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A New Direction for African Americans & Their Families

House Democrats are working to create opportunities for African Americans to succeed and prosper at every level. Because of the vision of countless civil rights trailblazers, African Americans have overcome astonishing hardships and inequalities. Today, more African American families have joined the middle class, more African American young people are pursuing higher education and the number of businesses started by black entrepreneurs is increasing.  But, there is much more work to be done to expand opportunity and equality to all Americans. House Democrats are committed to fighting for civil, social, and economic justice to bring a New Direction for African Americans.

The American Jobs Act
Republicans continue to ignore America's top priority--refusing to pass legislation to put the country back to work and voting ten times against Democratic initiatives to create jobs.  It is time to heed the President's call to create jobs, strengthen our middle class, and grow our economy with the American Jobs Act. Learn more about the American Jobs Act from the White House:

The American Jobs Act reflects a commitment to strengthen the recovery and help increase access to jobs for all Americans. With unemployment among African-Americans at an unacceptably high rate of 16.7 percent - and 1.4 million African-Americans out of work for more than six months - the President believes that inaction is not an option. That's why the President is putting out a plan to increase the pace of job creation, and why he is committed to fighting for Congress to act on this plan. These measures - which will expand opportunities for the long-term unemployed to reenter the workforce, provide incentives for businesses to hire, and make investments in revitalizing schools, infrastructure and neighborhoods - will help create new job opportunities in African-American communities and across the country. For example:

  • The extension of unemployment insurance will benefit 1.4 million African-Americans and their families. At the same time, the President is proposing bipartisan reforms that will enable that - as these families continue to receive UI benefits - the program is better tailored to support reemployment for the long-term unemployed.
  • Targeted support for the long-term unemployed could help the 1.4 million African-Americans who have been looking for work for more than six months: To help them in their search for work, the President is calling for a new tax credit for hiring the long-term unemployed.
  • A commitment to rebuilding and revitalizing communities across the country will target investments to the communities hardest-hit by the recession. The President's investments in infrastructure include a school construction initiative with a significant commitment to the largest urban school districts, an investment in revitalizing communities that have been devastated by foreclosures, and a new initiative to expand infrastructure employment opportunities for minorities, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
  • Support for subsidized jobs and summer/year-round jobs for African-American youth - for whom unemployment is above 30%. In an environment with an unemployment rate of 32.4% for African-American youths, the President is proposing to build on successful programs like the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund to create jobs and provide training for those hardest-hit by the recession.
  • An extension and expansion of the payroll tax cut for nearly 20 million African-American workers. By extending the payroll tax cut for employees next year and expanding it to cut payroll taxes in half, the President's plan will help increase the paychecks of nearly 20 million African-American workers - providing them with more money to spend in their communities.

 

Statue of Rosa Parks Unveiled in the U.S. Capitol

February 27, 2013—Leader Pelosi delivered remarks at a ceremony unveiling the statue commemorating the life of the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks, in the U.S. Capitol.

“Good morning.  Mr. President, Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Mr. Speaker, my colleague, Mr. Clyburn, Members of Congress, House and Senate, distinguished guests.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for making this day possible.  Thank you so much. 

“One distinguished guest who is not with us, maybe has come late, is John Lewis.  We were on the steps of the Supreme Court earlier this morning, Mr. Clyburn stayed until the start of the program, Mr. John Lewis is holding forth over that.  It is an honor to serve in the Congress of the United States with John Lewis.  And it is a joy to be here to honor Rosa Parks.

“When Rosa Parks was a little baby, her mother sang her the hymn, ‘Oh Freedom, Let It Ring.’  She would hear that hymn in church too as she grew up.  It became the anthem of her life, and the mission of her life.  As Rosa Parks would say years later: ‘I’d like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free and wanted other people to be free, too.’

“Rosa Parks is being remembered with this statue in the Capitol – but this is not the first time her greatness has been recognized here.  She has many connections to Congress.  She was no stranger to these halls.  She was recognized with a Congressional Gold Medal, inscribed with the title, ‘mother of the modern-day civil rights movement,’ and with the words, ‘quiet strength – pride, dignity, courage.’  That was a great day, when we honored her.  She had personal connection to the House, as the Speaker mentioned; for 18 years, she was an assistant to John Conyers, John Conyers.

