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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BLACK WOMEN'S POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE

BLACK WOMEN'S POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE

The BLACK WOMEN'S POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (BWPAC) was organized in the fall of 1983 at the urging of Barbara Boyd, manager of Una H. R. Keenon's unsuccessful campaign for CUYAHOGA COUNTY JUVENILE COURT judge. The nonpartisan political organization strove to educate black women in the workings of the political system, to increase the number of black women in elected office, to politically engage the black female voter, and to provide financial and other support to political candidates deemed sensitive to the needs and aspirations of black women. In an effort to give black women more input into political decision making, the group helped qualified women obtain better paying jobs and receive local, state, and national appointments. The founding mothers of the BWPAC included, among others, Judge Una H.R. Keenon, State Representative Barbara Boyd, Judge Sarah Harper, Judge Patricia Ann Blackmon, Dr. Denise McCray, Katherine Adams, Phyllis Burton-Scott, Lynn Spencer, and Shirley Hawk. Membership in the BWPAC was selective, requiring prospective applicants to secure the sponsorship of a current member for admission into the organization. Prospective members were evaluated on their commitment to and involvement in health and welfare political action and education, and their concern for African American women.

Registered with the Federal Elections Committee (FEC), the BWPAC was believed to be the first black women's PAC in the country. Their endorsements in the 1985 municipal elections included Gary Kucinich for mayor of Cleveland. In 1988 the group staged a protest at City Hall in an attempt to heal the dispute between council president George Forbes and Councilman Jeffrey Johnson. At its 7th Anniversary Banquet, March 1990, the BWPAC honored distinguished black women in Cleveland, including Lurtissia Brown, Hulda Mathews-Wills, Anita Polk, Helen Sumons, and Cheryle Wills. The BWPAC sponsored a political skills workshop for high school girls and college women in conjunction with the Cuyahoga Women's Political Caucus to educate them about and engage them in the political process. The group also worked to heighten political awareness by reaching out to the community at such public gatherings, as the African American Family Picnic and the 11th Congressional District Caucus Labor Day Picnic. As of 2006, Barbara Boyd served as the president of the BWPAC.