- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

“Young people have to stop sitting at home complaining, and I tell them ‘Get up, get up off that couch, baby,’” said Zelma Blakes, a dynamic young woman who has been running for office “my whole life.” At 32, she is attempting to become the first black woman to represent Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District, “the poorest district in the country,” which “needs someone who cares.”

Ms. Blakes is a prototype of the black women vying for public offices such as Democratic Virginia Delegate Viola O. Baskerville, who is mounting a campaign for lieutenant governor for which Women Building for the Future Political Action Committee was formed to encourage and support.

“Future PAC sets a standard for women to stand up and support each other,” Ms. Blakes said.

During the Future PAC fund-raiser at XM Radio satellite studios in Northeast on Friday held in conjunction with the annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Weekend, Gwendolyn Moore, Wisconsin state senator and Future PAC chairwoman, made no bones about passing the straw collection baskets to raise money for significant campaigns featuring black candidates.

Future PAC is “the first national African-American women’s political action committee designed to boost support and funding to progressive candidates seeking public office at the federal and state [and local] levels of government.”

More than 100 women have contributed $500 to become charter members of the organization since last year’s CBC legislative weekend. The nonpartisan group has held seven fund-raisers nationwide, two in the District.

“We are trying to do what Emily’s List has done for years,” said Donna Brazile, Future Pac vice chairwoman who is also chairwoman of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute and author of “Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics.”

“Our goal is to change the face of America’s political pipeline to higher office,” said Ms. Brazile, who was chairwoman of former Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Barbara Williams Skinner, president of the Skinner Leadership Institute at Solomon’s Island in Maryland, was among those writing checks. “People of courage need support and Future PAC members are not afraid of people who take chances on behalf of the vulnerable and the poor,” she said.

Today, District voters have the opportunity to go to the polls to elect candidates who will address their daily needs and concerns. The D.C. parties and D.C. Council primaries are filled with women’s names, most notably D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Ward 8 D.C. Council member Sandy Allen, both Democrats, and Republican Carol Schwartz, at-large council member.

“We’re a bipartisan organization, and I’m not mad at you if you’re a Republican just as long as you agree with us,” joked Julianne Malveaux, economist, commentator and Future PAC board member, who was the emcee of Friday’s program.

Future PAC endorsed Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama and Georgia Rep. Denise Majette, both Democrats vying for a seat in the U.S. Senate, and presented them with donations. “It’s another way that Future PAC is making progress one elected office at a time, one Election Day at a time,” Ms. Malveaux said.

Mr. Obama was clearly the star of the “see and be seen” CBC weekend gala events, fashion shows and forums and fund-raisers. The hottest invitation was to the reception he hosted at the Pearl restaurant near the Washington Convention Center.

“I remember who brings me to the dance,” Mr. Obama said. He couldn’t have progressed as far in politics without women such as Ms. Brazile, the Rev. Willie Taplin Barrow and political strategist Minyon Moore, who helped him “when nobody knew who I was and couldn’t pronounce my name.”

On the local front, Marilyn Tyler Brown, was seeking support for election as a member of the D.C. Democratic National Committee in today’s primary. The retired educator was drafted by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams to challenge Barbara Lett Simmons, who has held the post for years but spearheaded the unsuccessful recall petition campaign against the mayor.

“Future PAC is doing a great job helping to get minority women elected. That’s why I know my $125 check is going to the right cause,” Mrs. Brown said.

Ms. Baskerville, a Richmond-area native with 10 years of city and state political experience, is running for lieutenant governor of Virginia on a “progressive leadership, traditional values” platform. She said, “It’s going to take women helping women to lift up the power of communities” and to elect candidates who will “bring a voice for more inclusive government.” Based on Future PAC findings, “Since 1993, African-American women have enjoyed the strongest voting bloc percentage in the nation yet very few black women have been elected to national political offices.” On the federal level, of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, only 15 black women hold seats. Of the 7,382 state legislators, only 189 are black women.

“No excuses,” said Ms. Brazile. Her “Cooking With Grease” book offers the “recipes that show the ordinary person how they can get involved in politics and stir up the pot so they can have a seat at the table.”

Ms. Blakes is definitely cooking with Ms. Brazile’s political grease to chastise complainers who are not contributors.

So, get off that couch, get involved and go vote.

More information is available at www.futurepac.com.

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