“And they worked together, they worked together to advance the cause of civil rights and equality.  We always ask Mr. Conyers to tell us stories about Rosa Parks, tell us stories about Rosa Parks, and one that I think is appropriate at this time is: well, John Conyers first met her when he was just out of school.  He traveled south to join the civil rights movement after law school and he met her then.  She would come to – she worked on his first campaign and she would later become his first congressional hire, the first person he hired on his congressional staff.  What a beautiful connection. 

“Well, pretty soon, Mr. Conyers found out that people were visiting the office to see Rosa Parks and not the Congressman.  In fact, she was invited all over the country to be honored and, how about this Mr. President, one day she went to him and she said she wanted to thank him for allowing her to be honored all over the country and she’d be willing to take a pay cut for her time away from the office. 

“Because of the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus, and that of Leader Reid and then-Speaker Hastert, Rosa Parks was the first woman to lie in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol of the United States. 

“From her birth, her mother had sung of letting freedom ring.  How proud her mama would be to see her baby eulogized at her passing by two Presidents former President, Bill Clinton, and a future President, Barack Obama.  Imagine that.  I had the privilege of speaking at her funeral too, but what can you say in the company of that greatness?  Well, what I said was that legislation had been introduced by Jesse Jackson Jr. and Senator John Kerry to place a statue of Rosa Parks in the Capitol of the United States.  It got an uproarious reaction to it – what can you say amongst Presidents past and future, preachers from all over the country – a statue in the Capitol.  I promised them that the legislation would pass, and quickly, and that funeral was November 2nd.  And on December 1st, President George W. Bush signed it into law – 50 years to the day that Rosa Parks sat down on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  Fifty years to the day. 

“So, Rosa Parks is here, right at home in the Capitol, joining Sojourner Truth, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many other American heroes.  She will inspire all who walk these halls, especially young people, with her ‘quiet strength,’ her pride, her dignity, and her courage.

“I told you how Rosa Parks was recognized by Congress and friends of Congress; now I’d like to share with you comments from one of my invited guests, the baseball great, Willie Mays, my fellow Californian, born in Alabama – he saw the same injustices as Rosa Parks did as he was growing up.  He couldn’t be here today, but he sent a letter, and he said I could share these words about her.  He said more than this and I gave a complete letter to Sheila Keys, Rosa’s niece.  He said: ‘Most times, change doesn’t happen fast.  Most times, it happens bit by bit, little by little, one person’s actions inspiring another.  Rosa Parks simply did what was natural.  She was tired, so she sat down.  And that simple act sparked outrage, and that outrage spread, and one person’s actions inspired change.’  He went on to say: ‘We will try to remember to encourage change when it serves justice.  And, today, we will remember with admiration, the simple act of a brave woman.  We will remember; we will honor Rosa Parks.’

“Lovely words from a fellow Alabaman, all-American icon, Willie Mays.  By dedicating this statue, we honor Rosa Parks for her bravery, for serving justice, and for inspiring change.  May this statue long be a tribute to her strength and spirit, her legacy and her leadership.  May God bless the memory of Rosa Parks.  Thank you."                                                      

Congressional Black Caucus 40th Anniversary
March 30, 2011 - Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus 40th Anniversary Reception in Statuary Hall.  Leader Pelosi's remarks as prepared for delivery:  

“I would like to acknowledge Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn, Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, and Chairman of the CBC Institute, Bennie Thompson.

“I would also like to acknowledge two founding CBC Members still serving in Congress: Congressman John Conyers Jr. and Congressman Charles Rangel.  Other founding Members include Congressman Ronald Dellums, Congressman Louis Stokes, and Delegate Walter Fauntroy. 

“Forty years ago, the Congressional Black Caucus formed to advocate an agenda of opportunity for all; to offer a voice to the voiceless, regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed; to advance the cause of equality, our nation's heritage and our hope.

“For 40 years, when others refused to stand for justice, the CBC stood tall for the rights of every American; when the torch of progress looked likely to fade, the CBC carried it forward.

 For 40 years, the CBC has promoted policies that open the doors to the core components of our country's success and prosperity: good jobs for our workers; strong schools for our students; safe neighborhoods for our children; and a fair shot for families and entrepreneurs of every background.

“America is stronger for your work, your vision, your passion and persistence.

“With your leadership, we have extended voting rights and fought discrimination in the workplace; we led the charge to end Apartheid in South Africa and honored Martin Luther King Jr. with a national holiday.

