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Barbara Lee

Reps. Lee and Watson Coleman Call on International Swimming Federation to Change Policy on Swim Caps for Natural Hair

Joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and cosponsors of H.R. 2116, the CROWN Act, the signers request FINA evaluate how barriers to participation, like the unavailability of swim caps, impact the representation of Black swimmers.

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A girl swimmer at starting point photo courtesy of Arisa Chattasa via Unsplash

On July 15, congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) shared a letter sent to the president of the International Swimming Federation (FINA) in response to the rejection of the use of swim caps designed for natural Black hair in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

 

Joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and cosponsors of H.R. 2116, the CROWN Act, the signers request FINA evaluate how barriers to participation, like the unavailability of swim caps, impact the representation of Black swimmers.

 

“We write to you to express our concern with your rationale for rejecting the use of swim caps designed for natural Black hair in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics,” the members wrote. “It creates an unnecessary, exclusionary barrier to competitive swimming for under-represented minorities, particularly people of African descent with Afro-textured or natural hairstyle. It is unfair and unequal.”

 

“Black women face natural hair discrimination each and every day in the workplace, and now we’re seeing it on the world athletic stage,” said Lee. “There is no justification whatsoever to ban swim caps, which serve as an essential accessory for people with natural hair texture. This is an incredibly clear example of the ways in which systemic racism impacts every facet of life for black people, especially black women. We are urging that FINA take steps to reform this discriminatory policy and align themselves with the intended spirit of inclusion and diversity the Olympic games represent.”

 

“Women of the African diaspora have notably been the overwhelming recipients of bias and discriminatory policies that have challenged the very definition of what is deemed “natural” and therefore acceptable,” said Watson Coleman. “The decision and justification by the International Swimming Federation to ban the use of swim caps that accommodate the natural hair texture and/or hairstyles of Black women is not only insulting, inconsiderate, and irrational; but consequently, serves as a deterrent in participation for Black swimmers. The natural state of one’s hair should never be a limitation for participation. It is my hope that FINA takes immediate and robust steps to improve their policies to better align with the goals of inclusivity and representation.”   

 

Joining representatives Watson Coleman and Lee are Karen Bass (D-CA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Danny Davis (D-IL), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Nikema Williams (D-GA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Andre Carson (D-IN), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Jahana Hayes (D-CT).

 

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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Barbara Lee

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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