Glynda C. Carr (center) & Kimberly Peeler-Allen in discussion with Alexis McGill Johnson (Photo courtesy of Glynda C. Carr)
By Sharon Pendana

Since 2013, Higher Heights for America has been at the forefront of mobilizing America's black, female citizenry at every level of civic engagement— local, state and national— rallying black women to not only exercise their right to vote but to seek public office and claim a seat at the table to shape policy. Founded by friends Glynda C. Carr and Kimberly Peeler-Allen, who share a passion for justice and the potential black women hold to effect positive change in the American democracy, it's growing a network of members across the country committed to building a political infrastructure and power base for black women. 

Standouts both, Carr is the former Executive Director of Education Voters of New York, where she became New York’s youngest African American woman to run a statewide advocacy organization; and Peeler-Allen, from 2003-2014 helmed Peeler-Allen Consulting, the only African American full-time fundraising consulting firm in New York State. Poised for the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, co-founder Glynda Carr spoke with Curly Nikki about Higher Heights’ coffee shop genesis, lofty goals and the indomitable power of black women at the polls and in elected office. 

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Photo via Higher Heights website

What galvanized you to start this organization?
Kimberly and I weren’t looking to start an organization. We were having coffee in a Brooklyn cafe, talking about progressive politics, how we didn't see black women showing up in that space, and questioning why that was. Then we said, “Why don’t we start our own organization for black women who are looking to be deeper engaged in the political process from the voting booth to elected office.” We came up with the name that day.

I come from a politically and community-minded family, civic engagement is in my DNA. I had a career working in non-profits, but I volunteered for a New York State Senate campaign for Kevin Parker. It was an opportunity for me to build community and support a candidate with progressive issues I believed in. I worked hard on that campaign, and he offered me to join his team. I spent six years in Albany (the state capital) learning about how government works and the politics around governing. I stepped out on my own and started organizing voters around public school reform. Then in 2012 when our country was at a political crossroads, and I was making decisions about my next steps, providence connected Kimberly and me to fill the space that was missing for black women.

What compels Higher Heights' stated goal to mobilize 1 million black women and dollars by 2020?
In 2016, ninety-four percent of black women voted to move this country forward and continued to be a consistent, loyal voting block on the issues that we care about in our community. Although we did not break the glass ceiling for women on that Election Day, black women made major gains on the ballot. At a time when white progressives lost from the top of the ticket to the bottom, black women broke through. We elected the largest number of black women serving in Congress; including sending the first black woman to the US Senate in twenty years. We elected the first black woman to serve in the Kentucky state legislature in almost twenty years. We had a marked increase of black women serving as mayors of major cities. In 2017, ten black women ran in the thirty-eight cities that held municipal elections. Today, seven black women serve as mayors of Atlanta, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Charlotte, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Five were elected, and one was appointed as the second in succession upon the untimely death of San Francisco Mayor, Ed Lee. In 2017, Black women voted 98% to move Alabama into the 21st century. But there’s still work to be done. We wholeheartedly believe at Higher Heights that democracy doesn’t begin and end on Election Day. So, yes, they elected Doug Jones, but the hard work now is ensuring that when he gets to Washington, that he is carrying the issues and the priorities–from criminal justice to economic inequality–of the very constituency that elected him.

We've seen the possibilities that exist when you organize and engage black women in a real way. We dug down and focused on building black women’s political power, creating a national network of black women and our allies, and creating a space for them to be informed, engaged and take action. There are three black women running for governor (of Georgia, Oklahoma, and Maryland) in 2018. In our country’s 241-year history we’ve never elected a black woman governor. Here’s an opportunity for us to break our own glass ceiling.

How do you plan to meet this million mission?
Claiming a million is a bold stretch for this emerging organization, but we know that black women have an economic imprint that can extend to our political stewardship. Black women give 25% more of their income than our counterparts regardless of where we are in our socioeconomic status. How do we then inspire black women to understand that shifting just a percentage of our economic might toward political stewardship changes the face of what democracy looks like? When you diversify those who are sitting at decision-making tables, they carry the very issues that we continue to fight for. The goal here is to engage the sister who gives us five dollars a month to those Black women and allies who are willing to give us tens of thousands of dollars.

