Thursday, March 19, 2009

Administration's Black Women Form A Strong Sisterhood

Hat tip: djchefron

From The Washington Post:
The Ties That Align
Administration's Black Women Form A Strong Sisterhood

By Krissah Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; Page C01

Like two old girlfriends catching up, they ignored onlookers, hugged and laughed.

Donna Brazile, the political strategist and Washington veteran, peppered Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson with questions.

"How are the kids?" "Have you contacted the church? I don't go every Sunday but they know me."

Before she left, Jackson had an open invitation to Brazile's place for home-cooked red beans and rice, served up every Monday night.

"The sisterhood in this town, there's deep history here," Jackson said.

The "Obama women" -- as African American women who've taken big jobs in his administration have been nicknamed -- mark another step in the long journey of black women from outsiders to gatekeepers in political Washington. They have quietly entered their jobs with little attention paid to the fact that they are the largest contingent of high-ranking black women to work for a president.

Many are firsts -- as in the first black woman to run the Domestic Policy Council, the first black EPA chief and the first black woman to be deputy chief of staff. Last week, Obama tapped Margaret (Peggy) Hamburg to lead the Food and Drug Administration. If confirmed, Hamburg -- who is biracial (her mother is African American, her father Jewish) -- will also be a first.

Seven of about three dozen senior positions on President Obama's team are filled by African American women. Veterans in town see them as part of the steady evolution of power for black women, not only in the White House but also across the country -- in the business world, in academia, in policy circles.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a District native who served in the Carter administration, said the significance of Obama sending Valerie Jarrett to represent the administration at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, days after he took office, was not lost on her. There, Jarrett was introduced by economist Klaus Schwab as "President Obama's personal representative; influential adviser; trusted confidante. . . . When she speaks, she speaks really with his voice."

Inside the young administration, the women said they have been slammed with work and left with little time to think about their place in history. But there are moments.

When Jackson, with bodyguard in tow, walks through the corridors of the EPA's vast complex in the Federal Triangle, she invariably is stopped by one of her employees, often an African American woman, who says, "Thank you for being here." She is reminded not only of the history Obama made but also of the history she is making. Black women make up about 192,000 of the more than 1.7 million members of the federal workforce, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

"It's an indication that I'm one of theirs," Jackson said.

It's at church on Sundays that Melody Barnes, who heads Obama's Domestic Policy Council, is reminded. So many people want to stop and talk that her receiving line at the end of service is often as long as the pastor's.

"I certainly feel it when someone my grandfather's age stops me to say, 'Sweetheart, I'm proud of you,' but at the same time we are here to do a job," Barnes said. "For the most part, when we walk into the West Wing, we are focused on that job throughout the day."

Rest of the article at link above. I just liked this piece and thought it should be brought Front Page.

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