The members of the Congressional Black Caucus, offended by President Trump’s statements about people and countries of color as well as his policies toward civil and human rights, protested as the president delivered his first State of the Union Address on Jan. 30.
Most of the members of the CBC who attended the address wore Black suits draped with a kente cloth or wore kente ties and bow ties and wore red and white buttons signifying support for the late Recy Taylor, who was gang-raped by White men in Alabama in 1944 but were never brought to justice for their act.
“Honoring Recy is very appropriate at this time, given what is going on regarding sexual harassment,” U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) told the AFRO. McEachin was referring to the popular #MeToo movement that is credited with exposing sexual harassment incidents and, in many cases, the perpetrators losing their jobs and their liberties as a result of those acts.
“Recy went to the authorities in Alabama after she was raped and the White men got off even though they admitted they raped her,” McEachin said.
Taylor, who died on Dec. 28, 2017 at the age of 98, was mentioned by billionairess-entertainer Oprah Winfrey on Jan. 8 at the Golden Globe Awards and she visited Taylor’s grave site several days later. On Jan. 10, Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) talked about honoring Taylor by asking members of Congress to wear the Recy button while Trump delivered his address and almost all of the Black women CBC members who attended the ceremony did so.
McEachin had on a kente tie with the Recy button. His colleague, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) had on a black suit with a kente cloth draped over her left shoulder and the Recy button.
Demings told the AFRO she was protesting the president’s
“sh*tthole” comment regarding countries of color such as are Haiti and El Salvador and the continent of Africa.
“The immigrants from those countries contribute greatly to our country,” she said. “The president was wrong for saying those things and he has not apologized for it.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) had a unique combination of dress. She had on a black suit with a kente cloth, the Recy button and an American flag.
“I am an American and I love my country,” Lee said. She said the president’s indirect comments criticizing NFL players, most of whom were Black, for not standing for the national anthem at games, were inappropriate. Last year, Trump referred to the protesting players as “sons of b*tches.”
“These young men are taking care of their families and trying to earn a living,” she said. “The president should not have attacked them and their mothers the way he did. I am also deeply bothered that during his address, he didn’t talk about the 156 female gymnasts in Michigan that were molested by their coach.
“It shows that while the president talked about unity during his address, he didn’t really mean it.”
CBC Chairman U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) sat with the members of the organization during Trump’s speech. He wore a kente cloth and had a Recy button.
In a statement, he said Trump’s speech was empty.
“There is nothing promising about President Trump’s ability to read a speech from a teleprompter,” Richmond said. “Every action taken by him over the past year has been destructive for poor, working-class and middle-class communities throughout this country, as well as communities of color. He said nothing tonight that wipes that slate clean.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is recuperating from knee infection and didn’t attend the event. However, he said in a statement that “the American people witnessed a failed sales pitch tonight.”
“President Trump tried to paint a pretty picture, but it does not reflect the grim reality our country faces under his administration,” Cumming said. Cummings talked about the recently minted tax reform law that gives money to millionaires and corporations “while ballooning the national debt” and the border wall “we don’t need while threatening to kick out young and hopeful Dreamers who only know America as home.”
Among the CBC members who didn’t attend the event were Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).