Black Women Organized for Political Action
Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) was founded in 1968, as an outgrowth of a group calling itself Bay Area Women for Dellums. This group consisted of 12 politically active women from various Bay Area cities under the leadership of Edith M. Austin. It was Paul Cobb, political activist, running for Oakland City Council, who labeled the group Women Organized for Political Action.
The small group grew to over 200 black women from throughout the Bay Area - all diligently working to elect Ron Dellums to Congress.
After raising $75,000, and succeeding in electing Dellums, the original group members who included 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.
In April 1971, WOPA put out a call for women who were interested in political action and over 350 women convened at what then was the Bay Area's Black Culture Center, "The Rainbow Sign" to form what is now known as Black Women Organized for Political Action. To date, BWOPA is the oldest such organization in the State of California.
A strong belief in democratic leadership has existed in the organization since its inception, and the founding members governed as co-chairs until 1970.
However, in 1970, growth of the organization required more centralized leadership, and Dezie Woods-Jones was elected the first president of the organization. The organization flourished and made significant inroads during the near 30-year Woods-Jones leadership. Ms. Woods-Jones has dedicated her life to advocacy in education, youth development, women's empowerment, and matters of poverty and disenfranchisement. Ms. Woods-Jones was also elected by voters to the Oakland City Council in 1991, and served as Vice-Mayor for two years.
Kamala Harris connection
Black Women Organized for Political Action December 1, 2020 ·
Kamala, Dezie, BWOPA & The Rainbow Sign
Kamala Harris' history with BWOPA goes way back. || This audio clip is from a recent podcast episode released on 11/19 with BWOPA's founder, Dezie Woods-Jones and MSNBC's 'Into America' podcast. Dezie talks about the connection with Kamala Harris, BWOPA and the now closed Black Cultural Center, The Rainbow Sign in Berkeley founded in 1971.
Today, BWOPA’s accomplishments are manifold. They are proud to have supported the rise of women such as Teresa Hughes, Diane Watson and Barbara Lee, to name only a few. And now, Kamala Harris, who frequented Rainbow Sign as a child, and whom BWOPA has supported throughout her career, is poised to potentially assume one of the highest decision-making positions in the nation. “There’s nothing like finally being able to see at the top of the ticket one of our own sisters,” Woods-Jones beams.
Kamala Harris remains a BWOPA member to this day.
Staff and Board
- EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: LaNiece Jones
- PROGRAM ASSISTANTS: Monica Miller | Charlette Viney
- DWJ FELLOWS: Daisy Ozim | Brianna Horton | Simone Thelemaque | Alaysia Williams | Chyna Stewart | Aishatu Yusuf | Samia Zuber
- BLACK WOMEN LEAD SUMMER FELLOWS: Shahidah Lacy | Charlette Viney
- President Hon. Dezie Woods-Jones
- 1st Vice President Melody Walcott
- 2nd Vice President Robyn Fisher
- Treasurer Gwen Booze
- Historian Alfreda Abbott
- Parliamentarian Jan Glenn Davis
BOARD OF DIRECTORS AT LARGE
- Michele Jacques
- Lillian Litzsey
- Hon. Surlene Grant
- Billie Jelks Hood
- Cassandra Joubert
- Hon. Lynette McElhaney
- Cynthia LeBlanc
- Joey Smith
- Kitty Brown
- Victoria Redus
- Lisa Williams
COMMITTEE CHAIRS & COORDINATORS
- Political Education Chair Lisa Williams
- Co-Chair: Peggy Moore
- Co-Chair Treva Reid
- Co-Chair Pamela Price
- Co-Chair Kitty Brown
- Co-Chair Maryam Suliki
- Young Adult Caucus: Nyeisha DeWitt, EdD
- Asst. Student Advisor: Cherella Nicholson
- Scholarship: Victoria Redus
- Senior Issues: Karen Anderson
- Hospitality: Letita Mcclarty
- Co-Chair: Phyllis Jones
- Corporate Liaison: Saundra Andrews
- Health/Wellness Chair: Art Johnson
- Legal Advisor: Jayne Williams, Esq.
- Spiritual Leader & BWOPA Chaplain: Rev. Martha Taylor
- TILE Program Co-Chair: Siri Briggs Brown, PhD
ADVISORY BOARD COUNCIL
Hon. Alfreda Abbott | Hon. Irma Anderson | Hon. Alona Clifton | Hon. Malia Cohen | Linda Crayton | Hon. Holly Mitchell | Hon. Linda Handy | Hon. Jumoke Hinton Hodge | Phyllis Jones | Hon. Mary King | Hon. Lesa McIntosh | Hon. Gay Plair Cobb | Yvette Radford