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Barbara Lee

Congresswomen Lee, Bass Bills to Probe COINTELPRO; Remove Hoover’s Name from FBI Building

Calling the FBI’s activities and methods under Hoover “government-sponsored harassment,” Cohen said “COINTELPRO was not just violent and illegal. What made it so pernicious is it undermined our Constitution and democracy.”

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J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building photo courtesy of California Black Media

California’s U.S. Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) and Karen Bass (D-CA-37) are backing legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to remove former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Another bill they are supporting calls for probing the racially motivated counterintelligence programs that Hoover organized and oversaw known as COINTELPRO. Under Hoover’s watch, the FBI often relied on extra-legal tactics to accomplish its aims.

Last month, representatives Bobby L. Rush (D-IL-01), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) and Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) hosted a virtual forum focused on the activities of COINTELPRO. Several African Americans with direct knowledge of COINTELPRO programs testified, including 1960s activists Bobby Seale, Ericka Huggins. The widow of Fred Hampton, Akua Njeri, and their son Fred Hampton Jr. also testified.

COINTELPRO is the moniker used to describe a series of covert projects the FBI coordinated between 1956-1971. They were aimed at surveilling, infiltrating and disrupting several domestic political movements and individuals that the agency deemed subversive or critical of the United States. Targeted groups and individuals included the Communist Party USA, the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, anti-Vietnam war organizers, feminist organizations and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 2021 Oscar-nominated film “Judas and the Black Messiah” depicted the strategy COINTELPRO used to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, which led to the assassination of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton Sr.

The lawmakers hosting the virtual forum condemned the COINTELPRO programs and J. Edgar Hoover’s leadership over the operation and, more broadly, the FBI. Hoover was the first and founding director of the FBI and he ran the agency from 1935 until his death in 1972.

Hoover was also the head of the Bureau of Investigation, a government agency founded in 1924 and the forerunner to the FBI.

They are also calling for the uncovering of the still-classified history of COINTELPRO.

Calling the FBI’s activities and methods under Hoover “government-sponsored harassment,” Cohen said “COINTELPRO was not just violent and illegal. What made it so pernicious is it undermined our Constitution and democracy.”

While the forum was mostly focused on testimonies, Lee stressed the need to learn about the past COINTELPRO operations in case similar efforts are used again in the future. She cited the FBI’s “Black identity extremism” report, which was written by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit in 2017, and claimed that “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans” had spurred “an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement.” Lee criticized the idea of a “Black identity extremist,” saying that such a thing “did not exist.”

“This was another way for the FBI to surveil the Black community. So, we must be vigilant now, this briefing is so important, because we all have to understand what a COINTELPRO 2 looks like now,” Lee said.

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Celebrates Birthday at Mills College

Lee’s celebration took place at Mills College Student Union, where, in part, Lee’s political career began.

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Maurice Arnold with Rep. Barbara Lee at a birthday party on the Mills College campus.

On July 24, Congresswoman Barbara Lee returned to her alma mater, Mills College, for a dual engagement.  As the guest of honor, she conducted a local meet-and-greet among special guests, friends and supporters and she also belatedly celebrated her belated, which was on July 6.

Mills College Lokey School of Business and Public Policy hosted the event for Lee.  The   special guests included Oakland’s Councilmember Treva Reid, District 7; BART Boardmember, Lateefah Simon, District 7, Candidate Mia Bonta, AD-18, Post Newspaper Group Publisher Paul Cobb and many more.

Lee’s celebration took place at Mills College Student Union, where, in part, Lee’s political career began.  Her political future was decisively shaped when she took a government course that required her to participate in a presidential campaign. “I invited Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, to speak at Mills, and learned that she was running for president,” Lee recalls. “I helped organize her Northern California campaign, and I registered to vote for the first time . . . and the rest is history.”

Whether standing alone as the sole congressional vote against a blank check for endless war, authoring legislation on ending the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, or representing the U.S. House of Representatives in the United Nations General Assembly, Lee carries her Mills education with her. “Mills instilled me with the confidence I needed to achieve my goals,” she says.

Accordingly, we say happy belated birthday and much success to Team Barbara.

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Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee Applauds 2nd Round of Workforce Funding from COVID Community Care Act Legislation

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

Announced on July 27, these awards are funded with resources from provisions within the American Rescue Plan Act that Lee led through her COVID Community Care Act.  This reflects the second of two funding opportunities announced in May 2021 for community-based efforts to hire and mobilize community outreach workers, community health workers, social support specialists, and others to increase vaccine access for the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities through high-touch, on-the-ground outreach to educate and assist individuals in getting the information they need about vaccinations.

