Lift Every Voice: Why black women are a political force in Michigan


SOLEDAD: I’M SOLEDAD O’BRIEN. WELCOME TO “MATTER OF FACT” FROM
MICHIGAN. WE’RE HERE AT THE DETROIT
INSTITUTE OF ARTS, FAMED MEXICAN
ARTIST DIEGO RIVERA PAINTED THIS
MURAL AROUND ME. IT’S CALLED DETROIT INDUSTRY. AND IT’S A TRIBUTE TO THE CITY’S
MANUFACTURING ROOTS. BUT DETROIT DIDN’T JUST BUILD
CARS; IT MANUFACTURED HOPE. IT WAS WHERE THE AMERICAN DREAM
CAME TO LIFE. WITH A LARGE BLOCK OF BLUE-COLLAR WORKERS,
MICHIGAN BECAME PART OF THE
RELIABLE PLUWALL FOR DEMOCRATS
UNTIL 2016 WHEN PRESIDENT TRUMP
WON THE STATE BY THE SLIMMEST OF
MARGINS, LESS THAN 1% OF THE VOTE. MICHIGAN HADN’T GONE RED SINCE
ELECTING GEORGE H.W. BUSH BACK
IN 1988. BUT IN 2020, PUNDITS OF EVERY
STRIPE ACKNOWLEDGED BLACK WOMEN
VOTERS WILL BE THE KINGMAKERS OR
QUEENMAKERS. THEY TURNED OUT MORE THAN ANY
OTHER GROUP IN 2016 AND IN 2012. AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN HAVE LONG
BEEN POLITICAL PLAYERS. OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT JOIE
CHEN RETRACED THE STEPS OF SOME
OF AMERICA’S GREATEST POLITICAL
FORCES TO UNDERSTAND THEIR
INFLUENCE HERE IN DETROIT AS
PART OF OUR “MATTER OF FACT” LISTENING TOUR. ♪♪
REPORTER: THE RICH RED GEORGIA
CLAY ONCE SPROUTED FIELDS OF
COTTON AND MADE A COMFORTABLE
LIFE FOR FAMILIES LIKE GRACE
ALLEN’S BUT IN THE EARLY 1950s, THEY LIKE SO MANY
OTHERS, MOVED NORTH WANTI
MORE.>>WE WANTED A BETTER LIVING. WE WANT TO DO MORE THAN JUST
CHOP COTTON AND PICK COTTON AND
HOE AND DO THIS AND THAT AND THE
OTHER.>>AND YOUR CHILDREN?>>UH-HUH.>>YOU DIDN’T WANT THEM TO HAVE
THAT LIFE.>>I WANTED THEM TO HAVE A
BETTER LIFE THAN I HAD. REPORTER: SHOE BROUGHT HER TWO
BOYS NORTH TO A STRANGE CITY,
GOT A JOB WORKING ON THE
ASSEMBLY LINE, AND BUILT TWO
BUSINESSES OF HER OWN.>>I JUST WANTED TO DO SOMETHING
TO HELP SOMEBODY.>>A CONVERSATION IN A BARBER
SHOP IS THE MOST AUTHENTIC THING
THAT YOU CAN HAVE IN DETROIT. REPORTER: AT THE KUT-IT-OUT
BARBER SHOP ON DETROIT’S EAST
SIDE, MARLOWE STOUDAMIRE TELLS
US THE HISTORY OF HIS CIT
>>1915, A LOT OF BLACK PEOPLE
WERE TRANSITIONING FROM THE SOUTH, WHITE SOUTH PRIMARILY, TO
COME TO DETROIT FOR A BETTER
OPPORTUNITY.>>THAT’S THE GREAT MIGRATION. REPORTER: SOME 6 MILLION
AFRICAN-AMERICANS MOVED NORTH IN
WHAT’S KNOWN AS THE GREAT
MIGRATION. DETROIT’S BLACK POPULATION ALONE
GREW MORE THAN 34% IN THE FIRST
HALF OF THE 20th CENTURY WITH
WOMEN LIKE GRACE ALLEN LEADING
THE WAY.>>HOW DID SHE FIT INTO THAT
PICTURE?>>I THINK SHE REPRESENTS A LOT
OF STORIES THAT YOU HAVEN’T
HEARD. WOMEN WHO HAD TO MAYBE DO IT
