MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Black women in Congress met in Memphis to discuss policies that could help the Black community.
The National Organization of Black-Elected Legislative Women, also known as NOBEL Women, hosted its 36th annual conference in Memphis. The organization was established in 1985 to increase and promote the presence of Black women in government.
Tennessee house minority leader Karen Camper is the group’s president. She’s also the first African-American leader of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus.
"When black women are at the table, it changes the conversation to some degree, because of our history and our life course," Camper said.
Since the 2020 election, we’ve seen a record number of candidates and newly elected leaders who are Black women, but only about 5 percent are black state legislators. That means out of about 7,300 legislators, only 356 are Black women. The conference is meant to increase those numbers.
More than 40 black women from across the country met to discuss criminal justice, marijuana, healthcare, education, and more. Camper said change is possible and explained when Black women are present in policy-making conversations, they can fight for policies that would benefit the entire black community.
In 2012, Camper helped passed the first bill in the state of Tennessee giving people the opportunity to get their records expunged.
"People told me there is no way you are going to get that done. We've been trying to do it for 20 years," Camper said. "Now I had to be there to be able to do that I had to have that relationship to be able to do that."
Since the bill passed, she’s helped change black people’s lives across the state, and she’s hoping other black women will feel empowered to do the same.