Congress reintroduces ‘Protect Black Women and Girls Act’ after push from Black sororities

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., tells theGrio that, if passed, the statute would be “groundbreaking.”

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL)
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) listens during a news conference September 25, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Reps Lewis was joined by Demetrius Nash, who took a walk from Chicago to Washington, to discuss gun violence. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives re-introduced legislation that would ensure the federal government implements measures to protect Black women and girls from racial inequities in healthcare, housing, education, and employment, among other areas.

In a bipartisan move, U.S. Reps. Robin Kelly, D-Ill.., Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., Jennifer McClellan, D-Va., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and other Congressional members held a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to discuss the “Protect Black Women and Girls Act,” which was originally introduced in 2021.

Rep. Kelly told reporters that members of the four major Black sororities, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., “challenged” lawmakers to push for legislation that advocates for Black women and girls.

“This legislation commits our government to improving the education, healthcare, economic opportunity, and civil rights available to American Black women and girls,” the congresswoman, representing parts of Chicago, added.

Rep. Clarke told theGrio that, if passed, the bill would be “groundbreaking.”

“We know of the heroic efforts that Black women have put into building, protecting, and elevating our country,” said the New York lawmaker. “But we recognized that it has never really been addressed how legislation and policy impact Black women and girls.”

If enacted into law, the statute would create an interagency task force committed to examining the harmful experiences that Black women and girls face in education, economic development, housing, labor and employment, justice, healthcare, and civil rights.

U.S. Capitol,
The U.S. Capitol building is shown in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Rep. Kelly noted that statistics show Black women face “an uphill battle with the rising cost of housing,” and since Black women earn less than their white counterparts, “it is more difficult for them to find an affordable place to live.”

She added that Black girls are four times more likely to be arrested at school and five times more likely to be transferred to another school for “disciplinary reasons” than their white peers.

The interagency task force would also provide recommendations to members of Congress, the president, and state and local governments to “improve policies and programs in areas such as education, economic development, healthcare, justice, civil rights, and housing” to mitigate the harms that Black women and girls face.

Although the bill currently has only one Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Fitzpatrick, House Democrats believe it will be passed into law.

Kelly said she is “grateful” that Fitzpatrick “stepped up” while other House Republicans rejected calls to join the other Democratic co-sponsors.

In 2020, House Democrats passed the “Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act.” The congresswoman said, therefore, it would be “interesting” if Congress is unable to pass this bill focused on women and girls.

Rep. McClellan told theGrio that “it’s on us to continue telling our stories and our ancestors’ stories” and to “fight back against the efforts to roll back any progress made.”

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