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Ashley Daniels, of Black Girls Vote, uses her work to better understand how power works, or doesn’t, for Black women.

Black Girls Vote is a nonpartisan group dedicated to highlighting the political needs of Black women – a group that is often very much relied on and neglected at the same time. Black Girls Vote was founded by Nykidra “Nyki” Robinson and launched in 2015.

Daniels heads up the Black Girls Vote Research Network, which brings together researchers and community members, to help support the political empowerment of Black Women. She says that very little research time is given to the wants and needs of Black women – and that’s a problem.

“Black women researchers are partnering with Black women, community members, and they’re coming up with research projects, research-based initiatives,” she says. “That’s helping the community, but it’s also adding to the literature in academia as well about Black women.”

Daniels has a Ph.D. in political science from Howard University and has focused her studies on Black politics, Black feminist and womanist theory, public opinion, and popular culture.

Daniels ties her work today to her education – first at Western High School here in Baltimore and then at Bowie State University in Prince George’s County.

“Being around other young black women, matriculating in this space. I already have a gauge of, you know, interests there because I had essentially…grew up with this group.” 

She’s also a member of the National Council of Negro Women and of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. 

“Being a member of all these very highly political Black women’s organizations, I got an understanding of how Black women advocate for themselves and mobilize,” she says.

Daniels says one thing she loves about her work is seeing how theories play out in the real world. “You have theories from, you know, [academic who writes about race, gender, and class] Patricia Hill Collins, and like, all these folks that are talking about Black woman’s mobilization, organizing – and then I get to see that in real-time.” 

In the time leading up to the November 8 election, Daniels says that BGV has been utilizing Party at the Mailbox, a program they developed at the start of the pandemic.

“There was this major concern about getting people to the polls or just getting people to vote because you know, COVID was so unpredictable,” she says. She says BGV collaborated with the National Conference on Citizenship to provide voter information boxes out in the community.

“With these boxes, they can get all kinds of snacks and prizes and…a lot of good voter education information,” she says.

The program has been used here in Baltimore, as well as in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Richmond. 

Daniels said that while people usually pay a lot of attention to presidential elections, she hopes to get more people engaged in midterms and down-ballot races. 

“Voting is never once a year. Voting is like 24/7. Because you have all of these political issues that affect us on a daily basis. The work is…constant”

She also says that she wants to make it easier for Black women to wield their power, and provide more ways for them to do so.

“It’s not just to mobilize but it’s also to empower,” she says. 

“How are we, like, creating spaces or spheres for [Black women] to run for office? Don’t just vote for the people in the seat at the table, you need to go get a seat at the table as well. So that’s our, that’s our focus is, you know, just encouraging Black women.”

Lisa Snowden is Editor-in-Chief and cofounder of Baltimore Beat. Previously, she was an editor at Baltimore City Paper, Baltimore Sun, and The Real News Network. Her work has also appeared in Essence,...