I'm on a journey learning more about the economic status of historical Black women in Minnesota and the United States. Black women are experiencing what I call an "economic tsunami" in Minnesota. No one seems to notice, not even Black women ourselves. Yet the data and trends are clear.
Black women appear to be the invisibly visible population that's being left behind, This raises more questions than answers and is deeply disturbing.
• How is it possible for Black women to be leading in national unemployment among all women and no one is talking about it?
• How is it possible that Black women in Minnesota are at a nearly 11 percent higher poverty level than Black women across America and again not one word has been mentioned?
• How is it possible that Black women entrepreneurs show tremendous growth in numbers of start-ups, but receive very few business loans and tend to have low profits?
• How is it that nearly 80 percent of Black women in Minnesota are the primary bread winners of their households yet the median income for Black Households is less than $28,000? The average cost of living in Minnesota for one adult and one child is nearly $38K. Thirty-five percent of the jobs held by Black women are low wage.
• With nearly 50 percent of Black children in Minnesota living below the poverty line, it's clear to me that Black women are being flat out ignored and overlooked. The questions are why and who benefits?

Searching for local data on the economic status of Black women in Minnesota, I found very little with the exception of The Women's Foundation of Minnesota's "Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota" report and a few data points from Minnesota Compass. The type of report I searched for did not exist.

I'm baffled at how Black women are falling through the cracks economically without anyone noticing. Especially during such a critical time in history, in which women's equality and economic security has received national attention, resulting in new laws, policies and dedicated resources. For what women are we seeking economic security?

In 2015-16, The Black Women's Wealth Alliance, in partnership with Dr. Brittany Lewis, conducted a study on the economic status of Black women in Minnesota as a starting place to begin tracking economic trends of income, family size, occupations and business. We believe that a nation can rise no higher than its women and that the conditions of Black women greatly determine the condition of the Black community. The report is the first of its kind in Minnesota.

The report, "State of Black Women's Economics in Minnesota," notes that in 2011, Black women accounted for more than 42 percent of jobs lost by all women and continued to lead national unemployment rates among all women.

According to the 2013 and 2014 American Community Survey, full-time median earnings for Black women in Minnesota dropped $4,697 compared to a decline of $2,574 for Black men. This decline creates a pay gap of 19 percent between Black men and women, compared to 10 percent nationally. The full-time earnings gap between Black women and White women in Minnesota is larger, at 32 percent, compared to 17 percent nationally.

The loss of employment and the pay gap is huge, yet these findings are only a small fragment of a much deeper and historically "invisibly visible" picture of Black women. The term "Women of Color," and the masculine narrative used to describe the Black community erases the cultural identity, specific realities and uniqueness of Black women. We are hidden behind these boxes that we did not create nor benefit from.

Kenya McKnight-Ahad is the founder and president of the Black Women's Wealth Alliance. www.bwwa-us.com

What's on your mind?
We'd like to hear it. For writer's guidelines, go to www.womenspress.com. Email your 450-word personal essay to editor@womenspress.com.