It’s no secret that the United States Senate has often been referred to as one of the last bastions for Caucasian men of privilege. To date, nine Blacks have served in the US Senate beginning in 1870 when Hiram Revels was elected by the Mississippi State Senate. During that time, state legislatures elected US Senators and Hiram, a man described as “a colored man, a minister who was presumed to be a Republican, believed to be a man of ability and considerably above the average in point of intelligence,” was seated as the first Black Senator.
Revels served for one year and he was followed in 1874 by Blanche Bruce of Mississippi who served from 1875 to 1881. Another century would pass before Edward Brooke of Massachusetts would be elected by popular vote in 1967. He would serve two terms. The glass ceiling in the Senate would be broken 123 years later by Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black woman elected to the Senate in 1993 from the State of Illinois. And we will never forget that it was the fifth Black Senator, Barack Obama from the State of Illinois who would go on to become the 44th President of the United States.
And now, the great state of California; the first state to send two women, Barbara L. Boxer (D-Calif.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to the Senate simultaneously and one of three states currently represented by two women is poised to elect by popular vote the second Black woman to serve in the US Senate. And that Black woman is Kamala D. Harris.
Kamala Harris, 51, the astute State Attorney General, bold leader, is running for the California Senate seat to succeed Barbara L. Boxer. This seat is the state’s first open Senate seat since 1992. Her opponent, Loretta Sanchez, is an Orange County Congresswoman and a fellow Democrat. According to the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll, Harris leads by a two-to-one margin over her opponent. We believe that the election of Harris is vital for the State of California and for Black Americans across this country and it’s not just because she is Black.
There is no better political resume than that of Kamala Harris. She has served as District Attorney in San Francisco and won two terms as California’s Attorney General. Described by most as “eloquent and insightful,” Harris has worked to reduce recidivism among young offenders, working with local businessman to secure job opportunities for a population most would have written off. She said “it was time to rock the crime pyramid” and she did. While some wanted Harris to offer a bolder plan, she decided to offer a blueprint for redirecting nonviolent offenders, working from the inside out. She expanded her Back on Track LA program that connected inmates with services such as therapy, health care, child support, education, and job training. It was Harris who developed statewide policies regulating the use of body-worn cameras by police officers, instituted new training on racial profiling and implicit biases, hot issues across the country that left many police departments playing catch-up.
For Harris marriage equality, health care, homeowners reform – providing mortgage relief to thousands of Californians who were underwater and gun violence, Harris is a dedicated public service. Not one to showboat, Harris declares that she is a fighter who knows and understands that the path to victory to fairness and justice is paved with activists and insiders. “Here’s the bottom line. I am trying to change the system from the inside. They (activists) are trying to change the system from the outside. And together, change will occur,” Harris said.
An ardent supporter, President Barack Obama said this of Harris, “She is brilliant, and she is dedicated, and she is tough.” And toughness is what Black Americans need in the Senate and what America needs to foster change in a system that this election has shown is broken and in need of new ideas, fresh blood, and persons who can quite frankly forge partnerships as oppose to operating as a fear monger.
For Harris, passing legislation to prevent gun violence will be a top priority. “Congress’ failure to control the sale of guns is shameful. We need to prevent dangerous people from obtaining guns,” said Harris. She knows that the criminal justice system is draconian and must change. Harris gets that this country cannot force more than 11 million undocumented immigrants to live and work in the shadows. And Harris knows that Obamacare has provided access to health care for millions of Americans. She has pledged to “fight any attempts to repeal the law.”
Kamala D. Harris, candidate for the United States Senate, has shown us that she’s the one. She is a crime fighter, a protector of families, the intelligent one, a possessor of extraordinary skill, and one who has a servant’s heart. She is a vote of a lifetime.
Days Before the Election, Clinton Talks about Criminal Justice, Jobs and Education with the Black Press
By Cash Michaels
The Carolinian, NNPA Member
In an exclusive interview with North Carolina’s African-American press, Hillary Clinton said that even though she is running to benefit all Americans, the first woman expected to be elected president of the United States on Nov. 8 does have a special focus on working with the African-American community and its leaders — both local and national — to improve employment, business, education, and other important quality of life issues.
“I want to pay particular attention to Americans who feel left out and left behind by the economy, or the situation in their communities,” the former First Lady, senator and United States Secretary of State said Oct. 23 at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, a historically Black college, during perhaps one of her last sit-down interviews of the campaign.
“I’ve laid out a really extensive agenda for African-Americans, starting with improving the economy so that its producing more jobs for more people; raising the national minimum wage – [we’ve] got mostly women earning minimum wage, often times being the sole support of their children, and they deserve a better economic opportunity,” she said. Clinton also cited more affordable housing as a need.
She maintained that getting equal pay for women as a “particularly big issue for African-American women,” adding that black female small business owners are “the fastest growing segment of the small business world in our country.”
“[But] they’re running into credit… [and] regulatory problems. We’ve got to look at those, not just from a 30,000-foot view, but right down on the ground. What is it that stands in the way of men or women getting their businesses going?”
