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US Election: Record number of Black women set to run for US Congress

Little Rock, USA record number of Black women are running for the U.S. Congress in 2020, a year marked by widespread racial justice protests across the country. Democratic Party efforts have focused on flipping seats now held by Republicans.

For Joyce Elliott, an Arkansas state senator who is seeking an Arkansas congressional seat in November, the decision to run was based simply on the fact that she thought she could win. But months into her congressional run, as the country has grappled with a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has disproportionately sickened and killed Black Americans and racial unrest sparked by police violence, the historical moment has certainly not been lost on her.

"So many of us own and have to deal with all of the things that happen in our families and we see, I think Black women and other women as well, internalize things that are unjust. we are so many times the ones that are trying to make sure that other kids are taken care of. Women, I think, just have a whole different way of looking at the world that is more inclusive, many times, because we are multitaskers and I think we see perspectives differently from men. But as much as anything we have been the voices that have been left out and I think people recognize that," said Joyce Elliott, an Arkansas state senator running to represent Little Rock in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Arkansas' second congressional district, which Elliot has hoped to represent, has voted for a Republican president in every 21st century election. For Elliott running for office is a way to be heard. "The women who have had the chance to serve, I think most of them have become a force where they have made contributions where people see that this is something that should not be an anomaly. It's just really been a way of leaving out too much talent. I know in my case I was recruited to run, so I think that really speaks to other people seeing the value of having Black women in politics," Elliott said.
As a child, Elliott was only the second Black student to attend her mostly White public high school; the first was her older sister. If she is elected in November, she will be the first Black lawmaker from Arkansas ever. "I was 15 when this happened, when I was part of force integration. I had gone to a Black school all that time," Elliott said.

"I think the biggest thing I learned overall is to make sure I never treat other people the way I was treated and I never forget that, and remember when people are hurting and people are excluded this is not the way to build unity. So it just really turned me into the kind of person that I would do everything I could to help America live up to America's promise of unity."
In a country in which voter turnout is often lacking, Black women are among the groups most likely to come out to the polls. In the last presidential election, 63% of Black women who were eligible to vote did so, only outstripped by White non-Hispanic women, according to a 2019 report by the Center for Women and Politics. (White non-Hispanic men voted at the same rate as Black women.)

But voter turnout for Black women has historically not also necessarily meant there are more elected officials who look like them. Though Black women are nearly 8% of the population, they make up 4.3% of all members of Congress, according to a report by the Center of Women and Politics and Higher Heights for America, a political action committee that seeks to elect more progressive Black women to elected office. Black women are also underrepresented in other elected offices as well.
That has started to change in the past 10 years. The number of Black women running for Congress - and winning - has increased at a steady clip since 2011. Glynda Carr, the president and co-founder of Higher Heights for America, expects that trend to continue this year. Elliott hopes that her candidacy, successful or not, helps inspire the next generation of political leaders.

"If you feel fear, feel it, but move on. Do not let that become a reason for you to not step up. Know that you are qualified to do what you have been seeing other people do all this time. That which you don't know make sure you learn it. Other people my age, and someone did it for me, we've laid the groundwork for you to run. Make sure if you want the world to be better don't let anything convince you that you don't have a place in America," Elliott said.

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