Black women have still been going hard to achieve firsts in many areas, including politics. As such, U.S. Rep Barbara Lee was expected to announce her bid for the Democratic Caucus chair, a position that has never been held by a Black woman.
The California congresswoman’s decision will further challenge the Democratic party to recognize the vital role of Black women in its success. African-American women have long been a strong voting bloc but seldom recognized as such or welcomed into leadership roles in the nearly two centuries that the party has existed. Black women are not laying down and are demanding R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha Franklin explained in her hit song.
“When you look at the history of the Democratic Party and the Democratic leadership, African-American women…we’ve been the backbone of the Democratic Party — we should be in the face of leadership also,’’ Lee, 72, who represents Oakland and the East Bay’s 13th Congressional District, told POLITICO on Sunday, one day before she planned to announce her Democratic Caucus chair campaign bid. “Whether it comes to grassroots issues, or voter mobilization and political activism, she said, black women have long proven they can “lead not only our communities, but lead our country, on the very tough issues facing us.”
Lee, first elected to Congress in 1998, has been lauded as a progressive and concerned with issues affecting the most vulnerable Americans, including jobs, poverty, education and healthcare. Her extensive record has included work to enact HIV/AIDS laws and uniting the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns as progressive Democrats. She also got national attention for being the only member in the House to oppose the use of military force against terrorists behind the horrific Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, The Intercept reported.
With Lee stepping into the Democratic caucus chair ring, she would have to battle another Californian, Rep. Linda Sanchez. New York Rep. Joe Crowley will be out of the position — the fourth-highest ranking position in House Democratic Leadership responsible for communicating messages to every Democratic House member — after a June primary defeat by progressive champion Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Lee and Sanchez will duke it out during the midterm elections in November. With the support of Ocasio-Cortez and with a passion for strongly representing for Black women, Lee has a good chance to win.