There’s a growing conversation about what it means when black women lead. When #BlackWomenLead, you see Maxine Waters reclaiming her time or Kamala Harris making Jeff Sessions nervous. We have been consistently voting, outpacing our male counterparts, and doing what black women do: when we are fired up, we don’t go to the polls alone. The black woman voter? She brings her house, her block, her church, her sorority.

Black women can trend a hashtag in a minute; the foundation of Black Twitter is black women. This is exactly how we envisioned Higher Heights as a vehicle. We’re going to galvanize the million black women both on and offline with a variety of campaigns and provide them spaces to be engaged. In our #BlackWomenVote campaign we give black women tools like sample tweets, sample emails, a sister-to-sister conversation toolkit, memes and things that they can use to organize their networks for this important election cycle. We're hosting sister-to-sister salon conversations across this country. We're gathering black women in their living rooms, in their hair salons, in their nail salons, in their church basements to talk about the main issues of concern and envision what the possibilities are to change the outcomes for their community, and how that is tied to politics, policy, and leadership. In 2017 we launched the #BlackWomenLead Political Leadership Training Series of webinars for women thinking about running for office. Given the energy and debate in conversation today, I think that we are positioned to be the leading political voice for and by black women leading into 2020.

Join the #BlackWomenLead Nation by becoming a member.
To learn more, visit Higher Heights for America & Higher Heights Leadership Fund. Follow Higher Heights on Facebook and Twitter @HigherHeights

Note: Since our interview, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings suspended her campaign for governor. 

Will you sign up to become a member of Higher Heights?
Sharon Pendana is the creator of THE TROVE, author of Secret Washington DCand on a relentless quest to discover treasures, human and otherwise. Find her on Instagram, Medium, Twitter or binging on Netflix and Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps.
Photo via nbcnews.com
By Erickka Sy Savané

Like many, I have been following the Roy Moore vs. Doug Jones Senate race in Alabama. One minute, Democrat Doug Jones is ‘leading’ in polls in this state that Dems haven’t carried since 1992. Then two seconds later, Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexually assaulting multiple teenage girls when he was a grown ass man in his 30’s, starts looking like a shoe-in. How can this be? Well, we have to thank Conservative white women for that. Recent polls show that over 60% of white women support Roy Moore. These are the same women who threw their full support behind the Head P*ssy Grabber in Chief, Donald Trump. I’m looking at these women voting against themselves- in fact, one of the women who accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16, is a Republican who actually voted for Trump, and recently acknowledged that his support of Moore is disappointing- wondering if they got dropped on their heads when they were babies. Why are they voting like this?

For the answer, I go straight to white women. Since I only know a hand-full, and none of them voted for Trump (at least, not openly), I have to ask my white female liberal friends. What follows is white female Liberal's take on the voting logic of Conservative white women... 

So I turn to Facebook to reach out to Anne who lives in LA, and is originally from Boulder, Colorado. Anne has two bi-racial daughters, and her sister has bi-racial kids as well. When asked to explain the voting logic of Conservative white women Anne said,
“Great question my friend! I am so far removed from anyone that would think like this. My guess is that it’s a brainwashed Southern thing.”
So my next question is how did she grow up? She says that her family was very liberal.
“We celebrated different cultures and ways of life and freedom to be. My mother was Quaker and my father came from a Christian background, but won’t touch religion with a 10-foot-pole. He’s more of a Spiritual poet.”
It would explain Anne and her sister’s open-mindedness. Very interesting. But I still need to find out why white women keep voting for Pedophiles!

I reach out to Nancy* from a mommy group I belong to here in Jersey City. This group mixes women from all types of different backgrounds, and a lot of them are politically active. Though Nancy says she can’t say 100 percent, she goes straight for what we might consider the obvious.

