IBW21 PAUD Meeting: More with Karen Bass, Chair of the CBC

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Congress Member Karen Bass

By Maitefa Angaza

In last week’s issue we shared some of the enlightened voices raised and salient points made at the recent Annual Malcolm X Commemorative Session of the Pan-African Unity Dialogue (PAUD). There was so much information given, rich reflection and dialogue, however, that we promised to do a Part Two. To refresh readers memories, the PAUD is an initiative of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW21, an organization founded by Daniels. This special meeting was conducted and received in the spirit of Malcolm who, at the time that he was killed was working to establish unity between Africans on the Continent and in the Diaspora.

Many of the questions were for Congress Member Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. She was presented with so many meaty questions that there was not time to answer all. But following are a few of the exchanges with her.

Milton Allimadi, publisher of the Black Star News, spoke of two diametrically opposed influences: Malcolm and Museveni.

“Brother Malcolm in 1964 attended the OAU. He got to meet African leaders [such as] Nassar, Nkrumah, Nyerere, because he knew the importance of linking the Continent with the Diaspora and I think that’s when he really became a threat to the U.S. system.

“My question is on Uganda and Gen. Museveni and the fact that there are U.S. administrations whether Democrat or Republican, that have actually helped to sustain his tyrannical regime for such a long time. And then the recent brutalization of members of Parliament. 

“I think the African continent has lost so much in this contestation of political power that it will not be able to achieve anything close to what Nkrumah dreamed of in terms of Africa’s realized potential.” leaders, including General Museveni?”

Others had questions such as:

“What can we do to ensure that these relationships [African and African Diasporan] counter some of our [U.S.] policies that have been more detrimental?” 

Another attendee reacted to a heads-up from the Congress Member. 

“Thank you breaking this explosive news that President Trump is going to pardon Marcus Garvey!” he said. “And what would that really mean for you and for us? Is Donald Trump going to alleviate this suffering, when Julius Garvey, his son, has for eight years not been able to get the Obama administration to do it?”

A question from someone else:

“How do you see the lack of forces the lack of pressure, the lack of serial action from Africans in the Diaspora and African Americans to wade into legislation impacting Africa?”  

Hmm. Lots of food for thought.

Congress Member Bass was thoughtful in her responses, given the time available.

 “Thank you for your questions and let me just start, kind of at the end.  I’m most certainly not going to sit here and defend U.S. policies in a number of different places. It has always been hypocritical. The difference now is that it’s hypocritical AND nonsensical. We don’t know what the policy is going to be from one minute to the next. 

AFRICom is based in Shtugart, Germany, because no African leader would accept it being based on the continent of Africa. When Mali fell, the Malians had to go to the French to ask the French to come and help so… and please correct me if I’m wrong, but if the African Union had the capacity, it would have helped in Mali. It hurt my heart to go over to Mali and see the French, but they also wanted us to come over as well, and so we came over in the form of training, not soldiers fighting, but training to help.  

My background didn’t lead me to supporting U.S, corporations. In terms of the horn of Africa and military bases, I know that’s a real issue… I would love to call some of you as witnesses if you would be willing to come.  You should let me know if you’d like to or would like to propose hearing topics, please let us know.   

I started holding African policy breakfasts because when I first got to Congress. The Africans would be sitting in the audience while we’re talking about their countries and that was so offensive to me! So, we started having Africa policy breakfast, where we invited the whole community. Because the Capitol…  we built that darn building! Our ancestors! And it should be open to all of us. I do the annual Congressional Black Caucus Week; I do the Africa Brain Trust and we are always looking ideas about what to do. And we kind of follow the traditional format. We typically invite a head of state and we have panels, but we don’t have to do any of that and we’d be very open to your ideas.

I want to point out that the Congressional Black Caucus now has 55 Black members and we chair five committees. Twenty of us chair various subcommittees. Congressman Cummings heads the judiciary committee, and I’m on that committee, so criminal justice reform is another major area that I plan to be involved in. The committee covers crime and terrorism and we got some terrorism! Four acts of domestic terrorism took place before the election. But it never gets called that. And yet, the FBI has this document they call ‘Black Identity Extremism,’ where they talk about Black people being terrorists. And you and I lived through COINTELPRO, so to me this is COINTELPRO 2, and we need to do everything we can to sop that.”