Los Angeles—To close Women’s History Month, the Los Angeles Black Worker Center released a pilot project report, “Black Space for Women: From LA Practice to National Model for Sister Empowerment,” that reveals what Black women experience as barriers to leadership in progressive organizing. The report also offers a set of seven curriculum-based activities, including Letters to My Sister, Focus Groups and a Wellness Wheel, to address the health and wellness of Black Women in the labor and social justice movements.
Findings show that inequities in areas including education, housing, healthcare access and wages, challenge the capacity of Black women to fully exert leadership. In LA County, for example, Black women struggle through a widening gender gap, as well as a racial wage gap. There, Black women represent 14% of low wage workers, which is higher than all white male and female low-wage works combined. There is a $5,000 race wage gap between Black women who hold managerial positions and work professional roles compared to their white counterparts. These are oppressive economic obstacles that limit professional and social mobility.
“Historically, Black women have been hardest hit by economic and social crisis,” said Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, UCLA Labor Center Project Director and LABWC co-founder. “Our legacy of leadership has inspired generations to fight, but most of the Black women leaders who participated in the Black Space for Women workshops had stories of backlash to their leadership ambitions.”
The report, an assessment of the Black Space for Women project, is a compilation of more than two dozen interviews, focus groups, workshops and research by the UCLA Labor Center. It is also part of a local and nationwide effort to transform current norms and practices into supportive pathways to Black women’s leadership.