Rep. Kweisi Mfume (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
This week members of the House of Representatives delivered a single Article of Impeachment to the U.S. Senate against Donald John Trump, the disgraced former President of the United States, for his role in inciting an insurrection on the United States on Jan. 6.
On that dismal day, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who is serving his second tenure as Congressman representing the venerable 7th District of Maryland, was at work when the Capitol was besieged by legions of White terrorists, rabid Trump supporters. And he along with his colleagues were under the real threat of death and bodily harm as thousands of rioters swarmed the Capitol, an attack that left five dead.
The day before the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States and Sen. Kamala Harris as the nation’s first woman, first Black and first south Asian vice-president, Mfume reflected on those harrowing hours on the Hill when Democracy itself was in danger.
“The first thing that runs through your mind is survival,” Mfume told the AFRO. Mfume, described in detail the events of that day as it unfolded through his eyes. “I was in the House chamber, had been in there for most of the late morning and afternoon for the Vice President’s appearance, for the arrival of the Senators for the initial counting of the ballots of certification and then for the objection, which a Republican (House member) put forward with a Republican Senator.
I sat there for another hour, and I figured I’d better go to my office and get some constituent work, bring it back and work on it while I’m over here because I’m losing time, I’m losing hours,” he added. A few moments after Mfume exited the House chamber all hell broke loose.
“I got up from my colleagues, had been sitting there with about 30 or 40 of them, said I’d be right back, got out of the chamber and got on the elevator….and went underground. And lucky for me, because as soon as I got underground I heard the bells start to go off. Now I haven’t heard those bells ever, not this time around and not in the 80’s and 90’s when I was there. So, I thought I was going to hear a voice saying, you know, this is a test…but, I took another eight or nine steps and I heard the sirens go off and I saw the lights flashing…that’s when I knew something was up,” Mfume explained.
“So, I had to get to my office as quickly as I could because I didn’t know what was going on. Heard a gunshot and another strange sound like it could have been a gunshot…and I made it to my office. Told my staff to kinda’ shelter in place, turned on the television….and saw what everybody else was seeing around the world and that was people outside of our walls, scaling the walls and people kicking in the doors and windows to the Capitol. And being inside the Capitol and the chamber I was just in,” he added.
“So, it was a little surreal, strange and for me the first thing is you just think about survival and that just comes from the street instincts.”
As Mfume described those perilous hours on the Hill he alluded to the reality that Jan. 6, was most likely weeks, if not months in the making through the seemingly unending machinations of the former president.
“…It was unlike anything I had ever seen before and just crazy. Words have consequences and we’ve been saying that for years, everybody has based on the words of Donald Trump…now we see what happens when it gets out of control.
I saw members of the House saying to me, “Oh my God, can you imagine the rage in their faces? I’ve never seen anything like that.” And I said, well, welcome to my world,” Mfume said.
I’ve been looking at crazy White people with that kind of rage for a long, long time. As have most Black people. So, it was lawlessness at its peak….if those were Black people scaling the wall of the Capitol I believe they would have been shot down before they ever got to the top. It was almost as if they were tolerating these people as if they were tourists who were angry,” he added.
Mfume’s reality in the House is stark given his status as one of the most prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus, one who often votes with the House’s most Progressive members. He serves with men and women who are accused of sedition, more than 100 who voted to overturn the results of an American presidential election and specifically disenfranchise the votes of millions of Black Americans.
“I reconcile it by understanding that kind of thinking, that kind of behavior did not just descend on us. It’s been around for years. These are the same folks that could have just as easily been members of the White Citizens Council, or the Ku Klux Klan, or any other group hell bent on doing what they wanted to do, when they want to do it,” Mfume said.
“That kind of thinking, that inherent belief that you’re better than somebody else, you have rights that others don’t have, has been a part of history in this country going all the way back to the Dred Scott decision of 1896. This is not just something that was way, way back when; I’m still living with it.”