“I think it all circles back to racism, but some not even intentional, meaning they aren't even aware that they are being racist. So you have your flat out racists who hear the dog-whistle comments and are totally thinking that THESE guys get it. They are going to make sure that they keep out those Mexicans and stop giving money to those welfare babies. Then there's this big portion- and I know this because I see people I knew in high school that really don't understand- who don't view themselves as racists. They do however completely suffer from white privilege. They are white, middle class, have never lived in an urban area, they love their black friends and co-workers (see, they have black friends so they aren't racist wink-wink), they are, however, finding it harder to stay middle class. There aren't as many jobs, their pay isn't increasing, they are struggling to keep up with the Jones's. All their lives they've voted Conservative. Their parents were in unions, they go to church, they've worked hard and have reaped the rewards. They haven't faced the same obstacles P.O.C. have. So they, in their bubble, don't understand how you didn't just work hard and get ahead. If you aren't, you’re just not trying hard enough. It's a formula that's always worked for them. Except now, it's not. They haven't yet put together that the Republican party isn't looking out for them. That it's their policies that have failed them. They are still thinking that if they stay with a Conservative party that the cream will rise to the top.”
She also points to Conservative “Christian” values.
“Good women are docile and support their men no matter what. Men can't control their impulses when women of ill repute tempt them. All bullshit, but I've heard this nonsense. Unless it’s happened to them, they think that a lot of women ask for it. It’s a complete disconnect from reality, but their bubble is safe.”
She concludes by saying that she believes a lot of Christian white women will go down with the ship. 

Photo via The Atlantic
This idea that white Conservative white women have that they are somehow being 'protected' is echoed by Ang*, another mom from the mommy group. Ang says that she’s been trying to figure out why women in her demographic vote for nasty predators, but her guess is fear. 
“Its fear of losing a way of life that they understand even though it may not serve them best, fear of losing the protection and support of their spouses who are voting for the embodiment of evil because that evil preserves their supremacy.”
She goes on to compare it to a woman staying in an abusive relationship. 
“Maybe they hope that by throwing others under the bus they will be spared the same fate. White women are caught in this place between privileged and oppressed, and it’s easier to pretend that we are on the side of power than under the boot.”
She then turns the question around to ask me if I know anyone who has voted against themselves?

My answer is no. I don’t know any black women who supported Trump, and I hope that none I know would vote for a Roy Moore, however, I know people who still support Bill Cosby, though more than 50 women have accused him of some form of sexual assault. I know black women still flock to R. Kelly concerts though it’s well-known that he’s had sexual relations with minors, making him a Pedophile. There’s also Clarence Thomas. We could also do better, and hopefully as more women continue to come forward with their stories of assault (#metoo), we will stop supporting those who don't support us. Clearly, there is work to do, though this is not about comparing. As it relates to the Senate race taking place tomorrow in Alabama, it's anyone's guess what the outcome will be. But it will be a telling sign as to what direction women, at least Conservative and white, are heading.

Do you think Conservative white women will turn the page anytime soon? 
Erickka Sy Savané is a wife, mom, and managing editor of CurlyNikki.com. Based in Jersey, City, NJ, her work has appeared in Essence.com,Ebony.comMadamenoire.com and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter and Instagram orErickkaSySavane.com

In an open letter on Mass Appeal, rapper turned mogul, Nas pens an open letter in which he calls Donald Trump a racist. Nas, a co-founder of Mass Appeal Records among many other things, speaks on the power and influence of politics, and the importance of making an impact through everyday work.

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Read an excerpt of the open letter below:
The Creator put us here to do our thing, so I do my thing. And I don’t pay attention to politics at the moment. For what? There’s no reason. For me, it doesn’t make any sense. We all know a racist is in office. People can talk their shit. Comedians can sound racist. People can go through their moments of that shit, but when you have the responsibility of being President and you carry on like that, you send a strong message to people outside of your group that they ain’t worth shit.
So why would I focus on that unless I’m in the political game? Unless I’m running for office I don’t have to pay attention to know that. If I ever vote again—when it’s time to vote again, and I feel like voting again—I don’t have to follow the news to know who I’m voting against. But then you wind up saying “Who’s the next motherfucker coming in, and how does that help?”
My way of addressing these issues is through my work. Whatever president may be in office doesn’t affect my work directly. The way he affects people is what affects me. I observe what’s going on and that goes into my creative process. The person himself, I’m not caught up with. I don’t even have time for Trump or Pence. I don’t give a fuck.
My focus is on what’s happening with real people in their everyday lives. How they behave, the decisions they make, and how that affects families. I grew up in a single-parent household, so I was affected by that life. But it didn’t stop me. So I speak to the everyday people. I speak to everybody. If the people are bothered by it, I speak on it. If the people are bothered and want change, I speak on that.
It’s the same way I felt as a youngster when Ronald Reagan was in office. My voice at that point didn’t fuckin’ matter to anybody. I didn’t care. You know what’s different today? I’m older, that means I’m more responsible. That means paying attention to what’s happening to my country.

