Congressional Black Caucus Adorned Their Outfits with Kente Cloth Patterns in ‘Solidarity’ with Africa
Geoff Earle, Daily Mail, January 31, 2018
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus staged a silent protest to President Trump’s infamous ‘s***hole’ comments by sporting African patterns to his first State of the Union speech.
Democrats were already wearing black as a nod to the ‘#MeToo’ movement. But when Black Caucus members took to their seats in the House chamber before Trump’s speech, most if not all of them were sporting brightly colored kente cloth and varied African patterns.
Democratic Rep. James C. Clyburn of South Carolina, a leading CBC members and member of leadership, sported a kente cloth tie. Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas opted for a wide piece of fabric that went over her shoulder.
‘I hope it was a pointed statement to those that will see this as a symbol of respect,’ said Jackson Lee.
She said she believes her kente cloth was from Ghana. ‘It was recently brought back for me,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘I’m wearing this to show my solidarity with the continent of Africa, and especially with those countries that the president demeaned, defamed, by indicating they were s-hole or s-house countries,’ said Democratic Rep. Al Green of Texas.
‘I’m wearing it to show that solidarity, and to let the president know that I disapprove of his statements and his behavior.’
Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia wore both a tie and a scarf with a brightly-colored orange pattern.
The patterns, which originally hail from Ghana, are associated with black pride and civil rights movements.
The lawmakers mostly opted for seats in the bank of seats in the center of the left side of the chamber, grouping themselves closely together and insuring their silent protest would be visible on television. Most congregated in five adjacent rows.
When Trump made a grand entrance into the chamber, some CBC members stood, along with every Republican and many Democrats.
But Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver of Missouri, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, and others opted to sit during the extended applause for Trump.
Likewise, they didn’t stand when Trump hailed African American unemployment being at a ‘record low.’ The lawmakers have countered that the drop began under President Obama.
The lawmakers, along with other Democrats, bristled after the Washington Post reported that Trump had railed against immigration from ‘s***hole countries’ in Africa and Haiti.
Trump denied making the comment. His homeland security chief, Kirstjen Nielsen, testified that she couldn’t remember him making the comment, saying only that he’d used ‘tough language.’
Trump wants to end ‘diversity visas’ which award immigration status via lottery that he has compared to a televised lottery with ping pong balls.
He has urged more immigration from Norway, a country Nielsen said he praised for its ‘hardworking’ population. Democrats blasted the comment as racist.
Hours before the State of the Union address, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gathered together her fellow Democratic women — and some men too — for a photo-op, as they showed off their black outfits for tonight.
The lawmakers were taking a page from the women of Hollywood, who sported black gowns to the Golden Globes to pay homage to the ‘Me Too’ and ‘Time’s Up’ movements.
The Democrats followed the lead of Oprah Winfrey too, who had brought up the rape and subsequent activism of the late Recy Taylor.
For the State of the Union, the lawmakers sported pink ‘RECY’ pins too.
The African-American Taylor, who died last month at the age of 97, was gang-raped in Alabama as a young wife and mother by six white men.
She took her case to the NAACP, where she was helped out by Rosa Parks, then just a young investigator.
‘But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted,’ Winfrey said in her Golden Globes speech. ‘I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on,’ the media mogul added.
While an all-white male jury refused to indict her attackers, Taylor’s 1944 rape case helped inspire the civil rights movement.
Beyond the pins and black clothes Pelosi, according to Politico, thought the wardrobe revolt was enough of a message, as she also instructed her members not to walk out of the speech or make a commotion.
‘Let the attention be on his slobbering self,’ Pelosi said of President Trump, who delivers his first official State of the Union tonight. ‘If you walk out, don’t come in.’
A handful of Democratic members opted to do the latter with Rep. Frederica Wilson kicking off State of the Union eve yesterday by explaining why she wouldn’t attend the affair.
‘I’m not going because to do would be to honor the president, and I don’t think he deserves to be honored at this time,’ the Florida Democrat said on CNN. ‘After being so hateful toward black people and then black countries, Haiti and the whole continent of Africa, it hurts, it hurts, and he has brought the White House to the lowest, and I don’t think he needs to be honored with my presence,’ she went on.
Wilson is not alone in making tomorrow night’s State of the Union speech, Trump’s first, into a political point.
‘In good conscience, I can not and will not sit there and listen at him as he gives the State of the Union Address,’ Lewis said then.
That’s when Wilson originally announced she would sit out, as did Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters, of California, and Pramila Jayapal, of Washington state.
On Friday, they were joined by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, who said in a statement she was boycotting the address ‘because I refuse to normalize President Donald Trump and his loathsome language and actions.’
‘With every day that passes, a new tweet, breaking news story, or leaked quote sheds new light on President Trump’s twisted and prejudiced mind,’ she added.
The congresswoman took particular offense to his ‘s***hole countries’ comment, his reaction to the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer, in which he said there were good people on ‘both sides’ of a clash between neo-Nazis, KKK members and white supremacists and counter-protesters, and for the roll-out of his ‘Muslim ban’ last year, which Schakowsky pointed out happened on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
On Sunday, Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from New York, told MSNBC he would not be there. ‘
‘I cannot give this man, who does not respect me, the respect to be in that audience,’ Meeks said. ‘I will not be there.’
Meeks was joined by two other black House members, both from Illinois, on Monday as Reps Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, announced they would not attend.
Rush called Trump’s first year in office ‘the most chaotic, divisive, and incompetent’ and said he would not ‘watch as Trump pretends that he’s off to a successful start.’
‘He’s not,’ Rush said in a statement put out by his office.
Late Monday, Rep. Juan Vargas, a Democrat from California, indicated that he would not attend.
‘President Trump continues to disrespect women, insult people of color, and attack our immigrant communities. I will not be attending the State of the Union — I stand in solidarity with all the people he has and continues to disrespect,’ the congressman tweeted.
While a majority of Democratic members boycotting were minorities, the first lawmaker to announce he would be playing hooky was a white guy, Rep. Earl Blumenauer from Oregon.
Blumenauer later said he would be sending in his stead, a ‘dreamer’ to the speech, as Congress continues to debate what happens next with DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era order that allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal status.
Trump has since announced he was scrapping the program and tossed the problem to Congress.
Other Democrats, too, are using their guests as mini-protests.
Rep. Ruben J. Kihuen, a Nevada Democrat, is bringing well-known ‘Dreamer’ Astrid Silva as his guest.
Rep. Joe Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat whose great-uncle was the late President John F. Kennedy, is bringing a transgender soldier – Staff Sgt. Patricia King – to the State of the Union, to protest the president’s proposed transgender troops ban.
The congressman’s guest was first reported in the Boston Globe.
Kennedy will also be giving the Democrats’ official rebuttal after Trump leaves the dais.
The Democrats Boycotting Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Address
Rep. Danny Davis – 7th district, Illinois
Rep. Earl Blumenauer – 3rd district, Oregon
Rep. Frederica Wilson – 24th district, Florida
Rep. Rep. Jan Schakowsky – 9th district, Illinois
Rep. John Lewis – 5th district, Georgia
Rep. Maxine Waters – 43rd district, California
Rep. Steve Cohen – 9th district, Tennessee
Rep. Gregory Meeks – 5th district, New York
Rep. Pramila Jayapal – 7th district, Washington
Rep. Bobby Rush – 1st district, Illinois
Rep. Barbara Lee – 13th district, California
Rep. Juan Vargas – 51st district, California
Rep. Albio Sires – 8th district, New Jersey