Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable launched over twenty years ago under the legal name Mississippi Coalition on Black Civic Participation. It was led by two longtime activists Stephanie Parker Weaver and labor organizer Deborah Robinson under fiscal sponsorship. Under their leadership, they increased voter registration and mobilized voters to the polls. Additionally, they fought righteously to organize workers to ensure more rights and power in the workplace.
In 2015, activist Stephanie Parker Weaver died after a long fight with breast cancer. Her spirit and fight for justice will continue to live on within the organization. Shortly thereafter, Deborah had a health scare that caused her to step away from the organization to care for herself. Stephanie’s death and Deborah’s health challenges interrupted the work of the organization for several years.
In 2017, Melanie Campbell, CEO/President of National Coalition Black Civic Participation/Black Women’s Roundtable, asked current executive director Cassandra Welchlin if she would relaunch and formalize the organization. Melanie met Cassandra in 2014 at a media training in Washington, DC, for women leaders. She learned of the work Cassandra had been doing in Mississippi to advance women’s economic security and organizing power. They formed a relationship over the years, and in 2018 Cassandra became the executive director of the MS Black Women’s Roundtable. Under her leadership, she expanded the organization’s capacity and program of work, and in 2019 the organization received 501c3 status. Deborah Robinson recovered and continues to be a mentor and supporter of the organization.
Cassandra Overton Welchlin is the Executive Director and co-convener of MS Black Women’s Roundtable (MSBWR), an inter-generational statewide network dedicated to increasing civic engagement and voter participation among black women while at the forefront of championing just and equitable public policy on behalf of Black women and girls. MSBWR is an affiliate of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation/Black Women’s Roundtable. Prior to joining MS BWR, she co-founded and launched the ambitious and progressive MS Women’s Economic Security Initiative (MWESI) founded initially as a project of MS Law Income Child Care Initiative. MWESI is rooted at the intersection of race, gender, and economic justice. It was the first Women’s Agenda launched in the South with seeded support from the Ms. Foundation that prioritizes women’s rights and economic security. It created an intentional and explicit racial and gender framework, and engaged women, particularly low-income women of color, with deep connections to grassroots organizing to create a leadership infrastructure setting the stage for long-term movement building. Cassandra continues to provide leadership and vision to the MS Women’s Economic Security Initiative as a project of the Mississippi Black Women Roundtable.