition, or ability. And special consideration should be given to those with disabilities, visible and invisible, and our elder Black women.

Fight for $15.

  • Raise the minimum wage.
  • Provide protection for workers in industries that are not appropriately regulated, including: domestic workers, farm workers, and tipped workers- many of whom are Black women.

Rights Restoration.

  • End the use of criminal history to determine eligibility for voting, housing, education, licenses, employment, and other services and needs.
  • Black women who are currently incarcerated deserve access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, mental health services, and other necessary medical services.

End the New Jane Crow.

  • Require implicit bias training with all who provide services to family and children.
  • End punitive removal of children from their homes based on a family’s lack of resources.
  • In the event of a necessary removal, foster care placement should focus on identifying quality caregivers interested in providing for the emotional, physical, and psychological needs of the youth

Sanctity: The state or quality of being holy, sacred, or saintly, Or ultimate importance and inviolability.

This is not our land.

  • Honor all treaties of Indigenous peoples, while halting the infringement on any sacred land.
  • End the exploitative privatization of natural resources.

Acknowledge this country’s history of abuses.

  • Africans were enslaved in this country for centuries, and are still reeling from its effects. This can only be quelled through reparations and strides towards equity in all sectors.

Invest in Service. Divest from Criminalization.

  • Invest in the training/professional development of staff working directly with youth in youth-serving agencies.
  • In all sectors, employ folks who understand that complexities of race, gender, sexuality, poverty, and so many other oppressions on people’s lives.

Values

  • We are committed to building a Black women and girls affirming space, free from sexism, racism, class oppression, heteronormativity, and male-centeredness.
  • We are committed to centering, naming, and making visible Black Indigenous women, whose land we reside on.
  • We are committed to embracing and making space for our trans sisters to be uplifted and to lead.
  • We are committed to being self-reflective and doing the work required to dismantle cis-gender privilege.
  • We recognize and value the skills, contributions, and resources that each community, individual, and organization brings and will prioritize collective accessibility in how and where we assemble and share information.
  • We commit to maximizing those contributions for our collective goals.
  • We will defend the ground we have gained through struggle, and we will create and practice new forms of participation and governance that include and serve all of us.
  • We will practice holding each other accountable without shame. We acknowledge that we all make mistakes and therefore we can practice constructive criticism in ways that do not come with guilting or bashing others. And if we are on the receiving end of constructive criticism, we will do our best to own our impact and uphold our commitments in order to keep the work moving forward.
  • We commit to depending on each other for safety and security in the planning, execution, and long-term work of uplifting Black women and girls. We will not depend on the state to provide for us what we can best do for ourselves.
  • We believe that our efforts are driven by love. We will intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting. We will practice self-care to make sure we are fully equipped to bring our full selves into the space.

This document, our manifesto, was created with love and visions for the future. This is the birth of Black Women and the creativity of our village. Thanks to: Miami Workers Center, New Florida Majority, Power U Center for Social Change, SOUL Sisters Leadership Collective, Students Working For Equal Rights (SWER), Organize Florida, South Florida People of Color, SEIU Florida Public Services Union, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Community Justice Project, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health- Florida Advocacy Network, Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida, Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, Dream Defenders, Women’s March Florida and all who contributed to make the work of centering Black Women, now and forever, a reality.