While the election of Donald J. Trump has cast a cloud over the Nov. 8 elections, Blacks can celebrate the 50 Black members of the U.S. Congress, the highest number in history. When the 115th session of the U.S. Congress convenes on Jan. 3, 2017, there will be 47 Blacks in the U.S. House of Representatives and three in the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, is looking forward to the increased numbers of Black legislators. “We look forward to continuing our work as the ‘Conscience of the Congress’ to empower America’s most neglected citizens and address their legislative concerns,” Butterfield said. “Since 1971, the CBC has consistently been the voice for people of color and vulnerable communities, and we remain committed to our work to ensure that all U.S. citizens have an opportunity to achieve the American dream.”
The new members of the CBC include Harris, the first Black woman elected to her body since Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois served from 1993-1999; Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), a former Delaware secretary of labor; Val Demings (D-Fla.), who served as Orlando’s first Black female police chief; Al Lawson (D-Fla.), who replaces Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.); Donald McEachin (D-Va.), represents a newly created district in the Old Dominion; Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) takes the place of former Rep. Chaka Fattah; and Anthony Brown (D-Md.), the former lieutenant governor of the Free State.
Brown told the AFRO in a voice message that he thanked his supporters on Election Day and “pledged to work hard for the people of the Fourth Congressional District in Maryland.” Brown will replace Rep. Donna Edwards, who didn’t run for re-election to her seat and lost her bid to replace Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Mikulski’s seat was won by Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat.
Rochester, on her Facebook page, talked about her history-making election and pledged to work hard for her constituents when sworn into office. “I’m honored to be the first woman and person of color to represent Delaware in the halls of Congress,” she said. “This is only the beginning of our journey and I cannot do it alone. I am looking forward to working with you to create a better world for our children.”
Evans said that the upcoming Trump administration will not stop him from working on a bipartisan basis to get things done. “The results of the presidential election isn’t defeat, it’s a call to keep fighting because the best work that we’ve done – we’ve done together,” he said. “While we try to stomach this new landscape in our government, rest assured we will keep making our communities stronger together, block by block. Because democracy demands that we listen to each other – and when we do so, we can make great strides for all Philadelphians, all Pennsylvanians, and all Americans.”
Paul Brathwaite, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, told the AFRO that the record number of Black members of the U.S. Congress is “a remarkable occurrence that should be recognized and celebrated.”
“The great thing about these new members is that they just don’t represent African-American communities,” he said. “Twenty percent of Delaware is Black and they elected Lisa Blunt Rochester and that is a remarkable statement of our country. It shows the strength that these candidates possess and the confidence that Americans have in them.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) represents the district with the highest percentage of Blacks, 65 percent, while Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) has the lowest, 1.4 percent, according to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data.
Brathwaite noted that there will be nine U.S. senators of color in the 115th Congress and that will be a record, also. He said that in order for the CBC to be effective in the Republican-dominated Congress, it needs to be politically astute. “They need to be strategic in coming with an agenda,” he said. “They will need to work more closely with the Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander caucuses to deliver for their constituents. The good news is that the numbers in both of those caucuses have increased in both the House and the Senate and that will help the CBC leverage its power.”
James Wright Special to the AFRO firstname.lastname@example.org