“Most recently, we made health insurance a right, not a privilege, and worked to end health disparities.  We made our largest-ever investment in college aid, including billions to HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions.

“We acted to create jobs, strengthen African-American-owned small businesses, and reform and rebuild our schools.

“In so many areas, we have overcome decades of bigotry and inequality, and opened the door to a future of brotherhood and partnership.

“Our work is not done; our dreams are not yet fully realized - in education, in health care, in our economy.  But we have made progress.

“With the CBC's leadership, the arc of our nation's history has bent even further toward justice.

“And in all the CBC does - building on 40 years of accomplishments and pledging decades more of achievement - you have been, and will remain, the ‘conscience of the Congress.'”

Congressman John Lewis Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
February 15, 2011 - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at a reception hosted by the Faith and Politics Institute to honor Congressman John Lewis on receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom today at a White House ceremony.  The Leader's remarks as prepared for delivery:  

“Thank you, Reverend Doug Tanner, for your introduction, for your leadership of the Faith and Politics Institute, and for working to build bridges of tolerance among America's communities.  I also want to acknowledge and thank George and Trish Vrandenburg, sponsors of this event and committed supporters of the Faith and Politics Institute.

“I want to recognize my colleagues from the House: Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn, Democratic Caucus Chair John Larson, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  It is a pleasure to be here with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“The Faith and Politics Institute is a center dedicated to building bridges, cultivating trust among our leaders, and living up to the values of equality, understanding, compassion and community.  To advance your mission, the Faith and Politics Institute does not simply educate Members of Congress through hearings and meetings.  You offer living testaments to our progress - leading pilgrimages to Alabama, one of which I was privileged to join; taking us to the hallowed ground where history transpired; sharing stories of heroism and leadership from the civil rights movement.

“Central to that movement is the man we honor tonight: Congressman John Lewis.  He is the conscience of the Congress, a true hero of our history, a moral leader and an inspiration to his colleagues, his constituents, and the American people.

“In marching for his own rights, he extended the blessings of liberty to others.  In seeking equality for African Americans, he secured justice for all.  In advancing the non-violent struggle for our most basic rights - the right to vote, to speak, to assemble - he advanced the cause of freedom.

“John Lewis has led a life of courage, conviction, and commitment to the common good.  His story is a triumph for all whose souls cry out for freedom.  No one is more deserving of our nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom.

“It is fitting that Congressman Lewis should receive this honor during Black History Month - a time set aside to celebrate our diversity and to honor the contributions of African Americans to our country. 

“In this period, we strive to build on our legacy of equality by pledging a future of opportunity for our children and generations to come.  And we remember, as Congressman Lewis always reminds us, that we may have come a long way since the days of Selma and the March on Washington; but we still have a distance to go to secure jobs for our workers and prosperity for our families, regardless of race, religion, or creed.

“As we honor Congressman Lewis today, we must each renew our commitment to build what he has called the ‘beloved community, a nation at peace with itself.'

“We must continue to overcome barriers to opportunity in our time.  We must pay tribute to those, like John Lewis, who led the long struggle for civil rights, and the millions who marched along their side: striving for equality; fulfilling our pledge of justice; moving our country closer to that more perfect union.

“Congratulations, Congressman Lewis, on being awarded the Medal of Freedom.  Thank you all for coming together to honor an extraordinary leader for our nation and the Congress.”

Black History Month
February 1, 2011 - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on the 25th anniversary of Black History Month:

For 25 years, Black History Month has offered us the chance to celebrate our diversity; to honor the contributions of African Americans; and to extend the legacy of freedom and equality.  Today, we continue that tradition - not simply to hearken back to victories of the past, but to pledge a future of opportunity for our children and generations to come.

As African Americans still face one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, we recognize the need to invest in a broadly-shared prosperity - an economic recovery that truly leaves no one behind.

We must ensure that jobs remain the measure of our progress and that the middle class has room for all Americans, regardless of their race or background.  And we must transform our schools into centers of academic achievement and excellence - led by the best teachers available, driven by a commitment to innovation and competitiveness, and dedicated to preparing our youth for success in the 21st century.

America has long been a land of opportunity - a promise kept by the generations of leaders willing to work and march and sacrifice to help us realize the dream of civil rights, liberty, and justice for all.  During this Black History Month, Democrats and President Obama will keep working to live up to that example: to secure jobs for our workers; to strengthen African-American families; and to address the critical challenges facing our nation.

