01.18.16

Rep. Barbara Lee Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Oakland, CA - Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement regarding Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

"Every year our nation pauses to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and recommit ourselves to realizing his dream of equality and justice for all.

Last year, our nation celebrated the 150thanniversary of the 13th Amendment – one of the most significant dates in American history: the end of slavery with the passage of an amendment to the Constitution.

This amendment initiated our nation’s civil rights movement that continues to this day.

In the past 150 years, we have come a long way towards true and lasting equality for all.

Legal segregation has ended.

America’s first African American President is serving his second term in the White House. In Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus has grown to account for nearly a quarter of the Democratic Caucus and includes twenty women.

And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 2.3 million African Americans have gained health insurance and the uninsured rate for African Americans has declined nearly seven percentage points.

Yet, there is still much work to be done.

If all Americans are to live Dr. King’s dream, we can no longer ignore the painful truth that race remains a factor in every aspect of our society.

In 1964, Dr. King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and delivered his “Triple Evils” speech, which addressed the issues of racism, militarism, and poverty in our nation.

He said, “The well off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. Ultimately, a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘least of these”

Dr. King was a fierce advocate for ending poverty. Still today, more than 46 million Americans live in poverty. As chair of the Democratic Whip’s Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, I'm working with my colleagues to craft real solutions that create ladders of opportunity into the middle class while strengthening the economic futures of all families.

The poverty rate for African Americans are nearly triples the rate of white Americans. The unemployment rate for African Americans is significantly higher than the rate of their white counterparts and the wealth gap has continued to widen between white Americans and African Americans.

Similarly, far too many families continue to live in the shadows, in fear of being ‎torn apart by our broken immigration system. It's past time for Congress to pass bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform to ensure families stay together, our economy grows and all have the opportunity to live the American dream.

Bias, injustice and institutional racism remains in our fundamentally broken criminal justice system; and, voting rights are still under attack.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder again opened the door for voter discrimination, racial-motivated redistricting and active voter suppression. Tragically, House Republicans refuse to bring up bipartisan legislation to restore and protect the sacred right to vote.

But like Dr. King, we must valiantly beat the drum for justice.

Today, I once again join with the Congressional Black Caucus and advocates from around the nation in calling on Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McCarthy, and Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte to make restoring the Voting Rights Act a priority.

As Dr. King said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”

As we celebrate today, I encourage all Americans to live Dr. King’s legacy by serving others and their communities."

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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.