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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Releases Statement on Meeting with President Biden

This is the President’s agenda—a Democratic agenda that reclaimed the White House. The needs in our communities, especially for Black and Brown people, are too great to be put on hold. This is an opportunity for Democrats to be unified in our goal of realizing the vision and promise of this nation

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President Joe Biden

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), Chair Emeritus of the Progressive Caucus, released the following statement after meeting with President Biden and Progressive Caucus colleagues on the path forward for President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda:

“I’d like to thank President Biden for the invitation to the White House and for his continued commitment to building back better.  Our conversation was productive. We had a good faith discussion about the urgent need to deliver for the American people on overdue investments. He understands, just as we do, that we cannot stop at roads and bridges—we must also invest in the care economy, child care and the child tax credit, health care, addressing the climate crisis, affordable housing, and education. The time to act is now.

“Let’s be clear: for months, progressives have been open, honest, and transparent with House leadership and the administration about our focus on passing both bills. We all proudly support the President’s entire Build Back Better package, which is why, from the inception of these negotiations, my colleagues and I advocated for the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework alongside the reconciliation package. That has been our plan, it has been the Speaker’s plan, and it has been the President’s plan. We are simply looking to hold the line on the agreed upon path forward and deliver for our communities.

“This is the President’s agenda—a Democratic agenda that reclaimed the White House. The needs in our communities, especially for Black and Brown people, are too great to be put on hold. This is an opportunity for Democrats to be unified in our goal of realizing the vision and promise of this nation. As we communicated to the President—who agrees with us—we can settle for nothing less than making good on our commitment, invest in the needs of the people, and build back bolder. I’m hopeful and confident we will get this across the finish line and deliver for the people.”

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. She serves as Co-Chair of the Steering & Policy Committee, former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chair Emeritus of the Progressive Caucus, Co-Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Health Task Force, and Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus. She also serves as Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. As a member of the House Democratic Leadership, she is the highest ranking woman of color in the U.S. Congress

Activism

Congresswoman Lee Applauds U.S. Mint Release of Maya Angelou Quarter

Beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025, the Mint will issue five quarters in each of these years. The ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse group of individuals honored through this program reflects a wide range of accomplishments and fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts.

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Maya Angelou as depicted on the tail side of a 2022 quarter and a portrait of her. U.S. Mint.gov and Facebook photos.
Maya Angelou as depicted on the tail side of a 2022 quarter and a portrait of her. U.S. Mint.gov and Facebook photos.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the United States Mint for beginning shipments of the first coins in the American Women Quarters (AWQ) Program, starting with the Maya Angelou quarter on Monday.

The Mint implemented the new four-year program as authorized by the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020, bipartisan legislation introduced by Congresswoman Lee along with Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Deb Fischer (R-NE), which was signed into law last year.

President Barack Obama presenting Maya Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President Barack Obama presenting Maya Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

These circulating quarters honoring Maya Angelou are manufactured at the Mint facilities in Philadelphia and Denver. Coins featuring additional honorees will begin shipping later this year and through 2025.

“As a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, poet laureate, college professor, Broadway actress, dancer, and the first female African American cable car conductor in San Francisco, Maya Angelou’s brilliance and artistry inspired generations of Americans,” said Lee. “I will forever cherish the private moments I had the privilege to share with Maya, from talking in her living room as sisters to her invaluable counsel throughout the challenges I faced as a Black woman in elected office. I am proud to have led this effort to honor these phenomenal women, who more often than not are overlooked in our country’s telling of history.

“If you find yourself holding a Maya Angelou quarter, may you be reminded of her words, ‘be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.’”

“Maya Angelou’s writing and activism inspired countless Americans and her legacy helped fuel greater fairness and understanding across our nation,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Senate sponsor of the bill.

Maya Angelou reciting her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993.

Maya Angelou reciting her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.

“She is exactly the type of leader I had in mind when Senator Fischer, Representative Lee and I wrote our bipartisan legislation to create a series of quarters honoring the contributions of American women. This coin will ensure generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou’s books and poetry that spoke to the lived experience of Black women.”

“The Maya Angelou quarter will play a historic role to begin the conversation about our nation’s history that perhaps we have never had before,” said Rosie Rios, 43rd Treasurer of the United States. “Our coin and currency institutionalize our history, but to date, too many women have been overlooked from the classrooms to the boardrooms. Maya represents the courage, the advocacy, and most importantly, the voice of so many people who still remain voiceless today.

“She is the first of 20 women to be honored through these quarters as we count up to the 250th anniversary of our nation’s founding in 2026,” Rios continued. “It will no longer be HIStory or HERstory, but Our Story. I want to especially thank Congresswoman Barbara Lee for her tireless support to make my dream of redesigning our nation’s coin and currency a reality. Let the conversation begin.”

