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Obama lauds Black women at CBC dinner

FREDDIE ALLEN | 10/12/2015, 7:29 a.m.
During his speech at the 45th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner, President Barack Obama celebrated the critical role that ...
President Barack Obama delivered the keynote address during the 45th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. Freddie Allen

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – During his speech at the 45th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner, President Barack Obama celebrated the critical role that Black women have played in “every great movement in American history” and pledged to address challenges they face in the workplace and in the criminal justice system.

The Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation focuses on issues affecting the Black community, domestically and abroad, and included policy forums on health, education, economic empowerment, Blacks in media and the criminal justice system.

In his speech, Obama touted national economic success following the Great Recession in the United States and the millions of people who gained access to health care through the Affordable Care Act. He also noted that none of it would have been possible without, “CBC taking tough votes when it mattered most.” Obama explained, “Whatever I’ve accomplished, the CBC has been there.”

During this year’s ALC Phoenix Awards Dinner, the foundation honored Fred Gray, the first civil rights attorney for Rosa Parks; Rev. William Barber II, the president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP; Juanita Abernathy, civil rights activist and wife of the late Ralph Abernathy; and the late Amelia Boynton Robinson, who has been hailed as the “Rosa Parks” of the Selma, Alabama, voting movement.

The president praised the leadership of Black women displayed during the Civil Rights Movement, even though their contributions were often marginalized.

“Women were the foot soldiers. Women strategized boycotts. Women organized marches. Even if they weren’t allowed to run the civil rights organizations on paper, behind the scenes they were the thinkers and the doers making things happen each and every day doing the work that nobody else wanted to do,” he said. “They couldn’t prophesize from the pulpits, but they led the charge from the pews. They were no strangers to violence. They were on the front lines.

“Because all of us are beneficiaries of a long line of strong Black women who helped carry this country forward. Their work to expand civil rights opened the doors of opportunity, not just for African Americans but for all women, for all of us – Black and White, Latino and Asian, LGBT and straight, for our first Americans and our newest Americans,” Obama said. “And their contributions in every field – as scientists and entrepreneurs, educators, explorers – all made us stronger.”

Obama added: “The good news is, despite structural barriers of race and gender, women and girls of color have made real progress in recent years. The number of Black women-owned businesses has skyrocketed. Teen pregnancy rates among girls of color are down, while high school and four-year college graduation rates are up.”

According to a 2014 report on women of color and entrepreneurship by the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, business ownership for Black women grew nearly 260 percent between 1997 and 2013.

Despite the success Black women have enjoyed in entrepreneurship and higher graduation rates in recent years, they still have a long way to go to achieve equity in the workplace.