The first round of funding, which was administered in June, included an $11 million award to the Public Health Institute in Oakland and a $9.5 million award to the Association of Asian/Pacific Community Health Organizations in Berkeley. Three Oakland based organizations, the Public Health Institute, Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases, and Safe Passages, are recipients of this round of funding, bringing the total funding brought to organizations in CA-13 to nearly $23 million.

“We are facing another inflection point in this pandemic. We must make meaningful investments in getting everyone vaccinated—especially communities of color and medically underserved communities,” said Lee.  “I worked hard in Congress to invest in trusted messengers at the community level to build confidence in vaccines and COVID-19 prevention efforts. This is a much-needed continuation of that work, and we’ll see over a million dollars of investment on the ground in our own East Bay community.

“Our Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Native American member Congresswoman Sharice Davids, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott and Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro deserve credit for their hard work and support in getting this across the finish line in the American Rescue Plan.  We can see that the work of House Democrats is making a real-life impact on the ground for communities.  This is an important step, but we must continue our work to dismantle systemic racism in our public health system and ensure that vaccines are equitably and adequately distributed.”

The purpose of this program is to establish, expand, and sustain a public health workforce to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.  This includes mobilizing community outreach workers, which includes community health workers, patient navigators, and social support specialists to educate and assist individuals in accessing and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.  

This includes activities such as conducting face-to-face outreach and reaching out directly to community members to educate them about the vaccine, assisting individuals in making a vaccine appointment, providing resources to find convenient vaccine locations, assisting individuals with transportation or other needs to get to a vaccination site.

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Congresswoman Barbara Lee Votes to Protect the Health of California Families, Clean Up Dangerous PFAS Chemicals

The bill also creates new, robustly funded grants and partnerships to help states with clean-up and remediation efforts.  To prevent future contamination, the bill introduces stricter limits on PFAS pollution and the introduction of new PFAS chemicals, as well tougher testing, reporting and monitoring requirements.

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Doctor with a stethoscope photo courtesy Online Marketing via Unsplash

On July 22,  Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) voted to protect California families from exposure to dangerous chemicals with the PFAS Action Act of 2021.  This legislation will clean up these “forever chemicals,” which pose a direct threat to public health, and introduce stronger protections against future pollution.

“For too long these chemicals have been allowed to linger in our communities as big corporations put their profits before people,” said Lee. “Environmental justice is a racial justice and economic justice issue. Our children and families deserve safe water to drink, air to breathe and food to eat. As Democrats in Congress work to Build Back Better from this crisis, this landmark bill is a critical step toward ensuring every community can enjoy a cleaner, safer future.”

PFAS chemicals represent a serious public health risk to nearly all Americans, as the CDC has reported that nearly every American has PFAS in their blood.  These chemicals have exposed countless men, women and children to life-threatening illness and disease, including multiple forms of cancer, liver disease, asthmas, thyroid dysfunction, infertility and impaired child development.

A new study published recently shows that, based on EPA data, an estimated 30,000 industrial sites are known or suspected of using toxic PFAS: 12 times what had been previously estimated.  American servicemembers and their families are also at particular risk of exposure, as more than 400 U.S. military sites are known to have PFAS contamination.

By passing the PFAS Action Act, the House makes important progress toward cleaning up our communities and holding contaminating companies accountable for their pollution, Lee said.  This legislation designates the two most studied PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances by the EPA and sets a deadline for the EPA to make designation decisions about all other PFAS chemicals – which has been a key barrier to cleaning up industrial and military sites.

The bill also creates new, robustly funded grants and partnerships to help states with clean-up and remediation efforts.  To prevent future contamination, the bill introduces stricter limits on PFAS pollution and the introduction of new PFAS chemicals, as well tougher testing, reporting and monitoring requirements.

House Democrats fought hard to include the PFAS Action Act’s critical funding and provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act two years ago, but Senate Republicans stripped these measures from the NDAA before it was signed into law.

Last year, House Democrats passed the PFAS Action Act of 2019 on a strong bipartisan vote – but the bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate. The House passed this important legislation on another strong bipartisan vote and it now heads to the Democratic Senate for consideration.

Alex Katz is communications director for Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

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