Black Women Lead: Stories from the Bay Area

Black Women Lead: Stories from the Bay Area

To celebrate Black History Month and honor the leadership of Black women from the Bay Area, SFF partnered with the Commonwealth Club, as well as our Bay Area Leads Fund, to bring together a very special group of women on February 22. Either serving in elected office or currently running for office, these women are blazing the trail for the next generation of civic leaders in this region.

If you missed the inspiring discussion, you can watch the recording, and also learn about SFF’s brand-new program, Womxn of Color, Womxn of Power, which invests in the leadership of womxn of color to build a more inclusive Bay Area.

Moderated by SFF’s Chief of Staff Brandi Howard, the conversation began with speakers acknowledging the women who’ve inspired and supported them throughout their leadership journeys. Oakland mayoral candidate Allyssa Victory shared that four Black women helped her buy a suit that she needed for job interviews. “Shout out to the Black women who put me on their shoulders,” she shared with more than 200 people who attended the live virtual event. Newly elected Emeryville City Councilwoman Courtney Cecelia Welch – the first Black woman council member in 34 years – recalled that her grandmother would refer to her as “Chairman of the Board” when she was growing up. “She gave me the confidence to move throughout these spaces,” said Welch.

Another theme was the significant support system, and community, that is essential to lifting up more Black women and enabling them to step into their power. CA Assembly District 20 candidate Jennifer Esteen spoke about the reality of working full time on her campaign, while also working paid jobs to provide for her family. “To make it work, we have to pull each other up,” she said. “When we uplift women of color, people who traditionally have not had access to these spaces, we change everything.” BART Board Director Lateefah Simon spent 26 years as a community organizer before running for office. “The folks closest to all of the pain also have all of the truth,” she said. “There is nothing we can’t learn; there is nothing we can’t do.”

SFF Chief of Staff Brandi Howard, in referring to philanthropy’s responsibility, talked about how we must leverage that power to move our communities and “shift power to where it belongs.” Community members chimed in with enthusiastic comments through the discussion. “I love the strength, authenticity, courage, intelligence, and beauty on display today – the spirit of Ubuntu is so powerful!” wrote Carla Gilbert Keener. Another attendee, Yenny Garcia, wrote “I am honored to see all of you be such an inspiration to our communities. You all inspire me to keep going!”

The event panelists are excited to connect with community members who attended or viewed today’s event:

  • Jennifer Esteen, CA Assembly District 20 candidate: jenesteen[at], @Esteen4ca
  • Lateefah Simon, BART Board Director, lateefah77[at], @lateefahsimon
  • Allyssa Victory Oakland Mayoral candidate, Victory4oakland[at], @AllyssaVictory
  • Courtney Cecelia Welch, Emeryville City Councilwoman: cwelch[at], @cw4emeryville