Making Black History: Suzette Shaw

Black History Month provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Black leaders nationwide, and to acknowledge all the hard work accomplished in the face of persistent, systemic hurdles to achieve equity. As we increasingly explore the nature of race, racism, and homelessness, we must include the contributions of Black leaders, organizers, and advocates, who have worked to reduce and end homelessness in their communities and nationwide. This especially includes those with lived experience of homelessness, who are best positioned to inform our understanding of homelessness, the impact of racism, and the transformational changes our systems need in order to overcome it.

This week, the Alliance spoke to Suzette Shaw, member of the Alliance’s Consumer Advisory Board, about her proudest contributions as a Black leader and advocate in the movement to end homelessness:

My proudest contributions towards ending homelessness have been speaking truth and amplifying the needs of my community where Black folks are a prevailing population living in less than third world living conditions, according to the United Nations Refugee Camps. This includes the fact that Black middle aged to elderly women, a demographic which I fall into, have tracked as one of the number one demographics displaced into poverty and homelessness, not just year after year but literally decade after decade.

Today, I am part of the LA County Adhoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness, a collective body of work which is now being amplified as a national model and now being appointed to the mayor’s Project 100 Steering Committee, which is focused on housing at least one hundred women, Black women, off the streets of Skid Row. Sitting in a conference with leaders after being appointed to this city-/ county-wide initiative, I heard them one-by-one sharing that “we want you to know this project was implemented because of you. We want you to know that we have been listening.

This Means Everything!”

Today, I am a United State of Women Ambassador for Los Angeles and I use my platform to call for action in shifting the paradigm, because….”We can no longer talk about equality and empowerment while enforcing inequities.”

The Alliance extends its gratitude to all Black leaders who are leading the way, transforming inequitable systems, and challenging us all to work, think, and act through a racial equity lens.