Sojourner Truth Bust Unveiling

April 28, 2009 - Members of Congress were joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to unveil a bust by sculptor Artis Lane of Sojourner Truth. The bust is the first sculpture to honor an African American woman in the US Capitol and was donated by the National Congress of Black Women.

 

Sojourner Truth

Watch video highlights of the ceremony which also included musical performances by Lomax Spaulding, Dorinda Clarke Cole, Yolanda Adams, and the Ron Clark Academy with a reading by actress Cicely Tyson of Sojourner Truth's “Ain't I A Woman”:

Watch students at the Ron Clark Academy perform their tribute to Sojourner Truth:

See pictures from the ceremony>>


Speaker Pelosi's Statement on Passing of John Hope Franklin

John Hope FranklinMarch 25, 2009 - Speaker Pelosi issued the following statement on the passing of renowned historian John Hope Franklin:

“Today we mourn the passing of one of our nation's most distinguished scholars, historian John Hope Franklin.

“His academic and civic contributions helped integrate the African-American narrative into American history - reflecting one of our nation's most cherished goals of creating a stronger and more united America.

“The author of the landmark study of African Americans, From Slavery to Freedom, Professor Franklin chaired the history departments at Brooklyn College and the  University of Chicago, before becoming James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke University. The John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies and the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke remain as permanent monuments to his contributions in academia and public policy.

Continue reading>>
 


Portrait Unveiling Ceremony for Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

Portrait unveiling Ceremony for Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm
March 3, 2009 - Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, and Members of the CBC held a portrait unveiling ceremony for the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.  This year marks the 40th anniversary of Congresswoman Chisholm's swearing in as a Member of the House. 

Read Speaker Pelosi's remarks>>

 



House Resolutions on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 100th Anniversary of the NAACP

February 10, 2009 - Rep. John Lewis introduced a resolution recognizing the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s visit to India, and the positive influence that the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi had on Dr. King's work during the Civil Rights Movement. Rep. Al Green introduced a resolution honoring and praising the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. 

Rep. John Lewis:

Rep. Al Green:

 


Speaker Pelosi's Statement on Black History Month

February 2, 2009 - Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement in recognition of Black History Month:
 
“This Black History Month is especially significant as we recognize three historic events: the Inauguration of Barack Obama; the centennial celebration of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and, the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth.  Each of these milestones illustrates the vibrancy of our nation, and our commitment to progress and equality for all.'

Read Speaker Pelosi's full statement>>
 


Rep. John Lewis Honors Martin Luther King, Jr

January 21, 2009 - The House passed a resolution observing the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and encouraging the people of the United States to observe the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rep. John Lewis introduced the resolution and spoke on the House floor.
 

 

 


Marcia Fudge Swearing-in

November 19, 2008 - Marcia Fudge was sworn in by Speaker Pelosi on the House floor. Congresswoman Fudge fills the 11th district seat of Ohio vacated by the passing of Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones. 
 

 

 


Pelosi On Appointment of Bobby Scott to Serve on Ethics Committee

September 11, 2008 - Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia has been appointed to serve on the House Ethics Committee.  A vacancy was created on the committee with the passing of Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.  With Scott's appointment, the Committee is now fully operational.
 
“As a highly respected House Member, Bobby Scott brings a wealth of legal knowledge and experience to his new duties on the Ethics Committee.  I am confident that his passion for justice and due process will guide his work on the committee.”


Pelosi Delivers Remarks at U.S. Capitol Memorial Service to Honor Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones

September 10, 2008 - Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered the following remarks at a memorial service in the Capitol today honoring the late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.

“My, my, my, wouldn't Stephanie have liked to see this turnout for her birthday party?

“When we were in Ohio, I was pleased to take two planeloads of Members of Congress to Cleveland for her memorial service.  In that auditorium was a former President of the United States, a former First Lady who is a Senator and was a candidate for President, a nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States, her colleagues, her friends, and her family - all gathered together to celebrate the life and leadership of Stephanie Tubbs Jones.

