The Brown Girls Guide to Politics is proud to partner with the State Innovation Exchange’s (SiX) Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council and Democracy Project to bring you a spotlight on six women of color state legislators who navigated the unprecedented influx of racist, anti-democratic, anti-abortion, and anti-transgender legislation introduced this year. Today, we are spotlighting Maryland Del. Nicole Williams.
What was the moment that made you fall in love with politics?
I got involved in politics because I was upset with the system. I felt like those who were honest and really wanted to make a change in our community were the ones that did not always win. I got involved to help good people get elected who could make real change for my community.
What made you decide to run for office?
Initially, I did not have a desire to run for office. However, one year during Women’s History Month I attended an event where former State Senator Gloria Lawlah spoke about the importance of women running for public office and why it is important to have women at the table. She was the first African-American woman to serve in our State Senate from Prince George’s County, Maryland where I live. I was so inspired by her that it got me thinking about running for office myself.
What policies, issues, or conversations are you most proud of advancing this legislative session?
During the 2021 legislative session, I sponsored HB411 which was a bill that I initially introduced during the 2020 legislative session that prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in sexual acts with victims or witnesses in their custody. The Senate Crossfile of the bill passed but it was initially my bill and I am happy that the policy passed.
What were your biggest lessons learned as a state legislator this year?
This session was my first time serving on a conference committee for a bill that passed both chambers but was slightly different from each chamber. With a conference committee, there are 3 Delegates and 3 Senators assigned to the committee. We had to negotiate the language for the final version of the bill. It was a great opportunity.
What pieces of legislation are you planning on championing in 2022?
This year I am sponsoring a number of bills. Below is a listing of some of the bills that I am sponsoring:
Maryland Pregnant Person’s Dignity Act of 2022: This bill states that you cannot prosecute or seek civil relief against someone for obtaining abortion care, seeking to obtain abortion care, and assisting someone seeking abortion care.
Right to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings: This will provide a right to counsel for those in immigrant proceedings.
Curbside Voting: This will require the Board of Elections to also provide curbside voting in each county for those with limited abilities.
COVID Rental Assistance Program: This will place requirements on landlords to require them to cooperate with rental assistance programs in place during the COVID pandemic.
Why is it so critical, now more than ever, for women of color to get involved in politics and stand up for reproductive freedom and democracy?
It is important for women of color to get involved because the people who are usually negatively impacted by the policies proposed and enacted are persons of color.
This past March SiX and NOBEL Women released a report entitled No Democracy Without Black Women, highlighting the underrepresentation of Black Women in state legislatures. How can we move Black women’s voices to be elevated in state legislatures?
We need to provide support for Black women to run for office, win, and to be successful, whether we talk about trainings on how to run for office, financial support in terms of fundraising, and then support for women who are in elected office who most of the time are also mothers or breadwinners of their household.
Even though women of color are leading these fights, we know that this work is not BIPOC women’s work alone and that it’s not “our” responsibility to fix the problem, what advice would you give to those looking to advance democracy and reproductive freedom?
I think those who are looking to advance democracy and reproductive freedom should make a concerted effort to understand the impact that structural racism has on BIPOC people and look to always examine things from an equity lens regardless of the policy.