August 30, 2012
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA-33) was the guest of honor at the second “Conversations” last Sunday in Inglewood’s Savoy nightclub, hosted by talk radio’s Starlett Quarles. Those who have followed the career of the youthful congresswoman, know her accomplishments have been monumental. She was the first Black woman in the nation to be the Speaker of a state assembly. And, in the short time she has been in Congress she has been given some coveted assignments.
Rhythmic music played in the background as Nii-Quartelai Quartey emceed and Mayor James Butts again welcomed the audience to his city. The crowd mixed, mingled and enjoyed a buffet while they awaited the start of the conversation with Quarles, who is host of ‘The Dialogue’ on KTYM 1460 AM.
As the conversation began, Bass spoke of her high school years; it was actually a peep into what made her the kind of social activist and legislator that she has become. Responding to Quarles’ questions, Bass related how she interacted with Professor Angela Davis at UCLA while attending Hamilton High School – a kind of activist school that allowed students time off to protest the Viet Nam War. She went to Europe post high school and while visiting London was caught in the free Angela Davis fervor there that made her return here.
Then years later, as a community activist, Bass founded Community Coalition and from there she catapulted to the legislature.
Her mentors and memorable moments were significant benchmarks of her career. She mentioned (Council-member) Rita Walters, (Mayor) Tom Bradley, (Mayor) Antonio Villaraigosa, (Supervisor) Mark Ridley-Thomas, and (Council president) Herb Wesson. One of those memorable moments, as Bass related to the audience, was when she was able to get $84 million directed to foster care and one was when she was sworn in as Speaker of the Assembly.
Quarles delved into holding elected officials accountable and Bass responded, “to be accountable is to be engaged; it’s a partnership.” She also explained that having President Obama in the White House is a source of inspiration but he too, is accountable because when “you’re picking a president, you’re not picking a messiah.”
Bass’ relationship with Obama goes back to when he was first running for president. She was one of the co-chairs (with Attorney-general Kamala Harris) for his California campaign, and one of his staunchest supporters in Congress. Hence, she was able to convince him to come to the ‘hood (Roscoe’s) during one of his visits to Los Angeles.
When Quarles asked Bass about a typical day in Washington, D.C as the representative of the 33 rd District, Bass touched lightly on her personal activities and described what she actually did in Congress. She mentioned being on the Foreign Relations Committee and on the Budget Committee with Congressman/ vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, who also chairs that committee.
In the foreign relations arena, Bass was appointed to succeed her colleague, the late Donald Payne from New Jersey. She has made several trips to Africa in an effort to implement the President’s African policy of trying to make some of the countries agriculturally self-sustaining; and to promote trade with the countries who are able to maintain such a relationship.
She mentioned that Africa can hold the U.S. about three times; that it has about 54 countries and if the U.S. does not aggressively engage in trade and import/export with Africa, there are other countries in the world that are already moving in that direction including China, Russia and Brazil.