Women Shine At Annual Black & Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus Weekend

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I’ve been traveling to upstate New York for more than two decades so I guess one can say I’ve had my share of travels to Albany for the Annual Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus weekend.  But this year was by far the most energetic, filled with a new sense of optimism, and with the theme “Restoring Faith & Justice”.

Over the last 15 months, nine more women of color have been elected to the New York State Legislature. From the Fantastic Five-to the Sensational Six-to the No Nonsense Nine, on any given day, you can see one of these dynamic young women rushing through the chamber asking colleagues to sign off on a bill or pushing a stroller through the halls with a new baby in tow.  These are not your average legislators powering through the halls of Albany. These are lawyers, engineers, business owners and social service directors.  And during last weekend’s annual caucus, their level of expertise and skillsets were on display, bigger and bolder than ever witnessed before.

Some folks attend Caucus weekend for parties, some are there to attend the informational workshops and panel discussions, while some go to attend the scholarship dinner gala.  But, one thing for sure, the weekend historically has been known for networking amongst our people, with a goal of bringing information and resources back to our respective communities and districts with the hope of making a difference and being an agent for change.

Today, the caucus is made up of 21 women of color (4 in the Senate and 17 in the Assembly) who were sent to Albany with aggressive agendas.  For years, the women’s agenda was discussed during a designated workshop with a panel discussion. But this year, the newly formed Women of Color Committee, decided to go back to their roots and have the Women’s Workshop held in the Assembly Chamber.

Years ago, the women gathered in the chamber and audience members were addressed while seated in the member seats.  A true example of the space being “the people’s house”.  NYC Public Advocate Letitia James sponsored this year’s workshop and also delivered the keynote address.  Women from across the state attended the workshop and audience members included tenant association leaders from housing authorities to Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.   The theme of the Women of Color Workshop was “Building a Leadership Pipeline for Women: What Was, What Is and What’s To Come.”

New York City Public Advocate Letitia james gives the keynote address at the Women of Color Committee meeting
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James gives the keynote address at the Women of Color Committee workshop meeting

Women in the New York State Legislature have always been on the forefront of issues that matter to us such as protecting reproductive rights, fighting for access to quality education and advocating for pay equity.  When talking about women’s issues, it’s no secret that women of color have issues that go far beyond the typical topics of discussion and during the chamber workshop, women were able to speak candidly about their concerns.

It’s refreshing to hear from the Women of Color Committee and the newly elected members because it’s no longer a good ole boys network.  These women started off the session already introducing and passing bills that have a direct impact on New Yorkers.  And because they have been elected to offices minus the machine politics, they have no backdoor allegiances except to their people.

And just a week after returning to the City, many of the women met with Presidential Candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to hear directly from her as to why they should be supportive of her candidacy.  As with so many elections and just throughout life, speaking as a united front will get us much further ahead.  We must remember that we need to live in unity and not uniformity.  This new class of women are definitely becoming a united front. And last week’s caucus was evidence of that.   We have definitely come a long way as women and I am finally confident in the leadership we have in Albany.  I am proud to be a young woman working in the capitol with these amazing women of color and look forward to what the future has to bring.

In the meantime, tune in to Election 2016, its going to be a GREAT year!

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