January 31, 2015

Congresswoman Lee Celebrates Black History Month

Oakland, CA – Congresswoman Barbara Lee released the following statement in celebration of Black History Month:

“Each February, our nation celebrates Black History Month. We remember and honor the tremendous legacy and contributions that African Americans have made to our nation – from science and technology to education to business to politics and beyond.

Originally established as a week by Dr. Carter Woodson in 1926, Black History Month has grown into a month-long opportunity to celebrate the immeasurable contributions of African Americans and reflect on the current social and political position of African Americans in our society.

This year, we especially celebrate the 50th anniversary of Selma and the Voting Rights Act. It is an honor to serve in Congress with Congressman John Lewis, a living legend who played a key role in these events as chairman of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC.)

Dr. King said during his “Two Americas” speech at Stanford University on April 14th, 1967: “There are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And, in a sense, this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity…. tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair.”

While progress has been made, there are still two Americas. Voting rights are under attack; poverty, structural inequalities and discrimination remain and our criminal justice system too often fails African Americans.

In recent months, our nation has comes to realize the reality that African Americans experience daily – a reality in which black lives are not valued.

The senseless murder of black men cannot be allowed to continue.  As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus’s Ferguson Task Force, I am working with my colleagues to pass long overdue legislation to address the structural and institutional racial biases endemic in our nation’s institutions and criminal justice system.

Additionally, we must refocus our efforts to ensure the American dream is accessible to all.  Sadly, the African American poverty rate is nearly three times the rate of white Americans. The unemployment rate for African Americans is more than two and half times the unemployment rate for white Americans.

As our economy continues to recover, Congress must focus on policies that ensure an equal recovery where everyone can participate.

With the celebration of Black History Month, let us remember the great legacy of African Americans and recommit to our shared responsibility ensuring the American dream is open to all.”


Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.