Ruby Powell-Dennis is the founder and executive director of the Elect Black Women PAC and it’s nonprofit sister organization, The Black Woman Institute. Both organizations engage Black women seeking political leadership. These organizations connect candidates with a network of other Black women leaders across the country in addition to providing outreach and training.
“As we look at the census data, it tells us that women of color, by 2060, will represent the vast majority of women in leadership. And we want to make sure that women are prepared,” Ruby shares.
From an early age, Ruby was inspired to work in politics. She led her first protest in support of women’s rights when she was just a junior in high school.
“I’ve had lots of Black women who are amazing role models,” Ruby explains. “For me growing up, it was not uncommon to see a Black woman leading in a particular space and addressing a particular need in the community.”
Ruby says her family encouraged her to be in rooms where decisions were being made. They often reiterated that she might be the only person who could bring her unique perspective to the table.
She studied political science at the University of Florida and quickly got involved in student government. She was elected as the president of the Black Student Union and served as a student lobbyist in Tallahassee.
These experiences further pushed her along the journey of uplifting Black women in politics.
“I looked to my left and right, and there were no Black women in the room who were young,” she explains.
Ruby dedicated herself to serving her community through electoral politics and ran for State House herself in 2020.
She relied on her own extensive network throughout the campaign process. “If I can have this great alumni network that I can tap into and running for office is still this hard,” she added, “what is it like for other Black women who don’t have the level of privilege and access that I have?”
Reflecting on this question gave her the final piece of inspiration she needed to start the Elect Black Women PAC in 2020 and The Black Woman Institute in 2021.
Black Women Deserve Good Things
“I’m very intentional about the projects and things that I work on,” Ruby explains.
Ruby’s organizations support and invest in change-making Black women as they navigate the the political process.
“I get up every day knowing that there’s a Black woman on the job fighting to make sure that people who look like me, and like my children, are in a little bit of a better position,” Ruby says.
“As Black women, we move through the world, and things happen to us whether we deserve it or not.” Ruby adds that personally facing these biases and challenges keeps her motivated in her work of supporting Black women, especially Black women in the south.
“We are a part of the country with immense potential, particularly when it comes to women and Black women especially,” she imparts.
One way she uplifts these women is by providing emotional support.
“I end every conversation with my women by saying ‘Black women deserve good things.’ As a country, it’s just not in our psyche. So I repeat it to Black women all the time,” Ruby shares.
Her Advice? Don’t Be Perfect, Be Effective
Ruby encourages young aspiring leaders to let go of perfectionism. “Don’t be perfect, be effective. It’s about the outcome and impact.”
She adds that we are all interconnected so future leaders need to know how to forgive themselves and forgive others.
Ultimately she leaves her mentees with a key piece of advice – be a “constant learner.” During times of stress and chaos, leaders have to focus on the good. “In chaos, everybody does not lose,” she adds.
As she navigates difficult times she reminds herself, and the women she works with, to focus on good things, continue learning and building a network and be ready to take opportunities as they come.
”We just have to be mindful of where the opportunities are, where’s the joy in this and focus in on that. That’ll keep us going,” she explains.