In 2008, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) made history after being elected as the first ever African-American woman to become speaker of any state legislature.
Since then, Bass has continued to represent the 37th congressional district of California by being an active voice for criminal justice reform, fighting for America’s foster care system, and strengthening the United States ties with Africa. Now she will have the opportunity to continue making change in her new role as the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
Bass’ colleagues from the DNC, CBC as well as local and religious leaders extended their warmest congratulations on her latest feat.
“(I am) truly excited to see the energy and determination Karen Bass will bring to her role as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus,” said soon-to-be leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
DNC chair Tom Perez says he “couldn’t be happier to call Congresswoman Karen Bass the next chair” of the CBC.
“From fighting for criminal justice reform and child welfare to affordable health care and a stronger economy for all, Karen has devoted her life to serving California families and African American communities across the country,” said Perez.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II referred to Bass a “trailblazer.”
“I am delighted that Congresswoman Karen Bass has been elected to lead the Congressional Black Caucus for the 116th Congress. Rep. Bass has been a trailblazer and a true advocate for issues concerning people of color. I am certain that her leadership will continue to move the CBC ahead and I look forward to working with her,” said Cleaver.
Bass, who is the eighth woman to hold this position, will replace outgoing chair, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA).
“From her days in the California General Assembly where she became the first African-American woman in U.S. history to lead a state legislative body, to her work in Congress to address both domestic and international issues affecting people of African descent, Congresswoman Bass has demonstrated tried and true leadership,” said Richmond in a statement. “There’s much work to be done next Congress to ensure equality and justice for African-Americans and other marginalized communities, and I am confident Congresswoman Bass will continue to provide strong leadership in this regard.”
Bass and the newly elected members of the CBC executive committee will take office on the first day of the 116th Congress. In the meantime, the LA Sentinel spoke with Bass to discuss her vision for the CBC as well as the things she hopes to tackle in this position.
“Well one of the main things that I hope to accomplish in the two years that I’ll be able to serve in this capacity is to really elevate the accomplishments of individual members of the Congressional Black Caucus,” said Bass. “We have a president who is openly hostile and hateful when it comes to African-Americans and immigrants and people of color in general. What he has done behind the scenes in attempting to dismantle 60 to 70 years of gains that we have made in the Civil Rights Movement through various levels of activism through legislative accomplishments. He is quietly dismantling a lot of those accomplishments and I want to see that stopped.”
Bass goes on to say the Trump administration is the most corrupt administration she has ever seen in her life and that the CBC will be at the “forefront of that fight” holding them accountable for their actions.
Aside from new role in the CBC, Bass will also be the chair of the subcommittee on Africa.
“What I really want to do there is begin to change the way the United States does foreign aid,” she said. “Too many times we give foreign aid to our own consulting firms. I think we need to spend more attention assisting Africans, build their capacity. This is something President Obama was doing with initiatives like ‘Feed the Future’ and ‘Power Africa.’ He was trying to address some of the capacities in Africa.”
Bass further explains her plans for aiding Africa by zeroing in on infrastructure.
“So, looking at ways that we can do partnerships with U.S. businesses and African businesses for roads, bridges, ports and airports,” she said.
One of Bass’ other passions apart from her advocacy in Africa is her commitment to the Black Press. During the interview, Bass announced that she will be convening with the National Black Publishers Association (NNPA) to discuss the ways in which the federal government can do business with the Black Press.
“It’s inexcusable that we spend millions and millions of dollars in advertising everywhere, but virtually zero in the Black community with Black Press. That should change, I hope I can make a dent in that,” said Bass.