Governing While Black: How the LP Black Caucus is Supporting Black Electeds Across the Country

“Black, progressive, and proud.” That’s how Nashville Metro Councilwoman Delishia Porterfield describes herself. It’s a rallying cry of sorts for many Black electeds in the Local Progress network – and the beautiful common denominator for those in the LP Black Caucus. 

Earlier this Month in Nashville, more than 20 Black leaders came together for the first-ever LP Black Caucus Convening. The group – which represented localities big and small, at all levels of local government – discussed what it means to govern while Black and how we can harness that collective power for transformative change.

In particular, the group drilled down on opportunities and policy strategies related to housing stability for renters, which disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities around the country thanks to decades of racist policies that have contributed to our current housing crisis. 

What the data reveals is shocking: According to the Eviction Lab, less than 1 in every 5 U.S. renters are Black (19%) but over half of all eviction filings are against Black renters (51%). In a given year, over a quarter (27%) of Black children under 5 in rental homes live in a household facing an eviction filing. 

The group discussed how we can shift the understanding from eviction as a private legal dispute to eviction prevention as a public good and necessity. 

The LP Black Caucus was created in 2019 – the first one of three caucuses formed to date within the Local Progress network that support local electeds to organize and build community across shared identity. The caucus focuses on building the resilience and community needed to support the unique needs, opportunities, and challenges that come with governing while Black.  

To that end, the group piloted the soon-to-be-launched Governing While Black modules developed as part of the Progressive Governance Academy. The module focused on two pieces: first, the history of governing while Black and a grounding in personal ancestry as Black Americans, and second, understanding and remixing the rules and norms of governing in systems originally built to uphold white supremacy. 

“Growing up I was told there were no slaves. We have no history. Now I’m the first female Black mayor. And my education on Black history is not where it should be,” said Jaime Kinder, Mayor of Meadville, PA. “When we aren’t taught our history, you have uninformed kids who feel like they don’t have a place where they live.” 

“We need elected officials to center the needs of their community in every aspect of their leadership, including legislative procedure.” said Delishia Porterfield. “Robert’s Rules are tools and they can be used for good or evil. And it depends on whose hands the tools are in. A person can have a brick and can either build a house with it or hit someone over the head with it.”

Two days together in Nashville affirmed what we already know to be true: spaces to do shared work around our identities and lived experiences is needed, and we must continue investing in them. 

“We have some incredible people in this room. You guys are life changers,” said Sherri Jones, Vice-President of the Governing School Board for Florence Unified School District, AZ.


Are you a Black local elected looking to celebrate Black joy and leadership? Join Local Progress and get involved with the Black Caucus. Already a member? Let us know you want to get more involved with the LP Black Caucus