NAJEE’S NOTES: The Karen Bass that I know

By Najee Ali, Contributing Writer

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, will announce his selection for vice president next week and that is why this writer took the initiative to organize a coalition of African-American s civil rights activists and civic leaders from Los Angeles to send him a letter supporting U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, as his nominee for vice president.

In our letter to Biden, we stated that they we all are appalled by the ongoing attacks on Bass for her humanitarian and medical-related visits to Cuba over the years. We were particularly incensed that this is even n issue.

Former President Barack Obama and Biden endorsed and pushed vigorously for diplomatic, trade and travel relations with Cuba. They held fruitful and productive talks with the Castro regime to ensure that happened.

The U.S., despite the Trump administration threats, continues to have positive trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba as has Canada and all Western European nations for decades.

“Our coalition of leaders has the upmost respect for all the women in contention,” our letter said. “They all have tremendous credentials. But Karen Bass, whose experience as a longtime community organizer in the tradition of former President Obama, is what our nation desperately needs.

“In the wake of the George Floyd slaying, an overwhelming majority of Americans now support police reform and racial justice. Bass has been a vigorous fighter for racial and social justice for four decades. She, more than any other elected official, typifies the sentiment of most Americans for racial justice,” the letter continued.

“Bass and her work as a then organizer and founder of the Community Coalition in helping rebuild South Central L.A. after the civil unrest in 1992 and in the decades after is legendary. Bass represents the best in activism and longtime human rights advocacy. Her activism, vast legislative experience, and appeal as a Black woman, progressive and activist make her unbeatable as Biden’s VP pick.”

And that is how I ended the letter to Biden, which was signed by more than 50 prominent civic leaders, including Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Robert Sausedo and Sikivu Hutchinson.

Bass is one of the best friends you could ever have. When I was released from prison for witness tampering, a crime I was innocent of, Bass was at my welcome home reception.

When I was incarcerated, Bass visited me as she has done with other activists. Thirty years ago, when I was broke and struggling with my nonprofit. Bass wrote a $100,000 grant and used her relationships to secure it for me. She could have kept that $100,000 for her own nonprofit, the Community Coalition. Instead she helped me when I needed it the most.

Now how many of you have friends that will give you $100,000 and not keep it for themselves? I know who Karen Bass really is. Our nation needs a Karen Bass as vice president, someone who genuinely cares about people and her community.

I am proud that she is my big sister and that is how she looks at all of us, like we are her kid brothers. Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson came through the Community Coalition under her watch and she mentored him, too.

Bass is one of our greatest leaders and a better friend. That is the Karen Bass I know.