August 15: Happy Birthday to Congresswoman Maxine Waters — The Most Powerful Black Woman in Politics

0 Posted by - August 15, 2020 - Birthdays

Born on August 15, 1938, U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (pictured) was one of thirteen children in a poor family living in a housing project near St Louis, Missouri.

She credits her childhood for making her who she is today—competitive, outspoken, and determined. “Just getting heard in a family that size is difficult,” Waters explained in Ebony Magazine.

Waters’ mother, Velma Moore Carr, struggled to support her family by working intermittently at a series of low-paying jobs augmented by welfare. Waters described her mother in Ebony as “a strong woman” and “survivor,” whose determination served as an inspiration to her.

Although Waters’s high school yearbook had predicted that one day she would be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Waters found that possibility to be extremely remote. After graduating from high school, she married and had two children.

In 1960 the family moved to Los Angeles, where Waters worked at a few menial jobs before taking an opportunity to organize a Head Start program in the suburb of Watts. 

Head Start made a significant difference in my life. It helped me see how I could help people, and it helped steer me into politics,” Waters stated in Essence Magazine.

Waters got her start in politics as the chief deputy to Los Angeles city councilman David Cunningham. She managed Councilman Cunningham’s campaigns and was actively involved in the campaigns of Senator Alan Cranston and former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley.

She gained a reputation for superb legislative ability and determination. Although her move into state politics was natural, it was also a rough transition. Because some of her colleagues regarded her as a maverick, Waters found all sorts of roadblocks when she arrived at the California State Assembly. 

“My early struggles in the Assembly came from this perception they had of the black woman coming from Los Angeles who needed to be taught a lesson,” Waters once told Ebony Magazine.

Waters was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991. In 1992, as Los Angeles was rocked with rioting following the verdict in Rodney King’s beating case, she founded Community Build, the city’s grassroots rebuilding project.

In recent years, Waters has been a vocal opponent of the War in Iraq, forming the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus in 2005, for which she is the founding member and former chair.

In 2012, Waters was elected to her 12th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. She serves as the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services and is also a member of the Steering & Policy Committee and Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Additionally, Congresswoman Waters is a member and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“Too many Black politicians want to be in the mainstream. My power comes from the fact that I am ready to talk about Black people…Everybody deserves a good quality of life,” Waters once said, according to Encyclopedia.com

“There is too great a divide between the haves and the have-nots, and I believe I can do something to change that,” she continued.

Sources: B. Middleton/BET Network (BET.com) and Columbia Encyclopedia (Encyclopedia.com)

1 Comment

  • James R Bush August 15, 2020 - 1:35 pm Reply

    Firebrand For Democracy

    Maxine Waters took flak, not only from Trump and his base but from some of her fellow Democrats as well. While Donald Trump and his miscreant followers spewed every kind of ugly invective at anyone and everyone they don’t like or agree with, many of Maxine’s supposed allies complained about her support for those who call-out members of Trump’s administration in restaurants and elsewhere.

    And while Trump, unencumbered by political correctness, propriety, or any kind of probity continues to incite his base with slurs and insults aimed at Democrats, liberals, the media and any other person, group, or institution that he wants to degrade and delegitimize, those like Maxine Waters, who are willing to exhibit ‘courage under fire’ and ‘fight fire with fire’ are being told that she and the rest of us should not do as Trump and his base do.

    We are being told by those who don’t want to face where we are and where we’re headed, that this isn’t who we, as Americans, are. I’m sorry, folks, but this is who we are and where we are. We are Americans in a struggle with a president who is a threat to our republic and the constitution that guides it. And we’re in a struggle with our fellow Americans who are willing to follow him. We’re in a struggle that is tantamount to a civil war without the shooting, and who knows if and when the shooting will start?

    Some of Trump’s followers kept saying that the shooting would start if the Mueller investigation tried to take him down. We don’t know how serious they were, because, so far, AG Barr has refused to release the full, un-redacted Mueller report to Congress, and, aside from issuing unenforced subpoenas, House Democrats, and others, continue to hold on to the idea that we can and should keep being civil. We are past being civil. And some of us, like Maxine Waters, know this. We were probably past being civil when Trump started implying that Obama was not born in the United States. But we’re most certainly past being civil now.

    Some said that Maxine Waters was playing into Trump’s hands by giving Trump and his followers a taste of their own medicine. In truth, it is those Democrats and liberals who turned on Maxine Waters that played into Trump’s hands. Trump knows that we Democrats and liberals are notoriously conflicted about fighting dirty. And he knows that the best way to divide Democrats is to play on our sense of moral outrage and political correctness. This is something he has used against Democrats and liberals from the beginning, and his base loves it. They are unrestrained by what restrains democrats and liberals, and they have the blessing of their leader. In the meantime, we Democrats and liberals turn on each other, and we have no strong unifying leader in sight.

    We need to start listening to the likes of a firebrand for Democracy like Maxine Waters. We need to unite and fight. We need to stop trying to be nice to people who have no interest in being nice or in being civil to us. They don’t like us and they never will. They don’t like us because we’re everything that they feel threatened by. They don’t like what we stand for or the future that we represent. And unless we’re willing to give up who we are and the future we hope for, then we must fight them with everything we’ve got. We must be willing to fight fire with fire, and we must be willing to fight to win.

    Those who continue to call for us to be understanding of Trump’s base, need to remember that in any kind of social conflict there are winners and losers. This may be a sad truth but it is the truth, nonetheless. In a Democracy, one hopes that the greatest good for the greatest number can be achieved. But there will always be those who feel neglected or left behind, especially when change, even change that moves the country towards a more perfect union, is the kind of change that they find hard to accept. This is especially true when change means that some peoples’ most cherished beliefs and prejudices must be left behind. And this is even truer if their dominant status in society is threatened.

    It would be nice if the Trump folks who feel left behind or threatened could be persuaded to come along peacefully. But sometimes the resistance to change by those who can’t accept it is too great, especially if they have been able, through questionable means, to elect to power a demagogic leader who plays on their fears and biases, and tells them that their enemy is other Americans and the traditional institutions of the republic. When this happens, as it has, all the rest of us can do is fight. All we can do now is fight hard to protect the values and traditions of our republic from those among us who now threaten them.

    And if this travesty of human decency has not yet convinced you that Trump and his administration do not deserve our civility then I don’t know what will: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItWweMVi41s

    JRB

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