By Nicole Chedraoui
As I hope many of you know, this month, the month of February, is Black History Month. We all at the Herald collectively agree that as a newspaper we should come together to help showcase some of the incredible influence African Americans have had in our society, past and present. From literature, to art, music, and politics, African Americans have contributed so much more to our world then given credit for. Today I want to talk about some of the most influential African Americans in politics that we see in our current day. I must preface this article by saying that there were so many historical black figures who paved the way for so many of these faces we see in politics today, so if you haven’t already, take a look at JoAnn Snavely’s article linked to this tweet to fully appreciate how far we have come in politics.
Perhaps one of the most relevant black figures we should highlight in our current times, is none other than Kamala Harris, the current, and first ever, South Asian, African American female Vice President. However, before being sworn into office this year, she was already a very successful and accomplished woman. Known for being a groundbreaking prosecutor and attorney-general in the state of California, Harris was known for breaking barriers throughout her career. After graduating top of her class from Howard University, she launched her career as the deputy district attorney in Alameda, California, working for San Francisco’s City Attorney Louis Renne, as the chief of the Community and Neighborhood Division. She worked on cases close to her heart, specilazing in prosecuting child sexual assault cases. She served as the attorney general of California from 2011-2017, becoming the first Black and South Asian to serve as California’s attorney general. Harris is known for her stance on the roots of racial discrimination in our current age, and attended several peaceful protests in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death. After the shooting of Jacob Blake, she met with Blake’s family in person and has since called for further investigation. One of her most admirable efforts is her call for economic and educational investment in communities of color to create safer and healthier communities. It’s safe to say that Kamala’s impact on society is vast, and she is definitely a name we will see in our future history textbooks.
Speaking of names we will see in our future history textbooks, it’s time to talk about the Obamas. In 2008, Barack Obama made history for being the very first African American President of The United States. That’s a huge deal! He and his wife, Michelle Obama, served two terms, and in that time, made a name for themselves that nobody will ever forget. From his efforts in sending out troops to end the war in Iraq, to eliminating Osama Bin Laden, and even initiating health care reforms, Obama managed to accomplish a LOT in his 8 years. One of his most admirable accomplishments that often isn’t known involves our veterans. He, along with congress, increased the 2010 Department of Veterans Affairs budget by 16% and its 2011 budget by 10%. Also, in 2011, he signed the FDA food safety Modernization act, which boosted the food and Drug Administration’s budget by 1.4 billion dollars. Additionally, Obama invested heavily in renewable technology, investing $90 billion in research on smart grids, energy efficiency, electric cars, and biofuels.
Barack wasn’t the only one making a difference, alongside him was Michelle Obama, and she was just as busy with her efforts in bettering America. Graduating top of her class from Harvard Law and Princeton University, Michelle was a successful marketing and intellectual property lawyer. After Barack got elected, Michelle decided that the way she wanted to make a difference was to help the children of America become happier and healthier. She implemented these ideas through her “Let’s Move!” initiative. This was a public health campaign led by Michelle that aimed to reduce childhood obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle for children. While many kids were forced to put down the ice cream and eat some veggies, we admire Michelle’s compassion for the wellbeing of the children of America.
Speaking of admiring their passion, let’s talk about one of the most passionate women in politics today, “squad member” Ayanna Pressley. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is an advocate, policy maker, activist, and survivor. On November 6th, 2018, she was elected to represent Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House, being the first African American to ever do so. Like a lot of people in her district, Pressley has faced various hardships throughout her life, and it is because of those hardships that she is the dedicated activist she is today. She is dedicated to help create robust and informed policies that speak to the intersectionality of her district. Ayanna says that the people closest to pain should be the closest to power. While her past held pain, she used her power to benefit her people. Pressley is known for the development of a comprehensive, culturally competent, medically accurate, and age appropriate sexual education and health curriculum, which was permanently adopted in all Boston schools. She also partnered with Black Women’s Justice Institute to develop research based on evidence to reform school disciplinary policies that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline for black and Latinx girls. Through all of the discrimination she faced growing up, she turnd it around to become the voice for so many minorities.
Now I’ve touched on a lot of powerful female political figures, but I’d like to end by talking about Raphael Warnock. Rapheal grew up in public housing in Savannah, Georgia, short on money but rich in faith and love. Having 11 brothers and sisters showed Raphael at a young age how important money is for essential uses–essential uses he and his family didn’t always have access to. As he grew up, he attained the job of a pastor at Douglas Memorial Church, eventually becoming a senior pastor, before he felt God led him in a different direction. It was then Warnock wanted to run for senator in the state of Georgia to help the people who weren’t as privileged as him. Running for as a member of the Democractic party, this Reverend ran for senate to address affordable health care, voting rights protection, and to ensure the dignity of the working people. He recently got elected this year, 2021, making history as Georgia’s first black senator, and he’s ready to make a change.
I hope you all could learn something new about some of these (hopefully) familiar faces we talked about today. I think it’s important that we take every day of these 28 days to acknowledge how far we have come, and how much farther we still need to go. And from all of us at the Herald, happy Black History Month!