ALL, FROM BEING THE FOUNDATION
OF CONGREGATIONS, FROM
VOLUNTEERISM, TO LEADING
ORGANIZATIONS, SPECIFICALLY AT A
GRASSROOTS NEIGHBORHOOD LEVEL. REPORTER: THEY WERE ALSO THE
WOMEN WHO KEPT THEIR FAMILIES
SAFE DURING DETROIT’S DARKEST
HOURS. A LONG HOT SUMMER OF JULY, 1967.>>LAW AND ORDER HAVE BROKEN
DOWN IN DETROIT, MICHIGAN. REPORTER: WHEN AN EXPLOSION OF
LONG-SIMMERING FRUSTRATIONS AND
RAGE AT AN OPPRESSIVE POLICE
FORCE SPARKED REBELLION ON
12th STREET. THOSE CLASHES ECHO EVEN TODAY IN
THE CAVERNOUS VACANT HOUSES AND
THE LARGELY EMPTY STREETS OF
DETROIT’S NORTH END WHERE WE
COULD DOUBT EVEN FOR JUST A
MOMENT ANY HOPE FOR DETROIT’S RESURGENCE. THAT IS UNTIL WE MEET JASMI
>>I AM A YOUTH ACTIVIST. REPORTER: AT 29 YEARS OLD WITH
TWO DEGREES IN HAND, SHE MOVED
INTO A FRAGILE COMMUNITY JUST TO
SUPPORT ITS GIRLS.>>THE CORRECT WAY TO ASK FOR
SUGAR IS, MAY I PLEASE HAVE SOME
SUGAR, OKAY? REPORTER: SHE LAUNCHED LADIES IN
TRAINING, A PROGRAM TO ENCOURAGE
SOCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL SKILLS
AND TO EXPOSE THESE LITTLE GIRLS
TO A WORLD FAR BEYOND THE
AVENUE.>>A LOT OF GIRLS WHO LIVE IN
THIS NEIGHBORHOOD THEY LIVE
RIGHT HERE, WHICH IS TEN MINUTES
AWAY FROM DOWNTOWN AND THEY HAVE
NEVER BEEN TO DOWNTOWN DETROIT. REPORTER: SHE CREDITS HER
ACTIVISM TO THE WOMAN WHO
ENCOURAGED HER DREAM. HER GRANDMA. GRACE ALLEN.>>DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WERE
KIND OF CREATING A PATH FOR US
TO FOLLOW?>>I WAS HOPING SOMEONE WOULD
FOLLOW ME.>>SHE MAY NOT KNOW THAT THAT
WAS A GUIDING LIGHT TO ME MAKING
SURE THAT I DID THE RIGHT THING. REPORTER: WITH A ROLE MODEL WHO
SERVED AS A CHURCH LEADER, A
UNION OFFICER, AND AN ELECTIONS
OFFICIAL, STEPPING INTO
COMMUNITY SERVICE WAS AN OBVIOUS
CHOICE FOR BARNETT, ESPECIALLY TO EMPOWER DETROIT’S YOUNG BLACK
WOMEN AT A CRITICAL MOMENT IN
AMERICAN POLITICS. BEYOND JUST VOTING, JASMINE AND
HER PEERS ARE INCREASINGLY
ACTIVE IN DETROIT POLITICS. FOUR WOMEN OF COLOR CURRENTLY
SIT ON THE CITY COUNCIL,
INCLUDING ITS PRESIDENT. AND TWO OF DETROIT’S CURRENT
CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION ARE
WOMEN OF COLOR.>>IT IS OUR RIGHT AND OUR DUTY
TO GET UP AND VOTE ON ELECTION
DAY.>>IS IT PRIME TIME FOR
AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN?>>I BELIEVE SO. I THINK IT’S OUR TIME. I THINK IT’S OUR TIME BECAUSE
AFTER SO LONG, YOU HAVE TO GO
OUT AND GET YOUR, YES. REPORTER: GETTING THEIR YES AND
GETTING READY TO LEAD ANOTHER
GENERATION OF WOMEN IN POWER. IN DETROIT




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