“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.”

—Coretta Scott King

It is interesting that Women’s History Month so closely follows Black History Month. After all, the 15th Amendment in 1870 made it illegal for the federal or state governments to deny any United States citizen, regardless of race “or previous condition of servitude” the right to vote, while much later, in 1920, the 19th Amendment made it illegal for any citizen, regardless of gender to be denied the right to vote. The many strides made in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s were followed by the women’s liberation movement.

Many Black women have been a part of both movements throughout the years, and continue to be involved in issues important to the growth of our nation.

The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) will celebrate its 80th anniversary this year. In January, they held a Leadership Awards Breakfast in St. Petersburg, Fla. It is the largest breakfast in the country honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and this year was especially poignant, due to the recent violence against Blacks which has gone unpunished.

“We need to wake up to a criminal justice system that is criminal and unjust,” said Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, senior pastor with Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas.

“I hope we gathered here because we don’t want to sleep through a revolution.”

In the wake of the St. Louis County grand jury’s decision not to indict the White officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old, unarmed African American youth in Ferguson, Mo., The Black Women’s Agenda Inc. (BWA) is not sleeping. They are calling on the citizens of Ferguson, St. Louis County and other U.S. cities to channel their frustration into changing the face and attitudes of local government at the polls.

“We have mourned Michael Brown, and demonstrated our anger and disappointment in various forms of protest,” BWA President Gwainevere Catchings Hess said. “If, however, we really want to pay tribute to him and the other African American men who have been needlessly slain by policemen across America, then it is time to take constructive action by voting in elected officials who are truly committed to due process and equal justice for all.”

A U.S. Justice Department investigation released Wednesday found sweeping patterns of racial bias within the Ferguson police department.

Additionally, a racially tinged message was found in a Ferguson municipal e-mail account stating that President Barack Obama would not be president for very long because “what Black man holds a steady job for four years.”

The Justice Department’s investigation did spark a new page on March 4 Ferguson’s city website, outlining changes in police department and municipal practices. Goals and progress include: increasing the residency incentive for police officers in the city and establishing a scholarship to recruit diverse candidates to attend the police academy.

Additionally, the mayor and City Council, along with the Department of Justice-Community Relations Service, hosted a series of moderated conversations with the residents in order to develop a plan of action related to three main areas: police and community relations, youth and quality of life.

But BWA is asking for more.

“BWA is encouraging the residents of Ferguson to reschedule municipal elections to coincide with the federal elections held in November of even-numbered years,” Hess said.

It is widely believed that voter turnout will increase if local elections were paired with federal and state elections.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles voters passed a similar measure, Charter Amendment 1, which will change the city’s primary and general election dates to coincide with the June and November, even-numbered year federal and state elections beginning in 2020.

According to Wednesday’s results, the L.A. measure passed with 76.93 percent of the vote.

“Under the City Charter, the timing of the elections can be amended through a ballot measure.

“We are asking our national collaboration organizations—sororities, civic, service, and faith-based women’s groups representing millions of women worldwide—to mobilize now to collect the signatures that would take the issue of when elections are held directly to the electorate,” said Hess.

BWA points out that County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch ran unopposed for reelection in 2014.

“People elect the mayors and city council members that hire local police chiefs,” Hess said. “Going forward, when they break trust with the people of Ferguson or any other city, the people can vote them out.”

BWA was established in 1977 in Washington D.C., to recognize the needs of Black women within the then emerging women’s movement. It’s 20 collaborative organizations—which include the four Black sororities as well as Jack & Jill of America and The Links—strives to acquire greater understanding and cooperation about issues that affect all women and their families. For more information on the organization, visit bwa-inc.org.

CAAM honors women

The California African American Museum (CAAM) is pulling out all the stops in honor of Women’s History Month. The museum will host a discussion with Edward Lewis, co-founder of Essence Magazine, Sunday, March 15, at 2 p.m.

Moderated by television writer Kathleen McGhee Anderson, Lewis will discuss how he and three men came together to ignite the importance of giving Black women a “voice” and highlight the beauty, intelligence, and passions of African American women often overlooked by mainstream media. Additionally, he will discuss the founding of Essence, as well as his views on “beauty culture” as it relates to Black women.

