More than 1,000 influential Black women on Monday signed an open letter to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, urging their transition team to consider – and appoint – more Black women to hold positions in Biden’s Cabinet.
First shared with CNN, it’s the latest layer of growing pressure on Biden and Harris to diversify their administration. The pair is set to meet with civil rights groups including the NAACP on Tuesday. The letter was spearheaded by Black women from a cross section of American life like politics, business, sports, entertainment and faith.
And it’s a call for a return on the political feat achieved by Black women nationwide when they secured the election for Biden in November.
“It is long past time that the effective, accomplished leadership of Black women currently serving in areas of significant policy that impacts our nation are recognized and given full consideration for the statutory positions in your administration’s Cabinet,” the letter states.
“Just as Black women and Black Americans were key to your election in November, we are key to the success of your Administration and the implementation of your vision. Our community must see ourselves reflected in key leadership positions in recognition of our importance,” the letter added.
Biden, who pledged during the campaign to create an administration whose diversity reflects America, has already nominated two Black women to leadership positions – Linda Thomas-Greenfield as US ambassador to the United Nations and Cecilia Rouse to lead the Council of Economic Advisors.
The letter applauds those historic selections but also cautions that they are not enough, outlining the “glaring omissions in the most senior ranks.”
To remedy the gap, it suggests the names of over a dozen Black women to lead the Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy and Justice departments, among others. Some of the names listed have already been reported to be under consideration by the transition team, such as Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge for the Department of Agriculture and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to lead the US Department of Housing and Urban Development – along with not yet reported names like Dr. Anita Hill and Sherilyn Ifill, leader of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Sources familiar with the matter tell CNN Fudge is also under serious consideration to lead HUD as well. CNN reported last week that Lance Bottoms was being considering for the Small Business Administration.
A source told CNN that Heather McTeer Toney is being considered for the Environmental Protection Agency, another Cabinet-level post.
“We are hopeful that the President-elect and the Vice President-elect will continue this trajectory by appointing Black women to head statutory cabinet agencies, where they will have the budgets, the personnel and the policymaking authority to affect real change in the lives of the American people,” Bishop Leah Daughtry, a signee of the letter and veteran political operative, told CNN in an interview.
The effort was led by #WinWithBlackWomen, a network of more than 1,200 Black women leaders that formed in August to speak out against the often-sexist language circulating about the Black women who were being considered by Biden to be his vice president. The group wrote a letter at the time to urge him to choose a Black woman as his running mate.
Black women played an irreplaceable part in Biden’s electoral success, with 90% of Black women voting for Biden in November, according to CNN’s exit polling. Black women also formed an expansive network of political outreach and political contributions – particularly after his selection of Harris, the first Black woman and South Asian woman to be nominated as vice president by a major political party.
And Black women, led by Stacy Abrams, were particularly pivotal in Biden’s victory in Georgia – a state that hadn’t gone for a Democrat since 1992.
Jotaka Eaddy, #WinWithBlackWomen founder and CEO of Full Circle Strategies, raised the contributions Black women gave to Democrats in November and their ongoing work to win two Senate seats in essence flipping control of the body back to Democrats.
“Equally as Black women are able to help win elections in America, we are also quite ready and capable to lead America,” Eaddy told CNN in an interview.
Other signees include Melanie Campbell, the president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation who will also be in the civil rights meeting on Tuesday, CNN political commentator Angela Rye, She the People Founder Aimee Allison and Karen Finney, who was the strategic communications adviser and senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and is also a CNN political commentator.
Pressure for Biden to have a diverse Cabinet has grown on the President-elect over the last month, sources told CNN, with more mounting after he named two White nominees to two of the highest-profile Cabinet positions, Treasury secretary and secretary of state.
Sources familiar with the matter told CNN that Biden will likely announce retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin – a Black man – as his nominee for defense secretary on Tuesday. He officially announced Xavier Beccera as his pick for Health and Human Services secretary after the Congressional Hispanic Caucus went public with their frustration over the handling of New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham’s consideration for a Cabinet spot.
Prominent Black women say they want similar outcomes for their own pressure campaign.
“It unfair and unrealistic to expect that Kamala Harris’ race, gender and lived experience will be the only one of its kind at the decision-making table,” a source familiar with transition matters said. “The work that Black women have put into this election cycle should net us a seat.”