“I am a fighter; I cannot be intimidated.”
For over 40 years, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D), who represents California’s 43rd Congressional District, has fought for marginalized groups and communities like African Americans, women, families and the poor.
Now, less than 20 days away from the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, Waters, who is running for reelection, reminds us that there’s more work to be done and she’s putting on her boxing gloves and stepping into the ring to finish.
“I’m known as a fighter,” said Waters.
“I have a national reputation as a fighter. I fight for justice and equality. I fight for the least of these. I fight for poor people. I fight for women. I fight for African Americans who have been discriminated against all of our lives. I fight to make sure that the government of the United States of America addresses the issues that impact our lives.”
Rising into bold leadership
Before her career in politics, Waters worked as an assistant teacher and volunteer coordinator for the Head Start program in Watts. During her time there, she encouraged frustrated parents to make federal budget requests and motivated them to contact their local legislatures for funding.
Waters’ work with Head Start sparked her involvement in local politics. So in 1973, she began working as the chief deputy for former City Councilmember David Cunningham. Three short years later, she was elected to the California State Assembly, where she served for 14 years.
It was there that Congresswoman Waters gained visibility as an influential leader after becoming the Democratic Caucus Chair. This position led to the approval of the boldest legislation in California’s history like the landmark affirmative action legislation, the nation’s first statewide Child Abuse Prevention Training Program; the prohibition of police strip searches for nonviolent misdemeanors; and the introduction of the nation’s first plant closure law.
Following her tenure in the State Assembly, Waters was elected to the 29th Congressional District of California, where she held the seat from 1991-1993. After the 1992 Civil Unrest, Waters didn’t turn her back on the Black community. Instead, she made another bold move by being one of the first politicians to bring government officials and policymakers to the South Central L.A. to see firsthand the needs of residents.
Later, she served the 35th Congressional District of California from 1993-2013 and the 43rd Congressional District of California from 2013-present.
In 2011, she became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services, which oversees the nation’s financial services sectors related to banking, insurance, real estate, public and assisted housing securities.
In 2019, she broke through glass ceilings and became the first woman and African American to serve as the chair of the Financial Services Committee. She also serves as a member of the Steering & Policy Committee and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She is the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, and member and past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Outside of the office, Waters’ passion for public policy and advocacy is seen through her active roles in the community as she confronts poverty, economic development, equal justice under the law, housing developments, healthcare, and youth issues. Waters is also the co-founder of the L.A.-based nonprofit organization Black Women’s Forum, Project Build, and the founding member and former chair of the ‘Out of Iraq’ Congressional Caucus. The congresswoman is also responsible for the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center, which offers workforce development for community members.
Tackling the Coronavirus, homelessness, education, criminal justice, and more.
Waters’ track record proves that she has been anything but a seat-filler. She has and always will be a voice for the people and a fighter for justice.
As she sets her eyes on reelection for California’s 43rd Congressional District against her opponent, Republican candidate Joe Collins, she wants voters to be clear about her objectives and campaign platform.
If elected, among the issues Waters plans to tackle is healthcare, specifically Obamacare. For the first time, the healthcare act will prevent insurance companies from denying individuals health insurance because of pre-existing conditions due to the lack of healthcare access.
The lack of healthcare is an issue that is all too familiar to Waters’ given her personal background.
Waters, the fifth of thirteen children, raised by a single mother in St. Louis, Missouri, reflects on her childhood. She recalls growing up in poverty and witnessing the death of families and friends due to the lack of access to healthcare.
“I know what poverty is all about. I understand the devastation that has happened particularly with African Americans but with poor people in general,” said Waters.
“So, I am adamantly opposed to any policies that continue to subjugate people to that kind of harm, death, and discrimination. I’ll fight against it.”
On an international front, Waters continues to combat poverty, racism, and discrimination. Throughout her time in office, she worked with former South African President Nelson Mandela and his then-wife, activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Waters has also been responsible for providing other countries like Haiti and Jamaica with resources and reformed their policies.
For years, Waters has fought back against fraudulent post-secondary schools that target young adults, interfering with their quality of life. She also ensures that community colleges receive the funding they need and deserve to support their students. This election season, she made a promise to continue those efforts.
Other widely discussed issues are the criminal justice system and the impact police brutality has on African Americans’ livelihood. Although the country has witnessed many senseless killings against unarmed Black men and women, Waters reminds voters of the progress made.
The congresswoman is responsible for confronting former LAPD Chief Daryl F. Gates abolishing the chokehold practiced by law enforcement, getting rid of battering rams used by officers to break in homes, and eliminating the targeting of African American men being stripped search.
Throughout the election, voters have expressed their concerns about homelessness across America. This is an item that Waters is well aware of and that she has been working on since the beginning of the pandemic.
Earlier this year, stimulus checks were distributed to individuals and families due to the effects the pandemic had on the nation. Additionally, frontline workers received the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, to safely do their jobs and support the public. Many small business owners who were at risk of closing their doors, remain open thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Waters worked on securing funding for each of these programs, and because of her work, cities are standing tall against the pandemic.
Her work on helping the nation navigate the new normal doesn’t stop there. Waters has another plan in motion. Currently, the congresswoman has a $13 billion legislation known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, pending in the House that she believes will end homelessness. This act would help renters avoid eviction, prevent landlords from losing their property, and respond to the Coronavirus’s impact on the economy, businesses, and public health. In addition, the HEROES Act will expand and modify a wide range of policies.
During the interview, Waters spoke about her opponent Collins and President Donald Trump.
“Here I am doing all of this work, and they send a young Black Republican into my district with $4 million with the support of this President and the Republican Party. We’re going to have to fight. We have to fight against being overtaken with money and false promises,” said Waters.
During these uncertain times, Black America needs leadership it can trust—a fearless leader like Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
“I have a wealth of knowledge and passion that’s based on experience knowing that if you fight, you can win,” she said.
“But if you don’t fight, you’ll never know that you can solve some of these problems. That’s what my dedication is all about—fairness, justice, equality, and the struggle and the fight it takes to get there.”
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L.A. Sentinel reporter Kimberlee Buck Hayes contributed to this article.