Continue reading>>


The Third Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

August 29, 2008 - Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement on the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastation upon striking the Gulf Coast:

“Three years ago today, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, becoming the worst natural disaster in America's history. Tragically, this terrible natural disaster turned catastrophic for millions of Gulf Coast residents when it was met with the failures and cronyism of the Bush Administration and the Republican-led Congress. The Republican leadership failed to respond adequately to enact much of the critically-needed relief for those whose lives had been up-ended by the storm.

Continue reading>>
 


45th Anniversary of the March on Washington

August 28, 2008 - Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement on the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington, led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963:

'On the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington, we honor the unwavering determination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the more than 250,000 Americans who came to their nation's capital to call for an end to discriminatory laws and practices. We pay tribute to their bravery, their commitment, and their wisdom.

Continue reading>>


Pelosi Statement on Passing of Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones

August 20, 2008 -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today on the passing of House Ethics Committee Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio:

'On behalf of all Members of Congress, I express my deepest condolences on the sudden death of our friend and colleague, Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, to all who loved her, particularly her son, Mervyn Leroy Jones, II, and her sister, Barbara Walker. 

Continue reading>>

 


60th Anniversary of Integration of U.S. Armed Forces Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces

On July 23, Speaker Pelosi joined with House and Senate leaders in the Capitol Rotunda to commemorate President Truman's executive order 60 years ago that marked the beginning of racial integration in the armed services.  Speaker Pelosi said, “When called on their country to serve, African Americans did so with courage, honor and distinction--just as many do today. When called by conscience to serve the civil rights movement, they provided indispensable moral leadership, defended liberty, and redefined America for the better.'

Read Speaker Pelosi's full speech>>

See photographs from the ceremony>>

 


Congressional Delegation Trip To The Gulf Coast

In 2006, when the Gulf Coast was still reeling from the federal government's incompetence and congressional inaction, House Democrats dispatched a delegation to the Gulf Coast to assess the devastation from Katrina and Rita. That trip was a first step in an unwavering partnership House Democrats have established with the Gulf Coast, informing the legislation that eventually became law under Democratic leadership in the 110th Congress. During the end of July, House Majority Whip Clyburn led Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, Vice-Chair Larson and other House Democrats on their third Congressional Delegation to the Gulf Coast. On their four-day trip, the delegation visited several sites in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and coastal Mississippi to determine where the region stands on the issues of health care, housing, education, infrastructure, criminal justice and insurance reform.

Learn more about Gulf Coast recovery legislation signed into law>>

Pelosi: New Direction Congress Rising to the Challenge of Gulf Coast Recovery>>
 


MEASURES ENACTED INTO LAW

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE - The first increase in more than a decade became a reality for millions of Americans in July, thanks to action by the New Direction Congress:

  • The increase in the minimum wage will benefit more than two million hardworking African Americans over the next several years. [EPI, 4/07]
  • This pay raise comes at a critical time for African American families as household income has dropped by $2,766 since 2000, and, over the last six years, the number of African Americans living below the poverty level has grown by 1.1 million. [CPS, 8/07]
  • Minority women will benefit the most from the wage increase: fully 33 percent of women benefiting are African-American or Hispanic, even though these groups comprise less than a quarter of the female workforce. [Center for American Progress, 9/04]

MAKING COLLEGE MORE AFFORDABLE - Benefiting the more than 2.2 million African American students enrolled in degree-granting institutions and those who strive to follow in their footsteps:

  • The New Direction Congress has enacted the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (H.R. 2669), signed into law by the President on September 27.  This is the single largest investment in college assistance since the G.I. Bill of 1944, making college more accessible and affordable.
  • The College Cost Reduction and Access Act increases the Pell Grant by more than $1,000 over the next five years, restoring the purchasing power for millions of low and moderate income students.  This will help the 47 percent of African American students who receive the Pell Grant scholarship each year.
  • The legislation also cuts the interest rates on subsidized student loans in half.  This cut would save the typical borrower $4,400 over the life of the loan.  About 38 percent of African American students take out need-based student loans each year.
  • The new law also makes landmark new investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities with a priority for increasing the number of students graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and improving the transfer rate from 2-year to 4-year institutions.
  • In addition, the new law also provides new grants for Predominantly Black Institutions -- schools that enroll students in financial need and have at least 40 percent African-American student enrollment -- for programs in science, technology, engineering, health education, teacher education, and programs geared towards improving the educational outcomes of African-American males.