“It is my honor to present our Nation’s first circulating coins dedicated to celebrating American women and their contributions to American history,” said Mint Deputy Director Ventris C. Gibson. “Each 2022 quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments being celebrated throughout this historic coin program.Maya Angelou, featured on the reverse of this first coin in the series, used words to inspire and uplift.”

A writer, poet, performer, social activist, and teacher, Angelou rose to international prominence as an author after the publication of her groundbreaking autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Angelou’s published works of verse, non-fiction, and fiction include more than 30 bestselling titles.Her remarkable career encompasses dance, theater, journalism, and social activism. The recipient of more than 30 honorary degrees, Angelou read “On the Pulse of Morning” at the 1992 inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

Angelou’s reading marked the first time an African American woman wrote and presented a poem at a Presidential inauguration. In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she was the 2013 recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community.

The reverse (tails), designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Artist Emily Damstra and sculpted by United States Mint Medallic Artist Craig A. Campbell, depicts Maya Angelou with her arms uplifted. Behind her are a bird in flight and a rising sun, images inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived.  Inscriptions are “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “MAYA ANGELOU,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” and “QUARTER DOLLAR.”

The obverse (heads) depicts a portrait of George Washington originally composed and sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser to mark George Washington’s 200th birthday. Though her work was a recommended design for the 1932 quarter, then-Treasury Secretary Mellon ultimately selected the familiar John Flanagan design. Of Fraser, Deputy Director Gibson said, “I am proud that the new obverse design of George Washington is by one of the most prolific female sculptors of the early 20th century. Laura Gardin Fraser was the first woman to design a U.S. commemorative coin, and her work is lauded in both numismatic and artistic circles. Ninety years after she intended for it to do so, her obverse design will fittingly take its place on the quarter.”

Inscriptions are “LIBERTY,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” and “2022.” The obverse design is common to all quarters issued in the series.

Authorized by Public Law 116-330, the American Women Quarters Program features coins with reverse (tails) designs emblematic of the accomplishments and contributions of trailblazing American women.

Beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025, the Mint will issue five quarters in each of these years. The ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse group of individuals honored through this program reflects a wide range of accomplishments and fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts.

The additional honorees in 2022 are physicist and first woman astronaut Dr. Sally Ride; Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and an activist for Native American and women’s rights; Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools; and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood, who achieved international success despite racism and discrimination.

Please consult with your local banks regarding availability of AWQ Program quarters honoring Maya Angelou in late January and early February.

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Activism

OP-ED: On Anniversary of Jan. 6 Insurrection, Rep. Lee Calls on Senate to Pass Voting Rights Legislation 

Across the nation, over 400 bills have been introduced suppressing the right to vote — from reducing polling hours and locations to allowing lawmakers to overturn a legitimate election result. And we know that voter suppression laws are not felt universally: these restrictions are particularly harmful to people of color, young people, the low-income, the disabled, those in rural areas, and other marginalized communities. 

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Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13)
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13)

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) released the following statement on the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection:

This time last year, I was hurrying down flights of stairs in the Capitol, thinking about how fortunate it was that I wore my tennis shoes, and praying that the angry mob of armed white supremacists didn’t know where we were going.

It was a traumatic day for the country. Trump’s egregiously false claims about election fraud culminated in a shocking attempt to overthrow our democracy.

Although the rioters ultimately failed to do so, the siege on our institutions is nowhere close to being over. By refusing to accept facts and spreading corrosive lies about election sabotage, Republicans are stoking the flames of dictatorship and authoritarian rule.

Across the nation, over 400 bills have been introduced suppressing the right to vote — from reducing polling hours and locations to allowing lawmakers to overturn a legitimate election result.

And we know that voter suppression laws are not felt universally: these restrictions are particularly harmful to people of color, young people, the low-income, the disabled, those in rural areas, and other marginalized communities.

By restricting their access to the ballot, their voices and calls for change are silenced.

Make no mistake: there is a crisis in our democracy.

The Senate must move quickly to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect free and fair elections in this country — even if it means abolishing the filibuster.

To quote the late Congressman Lewis, ‘the right to vote is precious, almost sacred.’ It is our constitutional and moral duty as elected officials to protect it.

This announcement is courtesy of Barbara Lee’s press office.

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Barbara Lee

IN MEMORIAM: Legendary Journalist Gail Berkley Dies at 74

East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee also remembered her longtime friend. “My prayers and condolences go to the family and loved ones of Gail Berkley-Armstrong. Gail was an institution in Bay Area journalism,” Lee said. “She wrote about and lifted up the Black community for decades, including as the editor of the Oakland Post and most recently at the Sun-Reporter.”

