ABOVE PHOTO: U. S. Rep. Karen Bass
By Frederick H. Lowe
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass of California is expected to lead a much larger Congressional Black Caucus when the 116th Congress begins January 3rd.
Caucus members elected Bass their chair on November 28. She succeeds U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana.
“I commend Congresswoman Bass on becoming the new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus,” Richmond said. “There is much work to be done in the 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 served as second vice chair under Richmond.
The caucus could add as many as nine new members since the midterm elections November 6. As of late December, there were 49 members. But in the midterm elections, U. S. Rep. Mia Love, a Utah Republican, lost her seat, and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, resigned to run for state attorney general, a contest which he won. With nine new members, there will be 56 elected officials in the CBC.
Most of the members serve in the House, but Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey are also members.
The Congressional Black Caucus was founded in 1971. It is a voice for the concerns of African-Americans, including jobs, education and justice. Gerald Ford was the first president to recognize and meet with Caucus members.
Bass, who represents California’s 37th District, which includes downtown Los Angeles, Culver City and Inglewood, is the Caucus’ 26 chair and the eighth woman to lead the organization. Yvonne Braithwaite Burke was the first, heading the CBC from 1976 to 1977.
Bass was born in Los Angeles. She grew up with three brothers in the Venice/Fairfax area of Los Angeles and is the only daughter of DeWitt and Wilhelmina Bass.
She graduated from Hamilton High School, Cal State Dominguez Hills, and the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program.
Bass is serving her fifth term in Congress. She is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. She is also the ranking member of the subcommittee on Africa, Global Affairs and International Organizations. In addition, she is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Prior to serving in Congress, Bass made history when the California Assembly elected her to be its 67th Speaker, making her the first African-American woman in U.S. history to serve in that state legislative role.