But in reality, art is gonna thrive regardless. Whether it’s affected by who’s in office or not, art thrives. I live in that—I live in those walls, I live in those wires, I live in those pencils and papers, and that sound. I’m not caught up in politics. I saw Gerald Ford and his vice president Nelson Rockefeller. I saw Jimmy Carter. I saw Ronald Reagan, and I saw George Bush, Sr. I saw Bill Clinton, George Bush, Jr., and Barack Obama. I’m good.
I got my own things to say and I been saying how I feel on the mic. Sometimes people ask me “Why you didn’t say this?” or “Why you didn’t talk about that?” You got a million people out here with a million different views and I heard it all. I talked about it all. I thought about most of the shit somebody could think of. I move through action. My music is action. What I’m giving you through my music is my actions.
I might have a song I want to deliver and then do things around that song that represents that song. And that can represent people and change and help with the education of young people. I like those ideas. I like ideas about helping kids in the inner city want to learn. Helping them want to be more. I’m all about being what you can be, because you never know.
That position, the presidency, seems so far away. But Barack Obama changed the game so that now, whether you’re a woman or Latino or whoever, you can feel that running for office can be a real goal. Winning the election could be real for someone in this country, if that’s what you want. As a kid, at one point I thought I wanted to go to film school. It was gonna be films or music. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas—those were big names for me coming up.

Read the full open letter here.

What do you think about what Nas had to say? Share in the comments.
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Mike "Orie" Mosley is the managing editor for CurlyNikki.com and a cultural advocate from St. Louis. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management from Columbia College Chicago and a Masters in Higher Education Administration from LSU. He is also the founder of www.afrotrak.com. In his spare time, he's probably listening to hip hop & neo soul music, hitting up brunch or caught up in deep conversations about Black music. You can follow him on Twitter @mike_orie or on Instagram @mikeorie

by Kanisha Parks author of Love Letters from the Master

Obama didn’t just go to Cuba to make history—he went there to make a difference.
And that’s just what he’s doing: it’s the first time a sitting president has visited the country in almost ninety years, but Barack Obama isn’t just any president. He’s the first black President—a point isn’t lost on Afro-Cubans in particular, who hope his visit marks the beginning of a new era regarding relations between the United States and Cuba and vast improvements in the quality of life for all Cuban citizens.

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Despite significant backlash from the GOP for his visit, Obama has been confident that it will be productive: “I’m focused on the future, and I’m confident that my visit will advance the goals that guide us —promoting American interests and values and a better future for the Cuban people, a future of more freedom and more opportunity,” the president said.

Cuba, a country rooted in African and Hispanic culture, is still marked by prevailing prejudice, racial inequality, and discriminatory hiring: “Afro-Cubans are underrepresented in the ranks of Cuba’s political and economic elites and make up a disproportionate number of the urban and rural poor. Black Cubans have benefited less than their white counterparts from closer relations with the United States. Relatively few hold coveted, lucrative jobs serving foreign visitors.” (Associated Press).

In his speech during a joint news conference in Havana, Cuba on Monday, March 21, Obama addressed controversial issues concerning relations between the United States and Cuba and differences of opinion about human rights, while Cuban president Raul Castro appeared resistant and uncomfortable, even, at times.

But Cubans remain hopeful. ““It totally satisfies my soul to be able to have lived to see this moment, a moment I never thought I would have seen,” said Carmen Diaz, 70, watching Mr. Obama’s arrival from her daughter’s living room. “I feel this visit of an American president to Cuba is being done in the most elegant way possible.”

Of course, one visit from President Obama won’t put an end to the problems that Afro-Cubans face, but it is certainly a step in the right direction—a step that has been decades in the making.

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Kanisha is a Christian writer/author based in Augusta, GA. Other than CurlyNikki.com, she has also written for BlackNaps.organd Devozine, and has authored a book of poetry entitled, "Love Letters from the Master." Kanisha can be contacted for business inquiries at [email protected].