On February 2nd, journalist and adjunct media studies professor Charity C. Elder spoke with fellow media studies professor, journalist and radio talk show host Karen Hunter about Elder’s first book, Power: The Rise of Black Women in America, at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College.
The event, which was co-sponsored by the Hunter College Department of Africana, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, helped to mark the beginning of Black History Month for the school. Hunter and Elder’s conversation touched upon the importance of centering Black women’s voices and what it means to have power.
“That thought process or seeing things a different way is also, for me, a way of taking what I’ve done seriously,” said Elder.
During their discussion, Elder spoke of how she combed through 80 years of US Census data looking at growth in median wages, college attendance and professional/managerial roles for Black women. She conducted a national poll asking Black women about their views on personal success and having the ability to achieve it. She found that about 70 percent of respondents have experienced or believe they possess the power within them to reach success.
Elder also used personal and historical stories to emphasize her argument and portray what it means to be a Black woman today. She told Hunter that even though such stories are important, she didn’t want her book to solely be a narrative-based story.
Elder spoke of Harriet Tubman as an example of a Black woman maintaining a sense of agency even in the face of great adversity.“Why did she have the belief that she could do something different and then keep going forward,” asked Elder. “I want to make sure that doesn’t die.”
Among those in attendance were Hunter journalism professor Sissel McCarthy and some of her News Literacy students. One of those students, first year David Horn, said he went because he felt that it was a topic worth talking about and listening to. Horn thought Elder did a good job of explaining how intersectionality and census data both “impacted society and how one impacted the other.” Although his major is undecided, Horn said the event piqued his interest in pursuing statistics and media studies.
The takeaway that Elder hopes students such as Horn got from this event is the possibility of story and data. She noted that when the two are combined, they can be “powerful.”
“The skills that you learn as a journalist can be applied to so many fields and in so many ways,” said Elder. “I hope students realize that their journalism degree can take them so far.”
Elder said she would like to continue writing about “wielding power like a Black woman.” She also hopes to see important events such as this happen even outside of Black History Month in the future.
The event can be watched here.
For more information about or to purchase Power: The Rise of Black Women in America, visit Charity C. Elder’s website here.