 
INNOVATION AGENDA THAT SPURS INNOVATION AND GOOD-PAYING JOBS - Congress has enacted our crucial Innovation Agenda, which makes new investments in math and science education and basic research in order to restore our ability to compete in a global economy.

  • America COMPETES Act, (H.R. 2272), was signed into law by the President on August 9, puts us on a path to doubling funding for National Science Foundation basic research over the next 10 years, invests in some 25,000 new math and science teachers over the next five years, and works to strengthen small high-tech firms and stimulate investments in innovative technologies by small manufacturers.
  • The bill also takes concrete steps toward increasing the number of women and under-represented minorities entering the science, technology, engineering and math fields.
  • For example, the new law will improve the NSF's program to increase undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and math in order to promote minority and women participation, and requires a National Academy of Sciences study on strategies to increase minority participation in the science, technology, engineering and math workforce.
  • In 2000, only 4 percent of the science and engineering jobs in the U.S. were held by African Americans.
  • Nearly 40 percent of Americans under the age of 18 is a racial or ethnic minority -- so increasing the participation of young African Americans and Hispanics in math, science and engineering education is essential to supplying the American economy with the expertise in science, math, engineering and technology that the country will need to innovate and remain competitive in the future.

OVERDUE FUNDING TO HELP REBUILD GULF COAST COMMUNITIES RAVAGED BY HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA. 

  • The FY 2007 Supplemental (H.R. 2206) bill, enacted into law on May 25th, provides $6.4 billion for Gulf Coast Recovery; the Democratic-led Congress added $3 billion to meet specific urgent needs of the Gulf Coast. The law: waives the local matching requirement under the Stafford Act for FEMA disaster recovery projects, includes $1.35 billion in Community Disaster loan forgiveness, extends Low Income Housing Tax Credits allocated under the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005, expands access to low-income financing for homeowners in hurricane-affected areas, and extends access to emergency federal funding and allocates $60 million to pay teachers and operate schools.

INVESTMENT IN WOMEN'S HEALTH CARE - African American women diagnosed with breast cancer have a lower five-year survival rate than white women with similar diagnoses. [American Cancer Society, 2007]

  • On April 10th, the President signed into law H.R. 1132, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, reauthorizing the program for five more years.
  • This program provides free and low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings to low-income, minority, or uninsured women and provides education and outreach services to women.

MEASURES PASSED BY THE HOUSE

A BILL THAT RENEWS AND IMPROVES THE STATE CHILDREN'S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM (SCHIP) - Providing health care coverage for 10 million low-income children:  

  • More than half of all insured African American children are covered by Medicaid or SCHIP programs. [Families USA, 6/07]
  • More than 14 percent of African American children are still living day-to-day without any health coverage. Experts say that more than 8 in 10 uninsured African American children are eligible for coverage through Medicaid or SCHIP, but are not enrolled. [CPS, 8/07; Covering Kids & Families, 2006]
  • Congress has passed H.R. 976, State Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, which renews and improves the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) - preserving coverage for 6 million children currently covered by SCHIP and extending coverage to 4 million uninsured children.  Unfortunately, the President has vetoed this bill.  On October 25th, the House passed H.R. 3963, a revised version of the Children's Health Program reauthorization.
  • This Children's Health Program bill also takes steps to reduce health disparities in communities of color and makes critical changes to overcome the barriers to enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP, such as expanding outreach and encouraging culturally appropriate enrollment practices.
  • In addition, on May 25th, H.R. 2206 was enacted into law providing emergency funding for the SCHIP program - preventing potentially hundreds of thousands of children in 11 states from losing their health insurance or having their health coverage scaled back in the next few months.

IMPROVED EARLY CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION PROGRAMS FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN CHILDREN - Early childhood education programs, such as Early Start and Head Start, provide a crucial foundation for hundreds of thousands of lower-income children before they enter the school system.  Furthermore, more than 8 million public school students in America are African American.

  • Head Start provides vital child development, health and nutrition services to nearly 280,000 African American children. [Administration for Children & Families, Office of Head Start, 2007]
  • In May, the House overwhelmingly passed the Improving Head Start Act (H.R. 1429) which expands and improves the successful Head Start childhood education program, including provisions to improve classroom and teacher quality and to expand access to Head Start and Early Head Start.
  • In July, the House passed the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Act (H.R. 3043) which invests in raising the achievement levels of America's students - providing $1.9 billion more than 2007 for giving low-income children extra help with reading and math, $300 million more for improving teacher quality, and $125 million more for providing after-school enrichment programs.

