Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who once chaired the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rosa Whitaker, former assistant U.S. trade representative for Africa, were honored for their contributions to civil rights, social, global and economic justice and African development by a group of international affairs advocates Feb. 16.

The United Nations Association of Washington D.C., (UNA-NCA) in partnership with Africare, an international non-governmental organization, singled out the veteran House member and former trade diplomate in a focus on achievement by Black women as part of their observance of Black History Month.

“We take a lot for granted,” Abigail Pereira, vice president of education and programs for UNA-NCA, told the AFRO about the honorees. “It’s great for the public to be aware of what they’ve done not just in our communities but beyond.”

As a lawmaker Lee, now in her seventh term in the House, has been an audible and persistent advocate for poor people in matters of social and economic justice, international affairs and civil and human rights.

Rosa Whitaker was the nation’s first person to occupy the post of assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa, serving both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. She implemented the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which has accounted for a tripling of trade between the U.S. and nations in sub-Saharan Africa since 2001.

“Whether it was in international policy and trade, American politics or as a civil rights trailblazer our honorees are pioneers that have made the world a better place because of the path they have forged,” commented Diane White, Africare’s chief operating officer in a statement.

Lee said she was pleased to be recognized, especially during Black History Month.

“Black History Month honors the generations of African-Americans who fought against slavery, prejudice, poverty, and discrimination and reminds us of the push we must make in honor of their struggle. It is because of their efforts that I am able to stand here today. It is because of these legacies that I work to fight against injustice,” Lee said told the AFRO in an e-mail.

She added, “I am proud to be the first recipient of the Lifetime Legacy Achievement Award, especially from an organization that has worked to strengthen US-UN relations and helped increase critical support for peacekeeping.”

Whitaker said in an e-mail to the AFRO said that she is “delighted” to receive an award created to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “His commitment and courage, his selflessness and sacrifice have deeply inspired me to live a life of purpose,” she said.

Currently the chief executive officer of the Whitaker Group, a D.C.-based consulting group she founded in 2003, the former trade diplomat praised the work of the UNA, which promotes improved U.S.-UN relations.

“The work of the UNA has been so important to maintaining support for the mission of the United Nations which today is engaged in a broad array of peace-keeping, humanitarian and social justice initiatives in Africa,” she said. “I can personally attest to the importance of the United Nations to the continent’s ongoing political and economic development. I hope that the members of the UNA-NCA will accept my grateful thanks both for the award and for their ongoing work.”


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO