By Verbal Adam | OBSERVER Correspondent
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-12) recently took her campaign for Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat to Fixin’s Restaurant and told local Black leaders what she plans to accomplish. Sen. Feinstein announced last month that she would not seek reelection in 2024.
Barbara Lee is a well-known political figure, having served as a U.S. Representative from California for 25 years. Her political career has been marked by her advocacy for social justice and her commitment to ending poverty, homelessness and inequality.
“The first thing I’m going to do is try to help people to stay in their home,” Lee told local leaders. “The majority of people who are unsheltered, you see them living on the streets now with their couches and their sofas and their chairs, and that’s because they’ve been evicted.
“So we’ve got to get some kind of eviction-preventive measures that are fair to the landlords but [also] fair to people so they don’t have to be kicked out on the street. It’s got to be public housing and safe housing where people can get the services they need. But then we have to find them a permanent place so they don’t end up back on the street, which means we’ve got to have more affordable housing.”
The congresswoman recalled her own experience: “I bought my first house for $19,425. I was on welfare and there was a program for people like me. I was on public assistance when I was in college and was able to raise two little boys. And I was able to do all that because there was a program … that allowed people like me to buy a house on welfare while I was going to school to make a better life for my kids and my family. We’ve got to have, as part of an overall housing policy, a way that people can have a home regardless of their income.”
Lee attended Mills College, where she earned a degree in psychology, and later received a master’s degree in social work from UC Berkeley. She began her career in public service as a community activist, working with organizations that advocated for the rights of the poor and the homeless.
She was first elected to Congress in 1998, representing California’s 9th District. She quickly established herself as a leader on issues related to social justice and civil rights, and gained national attention for her opposition to the Iraq War. In 2001 Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against giving President George W. Bush broad authority to use military force against any country or organization that he deemed responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Lee has been a strong advocate for marginalized communities, particularly those affected by poverty and homelessness. She has introduced numerous legislation aimed at addressing these issues, including bills to increase access to affordable housing and to support homeless veterans. She also has been a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter and has called for greater accountability for law enforcement officers who use excessive force against people of color.
Lee’s numerous awards and honors include the NAACP Image Award, the United Nations Global Citizen Award and the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. She also has been named one of the 100 most powerful women in Congress by Time magazine and the House’s third most progressive member by GovTrack.
Lee has long been a powerful voice in Congress, and her leadership on issues related to poverty and homelessness has earned her widespread support. Should she win in 2024, she will be the only Black woman in the Senate and the first elected since Kamala Harris.