‘Keep the Seat:’

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Governor asked to appoint Black woman senator to replace Harris

By Shirley Hawkins

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Representatives of several Black women’s groups gathered in front of the Ronald Reagan State Building downtown Dec. 15 urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint a Black woman to replace Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate.

The women gathered at the rally had two specific candidateds in mind: South Los Angeles’ own Rep. Karen Bass or Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland.

A smilar rally was held simultaneously in Sacramento.

“Kamala Harris is one of the most progressive members of the U. S. Senate,”  said rally moderator Molly Watson, a board member of the Black Women’s Democratic Club. “We feel that her seat should be filled with another African-American candidate who will stand up for all communities, not just our own.”

Rally organizers said Newsom has been sent a letter with 250 signatures urging him to fill the seat with another Black woman, but he hasn’t responded yet.

According to media reports, Newsom has compiled a short list of candidates he is considering for the seat and both Bass and lee areon the list. Also on the list are Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a former Los Angeles city councilman and a state legislator.

“The goal is to get the governor to listen to us to let him know that Black women are underrepresented and about to be erased from the U. S. Senate,” Watson said. “We wanted to have a meeting with the governor but there has been no response. We lifted him up and turned out the vote for the presidential election and we feel we deserve to keep our seat at the table.”

Elected in 2016, Harris is only the second Black women to serve in the U.S. Senate. Carol Moseley Braun was the first Black woman senator, elected in 1992 to represent Illinois.

Speaking at the local rally, Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, said that “What Kamala Harris represented in the U. S. Senate was not only leadership in the Senate, but Black leadership for the entire country. When we say keep the seat, what we want is not  just about Kamala Harris, it’s about representing all of us nationally.

“We want to authentically represent our community and advance our agenda. When you look at the leadership of Barbara Lee and Karen Bass, we are talking about the most courageous, visionary and authentic women.”

“We are asking for leadership that will work from day one, said Norbese Flint, executive director of the Black Women for Wellness Action Project. “We just want Newsom to do the right thing by appointing a progressive Black woman to the U. S. Senate.”

A few men also spoke at the rally, showing solidarity with the women’s groups.

Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said “Black women support everybody and support everything. They should be represented in the Senate.”

Alberto Retana, CEO of the Community Coalition, also spoke. “My heart is full and my heart is ready,” he said. “I’m with you all the way and there are other Latinos that will stand with you as well.”

Thembekila Crystal Coleman-Smart, senior pastor of the Christ Liberation Ministries and executive director of the Women of the Southern Christian Leadership Council, delivered a spirited invocation, saying “We are here today as sisters, Black women standing together, and we know when we Black women show up, we show out.”

She invoked the names or Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Coretta Scott King, Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer in her prayer, adding, “we ask for divine assignments over this appointment.”

Attending the rally were members of Black Women for Wellness Action Project, the Black Woman Democratic Club, the African American Caucus, the Community Coalition, the SEIU National African American Caucus and the Los Angeles African American Women’s Political Party.

“It’s only fitting and appropriate to put another qualified woman in that seat,” said said Tonia McMillian, a member of the Black Women’s Democratic Club. “That’s why I’m here today, to stand up for what’s right and what’s good for America.”

Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at metropressnews@gmail.com.