INCREASED FUNDING FOR HOUSING FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES - The House has passed a large initiative focused on expanding affordable housing - all at no expense to the U.S. taxpayer:

  • On October 10th, the House passed the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act (H.R. 2895), which provides the largest expansion in federal housing programs in decades, with a goal of producing, rehabilitating and preserving 1.5 million affordable housing units over the next 10 years - with no cost to the U.S. taxpayer, instead turning to such funding sources as fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • On July 12th, the House passed the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act (H.R. 1851) to provide housing for 100,000 families over the next five years, in addition to the close to two million households already benefiting from Section 8.
  • The Section 8 bill improves the efficiency of Section 8, encourages self-sufficiency for low-income families, promotes homeownership and ensures that vouchers can be used to create affordable housing developments for seniors, the disabled, and homeless people.

PASSED LEGISLATION MANDATING HARSHER PENALTIES FOR THOSE GUILTY OF HATE CRIMES - In 2005, law enforcement reported more than 7,100 hate crimes. Many of those crimes were motivated by racial and ethnic bias.

  • On May 3rd, the House passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1592) authorizing the Department of Justice to provide state and local law enforcement agencies technical, forensic, prosecutorial and other forms of assistance in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.
  • On June 20th, the House overwhelmingly passed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act (H.R. 923) establishing an Unsolved Crimes Section in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and an Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Investigative Office in the Civil Rights Unit of the FBI to investigate violations of criminal civil rights statutes in which the act occurred before January 1, 1970 and resulted in death. The legislation was named in honor of Emmett Till, a teenager who was brutally murdered and mutilated while on a summer vacation in Money, Mississippi in 1955.

PASSED LEGISLATION STRENGTHENING VOTER PROTECTION AND PREVENTING INTIMIDATION AT THE POLLING PLACE - African American voters have a right to participate in their constitutional right to political participation free of fear.

  • On June 25th, the House passed the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act (H.R. 1281). This bill protects every American citizen's right to vote by making voter deception a crime.
  • H.R. 1281 is designed to prevent a repeat of the 2006 election when voters in minority communities were intentionally misled about voting dates and some naturalized citizens were threatened with arrest if they turned out to vote. The bill clearly defines and criminalizes voter deception, increases penalties for voter intimidation, and requires the Department of Justice to prevent and correct malicious misinformation campaigns designed to prevent citizens from voting or to mislead them on their way to the polls.

PASSED LEGISLATION HELPING GULF COAST COMMUNITIES RAVAGED BY HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA.

  • The House passed the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act (H.R. 1227) on March 21st, which is designed to speed up the rebuilding of homes and affordable rental units in the Gulf Coast region, including by freeing up $1.2 billion for the Louisiana Road Home program and helping to preserve the supply of affordable rental housing.
  • On April 18th, the House passed the RECOVER Act (H.R. 1361) which includes numerous provisions to overhaul the Small Business Administration's disaster assistance program in response to SBA's disastrous performance after the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes and increases the individual disaster loan limit from $1.5 million to $3 million.
  • With a bipartisan vote of 313-104, the House passed the Federal Housing Finance Reform/Affordable Housing Fund (H.R. 1427) on May 22nd. The bill creates a non-taxpayer financed Affordable Housing Fund over the next five years - estimated to be about $500 million a year.  In the first year, grants from the fund would go exclusively to the Katrina-stricken areas of Louisiana and Mississippi.  Then, in the next four years, grants would be allocated by formula to states.
  • On August 1st, the House passed the Conference Report on the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (H.R. 1495) authorizing approximately $1.9 billion for the Corps of Engineers projects to restore the Louisiana Coastal Area and help prevent future hurricane damage. The conference report has also now been passed by the Senate.

