Brooklyn’s in the House! Caribbean pols hail Jeffries’ elevation

Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.
Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.
Office of Congressman Hakeem Jeffries

Caribbean American legislators on Wednesday welcomed the election of Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries as the successor to US House of Representatives’ Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“Congratulations to my dear friend @RepJeffries on his historic victory to become the Democratic Party’s newest leader in Congress!” tweeted Jeffries’ Caribbean American colleague Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. Jeffries represents the adjacent 8th Congressional District.

“It was my honor to vote for your leadership and vision, and I will proudly follow both towards the future of our party and nation,” Clarke added.
In what has been described as “a display of unity” after the midterm elections in which they lost the US House of Representatives but had stronger than anticipated results, Democrats on Wednesday bypassed a vote but, by acclamation, elected Jeffries to be minority leader.

Jeffries, 52, whose 8th Congressional District comprises large parts of Brooklyn and a section of Queens, thus created history, becoming the first Black person to hold the top position in the House of Representatives.

“Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is blazing a trail for a remarkable new era of Democratic leadership, and the Brooklyn Democratic Party wholeheartedly congratulates Jeffries for his victory,” an elated Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, told Caribbean Life shortly after Jeffries’ elevation.

“Jeffries’ rapid rise from humble roots to the first Black figure to lead a party in Congress is a testament to his staunch dedication to uplifting all Americans,” added Bichotte Hermelyn, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “With Brooklynites leading both the Democratic House and Senate, we have leadership that truly reflects and understands the needs of our diverse mosaics across America.

“The Brooklyn Democratic Party is eager to continue advancing our borough by working with close leaders in the House and Senate,” she continued.

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke. Office of Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke

In congratulating Jeffries, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, noted that Jeffries is “the first Black person to take on this role.
“This is an historic moment, a well-deserved honor, a solemn responsibility, and an important opportunity to advance a vision and agenda for our nation,” he said. “I know from many years of governing alongside Rep. Jeffries that he cares deeply for our community and country, and look toward his tenure with anticipation.

“I am sure that, throughout his leadership, we will have points of disagreement, whether on policy or who is in our hip hop top-five, and I am sure that he will approach those debates and this work as he has throughout his time in office – with passion, integrity and a commitment to do good,” Williams added.
“Now, more than ever, we need to put forward bold ideas and clear progressive vision, and New York City – Brooklyn – can lead the way,” he continued. “I stand ready on the city level to act as a partner in progress, a progress already on display with today’s historic vote.”

Brooklyn Assemblymember Brian A. Cunningham (AD-43), said: “It’s a special day in central Brooklyn, where the news of Rep. Jeffries’ rise to House Leader carries both the promise and hope that Hakeem will be the first – but not the last – leader reflective of our great community and all its diversity.
“I anticipate great things from Rep. Jeffries, a fellow Brooklynite, hailing from the iconic Black neighborhood of Crown Heights, which I now have the great honor and privilege of representing in the Assembly,” Cunningham said. “In the course of his career, Hakeem has proven himself to be a fierce advocate for justice and a devoted public servant.”

He described Jeffries as “a seasoned leader with a deep understanding of the mystical ways Washington works.
“Rep Jeffries will bring a fresh perspective to government with the next generation in mind,” said Cunningham, stating that, in 2018, Jeffries “played a major role in helping Democrats reclaim a majority in the House.”
“We are confident that Jeffries will bring his experience and leadership to the stand and pull together a united Democratic front ahead of 2024,” he added.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, the second Black man to hold the position – after the late David Dinkins – said, “A barrier has been broken, and today, we start a new chapter in our nation’s history with the election of Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries as House minority leader — the first Black lawmaker to lead a political party in Congress.
“New York City will have a champion in our nation’s capital while we continue to fight for our fair share of federal funding and a multitude of other priorities that will support New Yorkers,” Adams said. “I look forward to continuing to partner with my good friend and Brooklyn’s native son.”

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, the first-ever Black Speaker of the City Council, also congratulated Jeffries on being elected as House Democratic Leader and becoming the first Black lawmaker to lead any party in Congress.
“From the New York State Assembly to the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Jeffries has honorably served communities in Brooklyn and Queens for many years,” she said. “New York City and the entire country are grateful for his leadership.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with Congressman Jeffries to improve the lives of all New Yorkers, and the leadership he will bring to this nation,” she added.

Randy Peers, president chief executive officer of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said Jeffries’ ascension to House minority leader is “a historic victory.”
“Brooklynites are literally ‘bringing the house down’”, he said. “Jeffries has helped countless small business owners across the borough, with a focus on an equitable recovery from the pandemic.
“As our first Black leader, he will, undoubtedly, bring the same excellent leadership with which he serves our borough, to the national agenda,” Peers added. “Congratulations to my friend, and our new House Leader, on this well-deserved victory.”

Jeffries ran unopposed as Democratic leader, with Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark, current assistant speaker, elected as whip, the lead vote counter for House Democrats.
California Congressman Peter Aguilar, who was vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, replaces Jeffries as chairman of the caucus.
“A new day is dawning, and I am confident that these new leaders will capably lead our Caucus and the Congress,” said Pelosi, who was designated Tuesday night as “Speaker Emerita” in a unanimous vote by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.

Immediately after his election, Jeffries said: “I stand on the shoulders of Shirley Chisholm and others,” referring to the late Caribbean American congresswoman, whose parents hailed from Barbados and Guyana.
Chisholm (Nov. 30, 1924 – Jan. 1, 2005) became the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress in 1968.
She represented New York’s then 12th Congressional District, now the 8th Congressional District that Jeffries represents.

Chisholm was also first Black candidate for a major-party nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s nomination.
Jeffries said he plans to “lead an effort that centers our communication strategy around the messaging principle that values unite, issues divide,” he said. “More must be done to combat inflation, defend our democracy, secure reproductive freedom, welcome new Americans, promote equal protection under the law and improve public safety throughout this country.”

US Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, said he knew Jeffries, his Brooklyn neighbor, for years.
He told the New York Times that Jeffries “always had the leg up” in the race to succeed Pelosi.

“He’s very good at reaching out to people of many ideologies,” Schumer said. “There’s going to be a whole bunch of Republicans who are not going to be happy with the MAGA direction of the party, and I couldn’t think of a better person to work with them to try and get some things done.”

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