April 5th Call for Community Solutions: Centering Black Women in Public Policy

by | April 5, 2021 | Past Events | 0 comments

“Black Women are virtually in a state of crisis”

Rochelle Jackson, Founder and Director of Black Women’s Policy Agenda

The Forbes Fund was joined today by special guest Rochelle Jackson, Founder and Director of the Black Women’s Policy Agenda (BWPA). This initiative dedicated to addressing the structurally complex challenges facing black women and girls of all identities in the Greater Pittsburgh region in a just fashion. A recording of this call can be accessed at this link.

Building Policy Infrastructure around and for Black Women

In her powerful talk, Rochelle Jackson discussed how public policy must be centered around the needs of black women. She argued that as a group they are an afterthought in policy-making circles. Hence, policies do not address their needs. For example, Rochelle noted that black women face a double economic barrier with their work is devalued. This devaluation results in increased economic instability, inequality, and lower wages. These economic realities combined with her own lived experiences led her to become an advocate for equitable and public policy. Thus the Black Women’s Policy Agenda (BWPA) was born.

Rochelle Jackson's outline of the Black Women's Agenda based on her lived experience and being a professional policy advocate.

The agenda builds on her previous work in the femisphere project. In this project, she documented the poverty of single mother households, where black women are reflected disproportionately in the numbers. Yet, she acknowledged that much work has been done in addressing the needs of black women but it is not enough. The data shows that black women are in a state of crisis but this is nothing new according to Rochelle.

What the data tell us about the economic status of black women. For example, 40% of black women live in poverty.

Rochelle then dives into a series of statistics that show how on multiple fronts black women are under siege from economic and medical precarity to different forms of discrimination, especially in Pittsburgh. Given the scale of the challenge, she said no one entity is capable of facing them. Thus, Rochelle in a powerful call to action asks the nonprofit community for assistance to advance the BWPA. These include advocating for black women to have paid and family sick leave and higher minimum wage.

Lastly, Rochelle talked about the Black Women’s Policy Center. This organization is an extension of her earlier work and further advocates for public policy that advances the needs of all black women across identities.

During Q & A, Rochelle said that the material conditions of black women must be taken into account by nonprofits. For example, a program is created for black women they should ask themselves if black women have access to good public transportation and child care. These are powerful barriers that hold them back.

Public Policy Updates with Colleen Young

Covid Update

Pennsylvania has transitioned to covid vaccine phase 1b. Equally important, it has announced that all Pennsylvanians will be eligible for a covid vaccine starting 19 April. For more information, please follow this link.

Governor Tom Wolf announced that the school employee vaccination program has been a success with more than 112, 500 doses given in a three-week period.

As of 4 April, 34.8% of Pennsylvanians received their first vaccine dose. 18.6% of Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated. Additionally, Pennsylvania has distributed over 5.43 million vaccines across the state.

Dr. Bogen, the Director of the Allegheny County Health Department is concerned about a potential 4th wave with the number of COVID cases rising. Moreover, racial disparities in vaccination distribution still remain. For more information, please follow this link.

Pennsylvania has increased the seating capacity for bars, restaurants, and theaters to 75%.

American Rescue Plan Benefits

The benefits of the American Rescue Plan as documented in a report by Senator Casey and Just Harvest.

The Office of Senator Bob Casey (D) compiled this list. For more information regarding the American Rescue Plan benefits, please follow this link and this one as well.

Utilities Update

Pennsylvania shut off the moratorium for utilities ended 1 April. The expiration of the moratorium means the potential termination of 890,000 accounts. Moreover, over $865 million owed.

According to Colleen, utilities have reported that financial relief is underused. Additionally, assistance may be available. and to check out Dollar Energy and LIHEAP. Moreover, Colleen thinks that nonprofits can help by making sure people are getting the relief they need and to point out if they are not getting.

Housing Update

The federal eviction moratorium will expire on 30 June 2021. In response, Pennsylvania has launched the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for families who meet all of the following criteria:

  • Financial Hardship from Covid-19
  • Risk of homelessness or housing instability
  • Income at or below 80% area median income by county

Public Policy Committee Update

The public policy committee is carefully watching the movements of House Bill 71. This bill if successfully passed would place serious spending limits on the PA budget. In addition, Colleen observed that it would prevent any new social programs from taking place. For more details on HB71, please see this link.

The GPNP supports the NEEDS legislation and has joined a coalition around the state to lobby for it. The legislation supports dedicate funding to human services up to $500,000 per organization.

Upcoming Events


Colleen Young announced the upcoming GPNP Policy Committee Meeting from 15 April pm to 2:30 pm. To register please follow this link.


Olivia Benson announced the upcoming ACCEL course titled, “Nonprofit Essentials: Scenario Planning for Development and Fundraising. This course prepares nonprofits for the advanced ACCEL program. To apply please follow this link.

I think if we do not tap into the resources and people on this call then we run into the risk of being too prideful to support the needs of the sector.

Fred Brown, President and CEO of The Forbes Funds

Future Events

You can register for future Community Solutions Calls and programming by The Forbes Funds at this link. See you at the next Community Solutions Call, or a number of our upcoming events here!


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