US Congressional Caucus elects Caribbean American woman to top post

Yvette D. Clarke

The United States Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has elected Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke as its first vice chair.

Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, was among top officials elected by CBC’s Executive Committee for the 118th US Congress.

“It has been the honour of my career to serve as the 9th woman to chair the Congressional Black Caucus,” said CBC Chairwoman Joyce Beatty in a statement.

Clarke – a senior member of both the Upper House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee and House Committee on Homeland Security, where she serves as chair of the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation Subcommittee – thanked her CBC colleagues for their support, stating that she is “blessed” to be serving with them in the forthcoming 118th Session of Congress.

“Each new Congress presents an opportunity for our 60-member-strong caucus to advance legislation and policy to address the myriad of persistent inequities that continue to impact Black communities across our country,” said Ms Clarke.

Late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

“Before us, today, countless new dimensions to these historic challenges continue to confront Congress, and we, as a caucus, must remain vigilant if we are to overcome them,” she added.

“I have no doubt that our members will continue to build upon the success of our predecessors, support and uplift the causes so vital to the advancement of people of African-descent,” Clarke continued.

She said much in the nation and Congress has changed since the days of bold and audacious actions from the likes of Shirley Chisholm and Charlie Rangel when they, alongside 11 of their Congressional colleagues, established the Congressional Black Caucus. She said what has not changed and will forever endure is the mission of the caucus.

The late Chisholm, whose parents hailed from Barbados and Guyana, became the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress in 1968. 

She represented New York’s then 12th Congressional District, now parts of the 8th and 9th Congressional Districts in Brooklyn.  

Chisholm was also the first Black candidate for a major party nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s nomination. 

Charles “Charlie” Rangel, who was born in Harlem on June 11, 1930, was the US representative for Harlem from 1971 to 2017.

A member of the Democratic Party, he was the second-longest serving incumbent member of the House of Representatives at the time of his retirement, serving continuously since 1971. 

As its most senior member, Rangel was also the Dean of New York’s congressional delegation and was the first African American chair of the influential US House Ways and Means Committee. 

Clarke, who has been a member of the US Congress since 2007, said that, for decades, the CBC has provided “a voice to the voiceless and a platform for the marginalized. 

“Though the vast majority of our members will find ourselves in the minority in this upcoming Congress, and though we are certain to face relentless obstruction, the mission will endure,” she assured. “And, ultimately, as long as we stay the course, we will prevail.”

“I firmly believe that before us stands nothing but opportunity: the opportunity to lift up and advance policy that provides new opportunities for never-before-seen economic growth; the opportunity to liberate the disenfranchised from the shackles of their marginalization, voter disenfranchisement and a broken immigration system; the opportunity to create pathways and corridors towards their prosperity,” she added. 

“Today, as I prepare to once again take on the mantle of leadership within the CBC, I remain ever mindful that our caucus is ‘the Conscious of the Congress’”, she said.

“My commitment to Black people, and the communities from which they hail, is unwavering and rooted in the ethos established by my predecessor and founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the late Hon. Shirley Chisholm. 

“It’s a pledge that has long guided my career and my own life: to remain ‘unbought and unbossed,’” declared Clarke, using Chisholm’s catchphrase. 

Since its establishment in 1971, the CBC said it has been “committed to using the full Constitutional power, statutory authority and financial resources of the federal government to ensure that African Americans and other marginalised communities in the United States have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

As part of this commitment, the CBC said it has “fought for the past 51 years to empower these citizens and address their legislative concerns.”