PROVIDED HISTORIC INCREASE IN FUNDING FOR VETERANS AND FOR A PAY RAISE FOR BRAVE MEMBERS OF OUR MILITARY - The largest veterans' funding increase in the history of the VA:

  • There are 2.4 million African American veterans who have served this nation and more than 262,000 brave African American men and women who have served their country in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.
  • In March, the House passed the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act (H.R. 1538), which responded to the scandal of the shocking living conditions and inattentive care at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other similar facilities by providing for the improvement of care of injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • In June, the House passed the Military Construction/Veterans' Affairs Appropriations bill (H.R. 2642), which provides the largest increase in veterans' funding in the 77-year history of the Veterans' Administration, $3.8 billion more than the President's request, including significantly increasing the funding for veterans' health care, including care for PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury.
  • The House has also passed the Defense Department Authorization (H.R. 1585), which provides all service members a pay raise of 3.5 percent, higher than the President's request, and will put $7.3 billion into the paychecks of our men and women in uniform over the next five years. The bill also will protect service members and retirees from TRICARE fee increases.

PASSED VITAL FARM AND NUTRITION LEGISLATION:

  • On July 27th, the House passed H.R. 2419, the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007, making funding permanent for the McGovern/Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program; increasing funding for conservation (Grasslands Reserve Program); and closing a tax loophole, involving foreign corporations taking advantage of international tax havens to escape U.S. taxes.
  • This bill includes grants for a revision to the application and eligibility determination process for food stamps -- thereby improving access to food stamps, which help millions of American families every year.
  • The bill also creates a Minority Farmer Advisory Committee - benefiting thousands of minority-owned farms across the United States.
  • The bill also increases funding for agricultural and food sciences facilities at 1890 land-grant colleges including the Tuskegee University.  

PASSED LEGISLATION STRENGTHENING THE GROWTH OF SMALL BUSINESSES - Small businesses create two-thirds of American jobs.

  • African Americans own an estimated 1.2 million small businesses with annual revenues of more than $88 billion.
  • In April, the House passed the Small Business Lending Improvements Act (H.R. 1332) which lowers the cost of financing for small businesses by modernizing SBA lending initiatives, allowing entrepreneurs to invest further in their ventures and create jobs.
  • In May, the House passed the Small Business Fairness in Contracting Act (H.R. 1873) which strengthens small business by increasing the share of federal contracts going to small businesses and limiting the ability of federal agencies to bundle smaller projects into larger projects.

Recent Bills Introduced To Address Critical Needs Of The African American Community:

The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2007 - Rep. Hilda Solis and 87 other Members of the House introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2007 in July, to help eliminate the persistent health disparities that leave millions of Americans in poor health and more likely to die prematurely during their most productive life years. Reps. Donna Christensen, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and numerous other Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were original cosponsors of the legislation. The legislation addresses health work force diversity; culturally and linguistically appropriate health care; access to health care; and data collection and analysis.

The Local Community Radio Act of 2007 - Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Hilda Solis, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Rep. Mike Doyle introduced the Local Community Radio Act in June, to increase the number of women and minorities who hold radio licenses. This legislation addresses the implications of the consolidation of media ownership in recent years - fewer and fewer women and minority owned stations. This legislation would expand Low Power FM stations - community-based, noncommercial radio stations that broadcast to neighborhoods in cities and towns across the country - making it possible for churches, schools and other groups to own a radio station serving their local community.

Other Congressional Activity of Note to the African American Community:

The Congressional Black Caucus, led by Chairwoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, has played a key role in bringing attention to the injustice of the Jena 6 - the six African American teenage students in Jena, Louisiana who have been singled out by a prosecutor wielding a judicial system that is being influenced by racial intolerance. Over the coming weeks, Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has been holding hearings to examine the situation further.

On April 19th, the House passed the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (H.R. 1905) which would grant the District of Columbia full voting representation in the House. Unfortunately, the Senate failed to reach cloture ending debate on the issue, effectively stalling the bill indefinitely.

The 5th Annual Tri-Caucus Health Summit, hosted by Reps. Hilda Solis, Donna Christensen, Madeleine Bordallo, Joe Baca, Carolyn Kilpatrick and Michael Honda took place on July 20-21 in San Diego. The Summit brought together community and health advocates to raise awareness about health challenges facing communities of color and to learn more about the innovative work being done to address them. Some of the topics that were discussed during the Summit included: State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), foster care, homelessness, quality of care, chronic diseases, health care access, health professions, health information technology, and HIV/AIDS.

House Democrats are working to honor the significant and long-lasting contributions that African Americans have made to the nation's economic, cultural, spiritual, and political fabric. From Frederick Douglass to Fannie Lou Hammer to the men and women of the Congressional Black Caucus, African Americans represent every aspect of this great nation's heritage and hope.
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