'Olivia Pope Is Not Real,' But Kerry Washington’s Commitment To Supporting Black Women In Virginia Is
“We no longer have to wait to be invited to a table that we built," said Virginia Delegate Lashresce Aird.
November 06, 2019 at 12:21 am
Several statewide elections are this week and some are expected to be more impactful than others as we approach the 2020 presidential election. One state particularly being watched by the entire country, as it can potentially flip from red to blue on Tuesday, is Virginia.
On November 3, Care in Action — a policy and advocacy organization that organized domestic care workers across the country, along with several other advocacy organizations, SEIU Virginia and New Virginia Majority — hosted a Black Women Vote Rally in Richmond, Virginia. Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and activist and acclaimed actress Kerry Washington were special guests. The purpose of the rally was to uplift and celebrate black women who vote, black women who run, and to remind black women the power they have in organizing.
Across the country, there are more than two million domestic workers, mostly women of color and immigrant women, who provide care for our homes and loved ones. They are nannies, house cleaners, and care workers who make it possible for other work to happen. According to Care in Action, the national median pay for domestic work is $24,060, one of the lowest wages in the country. However, in Virginia, personal care aides on average make $19,050 annually and home health aides in the Commonwealth have a median salary of $21,770.
Black women in Virginia are fired up, prepared to hold current lawmakers accountable, and to elect women of color who are determined to fight for justice in their communities.
“It doesn’t matter who the governor is if you don’t have lawmakers in the General Assembly who are going to pass laws for the governor to sign,” said Alexis Rodgers, Virginia state director of Domestic Worker's Alliance.Which is why several women of color running for statehouse seats and fighting for other women of color when elected, were acknowledged and uplifted.
Sheila Bynum-Coleman, candidate for Virginia House of Delegates in the Richmond area, is the first black woman to run against a sitting speaker of the House in Virginia, and if elected on Tuesday, will be the first black woman to defeat a sitting speaker of the House — who currently is the most powerful Republican in the state.
“I lost the first time and I lost the second time, but I’m here again in 2019 because I refuse to give up,” the mother of five said. “When I lost in 2017, I lost by 819 votes, which is only 30 votes per precinct. Do not say your vote doesn’t matter, because it does.”
“We no longer have to wait to be invited to a table that we built. We don’t need anyone to tell us ‘you’re smart, you’re hardworking and you’re ready to lead,’ because we’ve been leading,” said another candidate and black woman, Delegate Lashresce Aird.
Garza knows what it means to lead as a black woman.
“If we want to make Black Lives Matter for real, that means we have to participate in what’s going on,” Garza affirmed. “But I don’t want to talk about what it means to participate, I want to talk about what it means to lead. It’s about those in office knowing that if they don’t do right by us, they’re not going to be sitting in those seats anymore. We built Care in Action to be able to change how power functions in our cities and our states.”
In 2018, Care in Action organized thousands of domestic workers in Georgia to get Stacy Abrams elected. Now the organization is set on building that same power in Virginia.
“By Tuesday, we will have knocked 50,000 doors in the state, and will have talked to 20,000,” Garza said.
Kerry Washington participated in those efforts over the weekend across Virginia.
Hey hey VIRGINIA! We had SUCH a good time last nite! @kerrywashington and I made you a video that I want you to share with all the people you know about how to be in your power on Tuesday...remember when Black women turn out, ITS HANDLED! pic.twitter.com/HDaPAPypIE— Alicia Garza (@aliciagarza) November 4, 2019
“I have been in Virginia all day,” Washington, the star of "American Son," said. “I have been canvassing, I have been cheering on canvassers, visiting schools, speaking to neighbors and volunteers because something very special is happening in Virginia.”
Washington proceeded to tell the women in the room the story of why she chose to get politically active.
“I’m here because when I woke up the morning after the election in 2016, what was unique was I went on my social media and everybody was like ‘Olivia Pope save the day! Handle it.’ And at first I thought it was kind of amazing, but then I got really concerned. Because I realized that we had more comfort in a fictitious character on television being able to transform our reality than the faith that we have in ourselves, and that made me nervous.”
“Olivia Pope is not real,” Washington continued. “Olivia has no voting rights. She cannot canvass, make phone calls, donate or run for office. She doesn’t have the power that’s in this room. We have this hero-worship in this country, where we think that it’s about one person coming in and rescuing us all, and don’t get me wrong, I will support a candidate, but I am here to support you.”The whole country is watching Virginia, hoping for many to show up and have their voices heard.