WASHINGTON, DC – Saturday, May 18, 2019– The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. (BWA) hosted faith leaders, activists, elected officials, journalists, and a multicultural audience from across the political spectrum today for Spirit of Change, a frank and expansive town hall conversation on some of the nation’s most pressing issues, at Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital.

During discussions that included fielding questions posed by the audience, T.J. Holmes, ABC News Anchor and Correspondent, and the town hall moderator; Maya Wiley, MSNBC Legal Analyst and Senior Vice President for Social Justice at the New School University;Alice Stewart, CNN Political Commentator and veteran senior communications advisor on numerous Republican presidential campaigns; Joel Rubin, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and a seasoned expert on foreign policy and national security; Qasim Rashid, Muslim rights activist, attorney, and a former candidate for the U.S. Senate from Virginia’s 28th District; Niger Innis, CNN and Fox News Political Commentator and National Chairman, Congress on Racial Equality (CORE); Tara Setmayer, CNN Political Commentator, ABC News Political Contributor, and former GOP communications director,  Reverend Eric S.C. Manning, Senior Pastor, “Mother” Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, and Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), explored such topics as gun control, the death penalty, the rise of anti-Semitism and White nationalism, immigration, Islamophobia, the Mueller report, and the 2020 presidential election.

“At a time when our nation is deeply divided, many people are afraid to speak openly with one another,” explained BWA President Gwainevere Catchings Hess. “They want to avoid confrontation and controversy, and while this is understandable, not communicating makes matters worse. With the Spirit of Changetown hall, The Black Women’s Agenda is providing a forum for an open, honest and civil discussion that we hope will help promote a culture of peace, clarity, respect, and healing.”

A 2017 Cato Institute survey entitled The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in Americafound that nearly 60% of Americans believe the political climate prevents them from sharing their own political beliefs, and more than 70% feel that political correctness has silenced important discussions our society needs to have.[1]

Similarly, Hidden Tribes, a 2018 study conducted by More In Common, an international initiative to build stronger, more united and resilient societies and communities, found that whether they are progressive, conservative, disengaged or a member of the “exhausted majority,” most Americans consider the nation’s political divisions to be one its  most pressing problems. It also provided evidence that indicated that 77% of Americans believe our differences are not so great that we cannot come together.[2]

In the weeks following the Spirit of Change Town Hall, BWA will encourage participants, organizations, and others to host coffees, meals and small gathering around the country that bring groups of multi- cultural people in their communities together to talk about the things they have in common and that make them different.

“The time for shouting at one another is over. So is the time for nottalking to each other.” Hess insisted. “We all have a stake in America’s future, and it is time that we start exploring possibilities for building bridges that can help unite us.”

Founded in 1977 in Washington, DC, The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(C)3 organization that generates awareness and support for issues that secure, protect and advance the rights of Black women and their families. BWA is comprised of 22 collaborating organizations — sororities, civic, service and faith-based — representing millions of women worldwide.



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