Black Women Organized for Political Action, or BWOPA, started in 1968, when about 200 Black women throughout the Bay Area worked to get Ronald V. Dellums elected to Congress. At the time, they were called “Bay Area Women for Dellums.”
This year, they celebrate their 50th anniversary by hosting their signature leadership empowerment summit “Mobilizing for Power to Sustain Our Legacy” Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco.
The original members Alfreda Abbott, Margaret Amoureaux, Belva Davis, Ruth Hagwood-Webb, Aileen Hernandez, Ella Hill Hutch, Mary Jane Johnson, Dorothy Pitts, Teola Sanders, Frances Taylor and Dezie Woods-Jones, continued to meet and work on other political issues after the election.
A few years later, they put out a call for women interested in political action, and over 350 women convened at what was then the Bay Area’s Black Culture Center, “The Rainbow Sign” in Berkeley.
Dezie Woods-Jones was the first president of the organization in 1970, and is now the state president. “Our mission is still primarily the same, but we have certainly expanded.”
Today, BWOPA is a statewide organization with a second non-profit agency, the Training Institute for Leadership Enrichment, to educate and prepare women who are interested in getting involved in public policy and leadership. They have also recently instituted the Dezie Woods-Jones Public Policy Fellowship Initiative.
“We’ve made great progress, but there’s still plenty to do,” Woods-Jones said. She said that lately, “everyone is talking about the power of the Black women’s vote—we’ve been saying that for 50 years.” She’s glad people are getting on board, and said that Black women have had consistently high percentages of their population getting out the vote for years. “We outvote any other group of people in this nation,” she said, but “we are the least represented locally, statewide, and nationally.”
She’s pleased that more women are running for office in California’s Central Valley cities like Stockton, Tracy, and Fresno, areas where women of color are even less represented than in major cities. But, she said, “it’s still so far from what we need. Kamala Harris is only the second African-American woman on the US Senate—that’s nothing to brag about.”
But BWOPA has had a major impact in unifying efforts statewide to bring about more equitable representation in government and policy.