- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2002

It wasn't all fashion parades, parties and preaching to the choir during the annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Weekend at the D.C. Convention Center last week.

Some serious sistas put up cold, hard cash to conduct some serious business.

At a session on political empowerment spearheaded by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a group of black female politicians and business owners announced the formation of the Future Political Action Committee, or Future PAC.

The grass-roots political network "for, by and of black women" is designed to "provide support and funding to progressive women of color seeking political office" from Congress to city hall. It pledges to mobilize black women to become more involved in the election process.

Mrs. Norton, the District's nonvoting congressional representative, said Future PAC recognizes the "new prominence of black women in politics." She said that when she was first elected, there was only one other black woman in the House then-Rep. Cardiss Collins of Illinois.

Today, there are new role models, Mrs. Norton said, noting her former staffer Donna Brazile, who heads the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute and managed Al Gore's presidential campaign; Minyon Moore of the Dewey Square Group, who served as political director for President Clinton; and Regina Thomas, a D.C. native who is New Jersey's secretary of state.

"Our communities are full of single mothers who don't vote, who are down on politics and don't believe politicians can produce for them, but black women [leaders] have a special role in their communities and have a better chance of getting those disaffected to the polls," Mrs. Norton said.

Future PAC will "focus primarily on African-American women, but from time to time fund women in other races and men if it is clearly in the best interest of the African-American community," said Miss Brazile, noting the powerful voting bloc black women represent, especially for the Democratic Party.

"If black women stayed home, [Democrats] wouldn't get elected," Miss Brazile said. "We're tired of begging. We're going to do this for ourselves."

In her noted straightforward style, Miss Brazile suggests that, to get black women into the political pipeline, each woman who is able ought to contribute $100 to Future PAC. "That's two sessions at Wal-Mart, so give it up," she joked.

Future PAC was seeded with $25,000 from 50 charter members including 10 congresswomen like Mrs. Norton and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Texas Democrat and black caucus chairman, who paid initial dues of $500 each.

Their inaugural meeting was held yesterday, the first day of the black caucus weekend, at the D.C. headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women by that group's venerable leader, Dorothy I. Height.

Susan Taylor, senior vice president and editorial director of Essence magazine, has been a driving force in establishing the fund. "With our passion and support, we sisters will elect women who are dedicated to improving the lives of our people," she said.

Women have fared well in securing public office at all levels locally, but nationwide only one black woman holds a statewide elected office Denise L. Nappier, Connecticut's state treasurer.

In state legislatures, 189 black women hold seats, while 15 of the black caucus' 38 members are female. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois was the only black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, but she was defeated after one term in 1998.

"Today, there are no black women who are U.S. senators or governors. Tomorrow, we want to change that fact with Future PAC," said Miss Moore.

Future PAC was inspired by the work of Celestine Palmer, a founder and president of the Los Angeles African American Women's Political Action Committee and interim chairman of the newly formed group.

At the Los Angeles group's 10th annual meeting, members discussed building a national organization because "black women politicians who have fought for initiatives that are critical to communities often lose elections due to lack of financial support," she said.

Nonetheless, Mrs. Braun encouraged women during Mrs. Norton's session to seek public office despite the obstacles, such as a lack of name recognition, donations and institutional support.

"Only through government can you make the kind of change to provide alternatives, to control issue outcomes and to level the playing field in every aspect of world affairs," Mrs. Braun said, according to the Associated Press.

"I am here to encourage you to get into the game, stay connected to it, and to keep demanding the power that is in play in electoral politics, because it is the only game in town, no matter how hard it is, no matter how corrupt it is, no matter how unfair it is," said Mrs. Braun.

The black caucus weekend also featured a "Sisters United" rally sponsored by the National Congress of Black Women, headed by C. Delores Tucker, to demand the inclusion of abolitionist and women's rights advocate Sojourner Truth on the Suffragist Statue in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.


• For more information about the National Congress of Black Women's efforts, call 301/562-8000 or visit the Web site www.npcbw.org. For more information about Future PAC, at 1611 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, contact Vina Pierre of the Washington Linkage Group or Minyon Moore of the Dewey Square Group at 202/383-9110.

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