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Gail Berkley-Armstrong with husband Ray Armstrong
Gail Berkley-Armstrong with husband Ray Armstrong

She Worked for Black Press for Over 48 Years

By Evan Carlton Ward, San Francisco Sun-Reporter

Gail Cordelia Berkley-Armstrong, legendary awarding-winning Bay Area journalist and Sun-Reporter editor, has died after a lengthy illness. She was 74.

She was born Jan. 5, 1947, in Berkeley, California. She attended Berkeley public schools and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. She passed away peacefully in Oakland on Dec. 26, 2021, surrounded by family.

The veteran journalist was committed to the mission of the Black Press of America, whose motto is – “Too long have others spoken for us…we wish to plead our own cause.”

“I truly enjoy my work at the Sun-Reporter, helping to be sure the news and information important to the African American community is available to our readers each week,” she said. “It is critical that the voices, perspectives and opinions of our community, the leaders and citizens working for change have an outlet in the Bay Area. It is equally important to highlight the milestones and contributions of those too often left unrecognized in other media.”

Sun-Reporter Publisher and friend Amelia Ashley-Ward called Berkley-Armstrong a quiet genius, a loyal and faithful community servant and an exceptional writer. “Bringing Gail aboard as editor in 2005 was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. She was my rock and trusted sister friend. She was the best of Everything. I am totally lost without her. In grateful appreciation of her remarkable life and service, I will continue the struggle.”

Prior to joining the staff at the Sun-Reporter Publishing Company, Berkley-Armstrong was the longtime executive editor and assistant to the publisher of the Post Newspaper Group in Oakland. The Post Newspaper Group was founded by her late father, Attorney Thomas L. Berkley.

She was also committed to giving her time and talent to community organizations and served as president of the African Sister City Cultural Center, Inc. As president, she led the nonprofit organization in its mission to support the City of Oakland’s Sister City relationship with the twin cities Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana.

East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee also remembered her longtime friend.

“My prayers and condolences go to the family and loved ones of Gail Berkley-Armstrong. Gail was an institution in Bay Area journalism,” Lee said. “She wrote about and lifted up the Black community for decades, including as the editor of the Oakland Post and most recently at the Sun-Reporter.”

Congresswoman Lee added, “I spoke with her earlier this year on the centennial of the Tulsa massacre, and as always, her questions reflected her deep insight and her compassion for the subjects she covered. One of her many accomplishments was the sister city agreement between Oakland and Sekondi-Takoradi in Ghana, which helped to provide fresh water and sanitation to children there. My heart is with everyone who is mourning this loss. May she rest in peace and power.”

Berkley was also secretary of the Board of Directors of her church, Lakeside Temple of Practical Christianity in Oakland.

Berkley-Armstrong was co-founder of Cacao Branch Children’s Hospital, Oakland.

She served on several boards of directors of community-based organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Bay Area Urban League, Inc., Bay Area United Fund, Dimensions Dance Theater, Inc. and Black Adoption Placement and Research Center.

She was a founding member of New California Media (now New America Media). She also was a member of the Patrons of the Arts and Humanities of the Bay Area, The African American Museum and Library Coalition, and the Oakland Museum Cultural and Ethnic Affairs Guild’s Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Committee.

The community servant also served as a public relations and marketing consultant and editor for private clients.

Berkley-Armstrong has received many awards for her community work over the years. She received the Pioneer Award from New America Media, and recognition for community service by: State of California Legislature, City and County of San Francisco, Alameda County, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Allen Temple Baptist Church, East Bay Women’s Political Action Committee, Ebony Museum of California, Today’s Women, Inc., College Bounders Committee and the East Bay Area Club of the National Council of Negro Women.

After hearing of Berkley-Armstrong’s passing, former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. said “In the more than five decades of being written about in the press, nobody covered me more actively and objectively. Gail will be greatly missed.”

She loved traveling and meeting people of other cultures and nations. She toured Europe, Ghana, South America, Mexico, Jamaica, Cuba and other Caribbean nations. The journalist also visited the Ivory Coast, Malaysia, the Fiji Islands and Morocco.

As a child, she was exposed to the diversity of cultures within the Bay Area and beyond by her mother – the late Etta Jordan Hill, an educator and artist.

‘Both of my parents were trailblazers and courageous individuals who did not take ‘no’ for an answer. They were both role models for me. They taught by example how to meet challenges, and my mother made sure that my two sisters and I knew the importance of belief and faith in God,” Berkley-Armstrong stated.

She is survived by her husband, Ray Armstrong, sisters Theon C. King, Miriam Rhea Berkley, a host of other relatives, her Sun-Reporter Family and a grateful community.

A memorial service is pending.

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