Improving higher education not only through the proposal she and Sen. Bernie Sanders have developed to make public universities “tuition-free” for students from families making $125,000 or less, but also creating a “dedicated $25 billion fund” to help private historically black colleges and universities like St. Augustine’s and Shaw universities to continue to grow.
After reading that one in five North Carolina homes have no access to the Internet, noting that they are disproportionately African-American or Latino, Clinton said emphatically, “I want to fix that,” continuing that those families are left out of so many economic and educational opportunities as a result.
“Taking on systemic racism,” something she has “talked very openly and specifically about,” is something Clinton added to her pronounced agenda for African-Americans. She points towards reforming the criminal justice system “from end to end” to help stem the tide of questionable fatal police shootings of black people, improving police training, and building greater respect between law enforcement and the African-American community.
“I particularly want to provide more diversion from the criminal justice system and more second chance programs for people who have paid their debt to society so that we begin to reverse what has been an over incarceration that has really disrupted communities.”
“But I also have to do more to heal the divides that we face in our country, and I’m taking all of this on because I want to build on the progress that Pres. Obama has made. I don’t want to see it reversed or ripped away.” And yet, a “President” Hillary Clinton’s approach would be from “a different perspective that will hopefully get even more people listening,” she says.
Clinton certainly disagrees with Donald Trump’s assessment that African-Americans “live in hell,” instantly exclaiming, “Oh that’s so wrong,” and then adding “One of many insulting, divisive comments that Trump made was his characterization of African-American communities. It just shows he’s never been in any, he doesn’t know any people, he has no idea of the dynamism of small business or the importance of historically black colleges and universities, or the role that black churches play, or black professionals, and every walk of life.”
“He has characterized in such a negative way what I see as a part of America that has a lot going for it, but [also] has some challenges that we must honestly address.”
Clinton expressed support for South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn’s “10-20-30” plan – ten percent of federal funds should go to the twenty percent of communities that have been living with generational poverty and lack of development for thirty years. Clinton says she’s developed a plan that not only implements 10-20-30 into the federal budget, but also the empowerment and enterprise zones that helped build black businesses under President Bill Clinton’s “New Markets” tax credits to be able to further invest, and hire people within their communities.
Mrs. Clinton said she’d like to see “a much bigger effort” when it comes to upgrading skills training so that more people can actually qualify for the 1.2 million available jobs in the marketplace. She says she wants to accomplish this challenge literally on a “neighborhood by neighborhood” basis, working with local officials, businesses and faith leaders who know the most about their own communities, and bring different perspectives to the table.
Clinton lauds President Obama’s leadership in getting the country out of the greatest financial crisis since the great Depression – an economic collapse she says was caused by a combination of huge tax breaks for the wealthy, and Republicans taking the regulatory eyes off of Wall Street and the financial markets. Clinton says that Obama “doesn’t get the credit that he deserves for pulling us out of that big ditch.”
She credits the president’s “steadiness” in guiding the economy with a substantial stimulus and recovery package and the reinstatement of a higher tax rate on the wealthy, all resulting in over 75 consecutive quarters of economic growth. Last year until now, Clinton adds, more people are finding work, incomes went up and more people are entering the jobs market.
“I want to build on that foundation,” Mrs. Clinton says of Pres. Obama’s achievements, “and I don’t want to see it ripped up and thrown away by a false ideology that the way you create economic wealth and equality in America is top down. I think its middle out, and bottom up. I will build on what the president has done.”
When asked if “President” Hillary Clinton’s United States Justice Department would continue to pursue the strengthening of voting rights, keeping in mind the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the Republican-led NC General Assembly deliberately suppressed African-American voters with “surgical precision,” Clinton immediately said, “Yes, a hundred percent.”
She furthered that she was “proud” of the efforts of both US Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch and her predecessor, Eric Holder, to beat back unconstitutional voter ID laws in North Carolina and across the nation. However Clinton also blasted the US Supreme Court for striking down Section 4(b) of the 1965, effectively taking away the Justice Dept’s most effective tools in policing how various states are upholding the 1965 Voting Rights Act [VRA].
Clinton lamented that the High Court crippled the VRA, especially since Democrats and Republicans in the US Senate when she served voted 98-0 to renew the VRA, and then-Pres. George W. Bush signed it.
“I want to appoint people to the [US] Supreme Court who understand, based on what you read in the Fourth Circuit [and other court findings against Republicans trying to suppress the vote]. I also want to go back to Congress and try to get legislation to fix the heart of the Voting Rights Act…” noting that Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) is leading a bi-partisan effort now “…to reinstate the full reach and power of the VRA.”
Clinton, her husband former President Bill Clinton, and other campaign surrogates have been flooding North Carolina in recent weeks trying to edge Republican Donald Trump in one of the nation’s tightest battleground state races. Last Thursday, Clinton appeared with First Lady Michelle Obama in Winston-Salem, N.C.