Dayton Gets Real: Lawmakers reintroduce bipartisan ‘Protect Black Women & Girls Act’

WASHINGTON D.C. — This month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced the “Protect Black Women & Girls Act.” If approved by Congress, the legislation would create a federal task force to examine the conditions and experiences of Black women and girls nationwide.

This move comes as racial disparities in education, employment, housing, healthcare, justice, and civil rights disproportionately impact Black women and girls.

For instance, Black women are paid 67 cents for every dollar a white man makes, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

In the classroom, Black students represented about 15% of K-12 student enrollment, yet 18% of students were referred to law enforcement according to data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. It also finds 22% of Black students were involved in a school-related arrest during the 2020–21 school year. These students also faced more harassment and bullying in schools as well.

“Access to healthy foods, access to healthy water, access to fitness,” said Kiah Herron, University of Maryland, College Park graduate.

“Give us the reassurance that we are equal, that we won’t be discriminated,” said Kaylea Moore, Howard University sophomore.

The Washington New Bureau talked with one of the leaders and two graduates of Girls Inc., a nationwide nonprofit that works with K-12 students, about the legislation.

“It’s exciting to think there could be some changes but there’s always a little ping of about time and why is it taking so long,” said Dr. Heather Hairston, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area.

Dr. Heather Hairston believes this task force would be an acknowledgment of systemic issues affecting Black women.

“The lived experiences that we see happening in their homes is not a condition of something that they are doing but a reflection of the ways that systems have been set up,” said she. “…[and] to think about how can we approach this from a complex level that allows us to make a real difference in every aspect and every industry.”

Hairston also believes this is an opportunity to explore beyond the setbacks.

“But the success stories, where are people and programs and institutions making the difference and how can we repeat what’s happening there in other spaces to improve the outcomes for Black women and girls,” she said.

The task force would help identify policies and programs at the federal and state levels to help improve support for Black women and girls.

Howard University student, Kaylea Moore believes there should be additional resources to prepare students for college.

“There are a lot of resources for scholarships, Pell grants…how do you use those in college, what majors and minors can I obtain so I can do this focal point that I want to do,” said Moore.

These women are also not waiting for Congress to take action as they continue pushing for changes in their own communities.

“You have to advocate for yourself,” said Herron. “The politicians are just now doing it; you have to take that step forward and you know advocate for your needs and your rights.”

If approved, the task force would also give recommendations to Congress and the President on ways to improve policies and programs that are already in action.

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