Breaking The Silence: A Town Hall Hearing on Women of Color in New Orleans

A major highlight of national NOW conference in New Orleans in June 2015 was the “Breaking The Silence: A Town Hall Hearing on Women of Color in New Orleans,” which was organized by Kimberlé Crenshaw and the African American Policy Forum (AAPF).

These Town Halls are part of a national series of hearings to elevate what is happening to women and girls of color in the US.  The national focus is on crackdown, deaths and prison with black men and boys as primary focus. In fact, President Obama has introduced a ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ movement to focus solely on boys of color.  This Town Hall movement is to push back on the idea that only boys of color suffer because women and girls are being targetted more than anyone seems to realize.  Women and girls get to tell their stories – from victims, families of victims, and women who run support agencies and see the problem in a different way. They cover a range of issues – criminalization and mass incarceration to school push-out sexual assault and domestic violence. They also talked about how laws have changed in  New Orleans to make it much more dangerous for women and girls – punishing the victims. A panel of local decision makers serve as commissioners in this event, so they get to hear everything. Later they get asked about what they will do with this information.

BreakSilenceTownHallNewOrleans.18June15.aapf
Photo credit: African American Policy Forum

This long table of people includes National NOW president Terry O’Neill and the ‘commissioners’.  To the right was a table with speakers.  The sets of speakers kept changing, and included victims and advocates for women and girls of color.

I am surprised and annoyed there is not more coverage of this. I know there were cameras running at the event.  The best coverage of the event that I have found so far is a radio interview show with women talking about the town hall event before it happened.  “WTUL News and Views” speak with Rachel Gilmer, Melanie Powers, and Adrienne D. Dixson, PhD about the upcoming Breaking the Silence event and the importance of elevating the stories and issues of black women in America.

Radio show – https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/06/17/18773616.php

Many times the speakers mentioned President Obama’s “My Brothers’ Keeper” initiative which has brought right wing conservatives and liberal advocates together. However, there are many huge problems with this program. Number one – it completely leaves black girls out. Two – focuses too narrowly on ‘fixing’ the boys with no thought that helping the moms will help the children.

Related to the Town Hall and New Orleans

Cashauna Hill, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Action Center, spoke at Breaking the Silence: A Town Hall Meeting on Women of Color in New Orleans. Her testimony highlights the profound implications of housing instability for one of New Orleans’ most vulnerable populations: African-American women.
http://www.gnofairhousing.org/2015/06/29/black-women-housing-in-new-orleans/

You can see pictures of the Town Hall at http://www.aapf.org/recent/2015/7/breaking-the-silence-a-town-hall-hearing-on-women-of-color-in-new-orleans

More about the “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative

Read the White House’s goals and view of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative at https://www.whitehouse.gov/my-brothers-keeper

Read about what is happening to black girls in school (school push-out) at http://college.usatoday.com/2015/02/11/study-black-girls-are-suspended-6-times-more-often-than-white-girls/

And finally some coverage on girls of color being left out and needing help too!  Both of these from ‘The Atlantic.’

As advocates and policymakers focus on changing the narrative for African American boys, their female counterparts become less of a priority.  (5/11/15)
http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/05/black-girls-should-matter-too/392879/

The White House is pushing a new initiative to keep young men of color out of prison and improve their outcomes. But what about young women? (7/2/15)
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/my-brothers-keeper-but-maybe-not-my-sisters/397538/

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