Lewis, who grew up in New York South Bronx, co-founded Essence Communications Inc. in 1970. Beginning as a novice in magazine publishing, his drive and ambition nurtured what eventually became a media powerhouse and what The New York Times calls “the pre-eminent voice for Black women.” He has accumulated many accolades during his 35-year tenure of as a chairman, CEO, and publisher for Essence including becoming the first African American Chairman of the Magazine Publishers of America, receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of New Mexico, and the Henry Johnson Fisher Award from Time Inc.

The following are other events taking place at CAAM in honor of Women’s History Month:

Sunday, March 8, 12:30-2:20 p.m./ Film screening:

“Things Never Said” (2014, 111 min.)

An aspiring poet, in an abusive marriage, reignites dreams deferred and gains confidence and a new love. This film is suited for an adult audience 18 years and older. Writer and director of “Things Never Said,” Charles Murray will be on-hand for a “talkback” and Q&A following the screening. RSVP at (213) 744-2024.

Sunday, March 8, 2:30-4 p.m./ “Talkback” and panel discussion

Rejuvenation: Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence

Murray will join representatives from Peace Over Violence to discuss domestic violence and strategies for successful intervention. RSVP at (213) 744-2024.

Friday, March 13, 9 a.m.-2 p.m./ Screening and panel discussion

Young Voices at CAAM: High School Symposium—Mirror Mirror on the Wall

One hundred high school students will spend the day at CAAM, connecting, touring the galleries and engaging in a documentary screening, “The Beauty Culture.” Also featured are excerpts from the short film, “Rapunzel Jackson,” followed by a discussion around beauty, media propaganda and how it impacts youth. Teachers can contact education curator, Elise Woodson for participation and more information at ewoodson@caamuseum.org.

Sunday, March 22, 2 p.m./ Comedy set

“The Funny of Love and Romance”

Four hilarious and critically acclaimed comedians will rip on love and romance: Yvonne Orji, Daheli Hall, Ayana Hampton, Kimrie Davis. RSVP at (213) 744-2024.

Workshops for Women

Also during Women’s History Month, the Mervyn M. Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute (MDAAPEI) at California State University Dominguez Hills will present the “Start Small, Finish Big, but Get Started” series of business development workshops for African American women-owned small businesses and nonprofit organizations in the local community. The free workshops will be held on March 6, March 20 and April 3 from 9 a.m.-noon in the CSUDH College of Extended Education and International building, room EE-1222.

In collaboration with the CSUDH Entrepreneurial Institute, the El Camino College Small Business Development Center, the South Bay Entrepreneurial Center and the City of Carson Community Business Development department, “Start Small, Finish Big, but Get Started” brings together experts in the area of marketing, management, and finance for a series of three workshops designed to provide small business owners with information and resources that will help them re-energize and grow their businesses.

“Some of the African American small businesses and nonprofit organizations served in the region have struggled with various challenges to grow their business or to secure additional funding and/or resources to move beyond where they are in today’s highly competitive environment,” said MDAAPEI Director Brenda Riddick. “The topics for the workshop series are designed around the need to experience firsthand new and refreshed marketing and management concepts that will allow them to look at their business environment in a different light.”

While the focus is on African American women business owners, the series is open to all.

Dates and corresponding topics to be covered include:

March 6 – Marketing—People, Process and Product

March 20 – Leadership and Management – HR, Training, Mentoring and Problem Solving

April 3 – The 4-Fs: Financials, Funding, Free Tools and Flourish

To RSVP or for more information on the “Start Small, Finish Big, but Get Started” series, e-mail mdaapei@csudh.edu.

The CSUDH campus is at 1000 E. Victoria St. in Carson. The College of Extended and International Education building is on the northwest side of campus, adjacent to Lot 3. For directions and a campus map, visit www.csudh.edu/visitus.

For more information on the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute, visit www.csudh.edu/mdaapei.

OW Staff contributed to this article.