By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
Police brutality of unarmed Black men, inflation, climate change, unaffordable housing, sky-rocketing housing costs and food supply shortages along with high costs, an uncontrolled border and immigration backlogs, rising costs in education and health care costs are several of the issues the 118th United States Congress face in President Joe Biden’s last two years of his term in the White House.
U.S. House of Representatives has a lot of work to do to address citizens’ needs and concerns. This is why U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett, TX-30, said she hit the ground running immediately after she was sworn into Congress in Washington D.C., Jan. 7.
Crockett, at 41 years old, is the youngest Black House representative and the only African American freshman class in the House. She replaced Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson – the 87-year-old who held the office since 1993.
One of the first items on the congresswoman’s agenda was to lead the charge to reinstate the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee after the Republicans on the House Oversight Committee chose to do away with it.
As part of the representatives who were appointed to the House Oversight Committee, Crockett said she was not happy with the decision to get rid of the subcommittee. In response, she called for an amendment on the Rules Package to restore it.
Chairman James Comer and the House Oversight GOP voted against the amendment.
“Our organizational meeting simply said that just because there’s not a subcommittee, doesn’t mean that we can’t have hearings on it, but he also in the same breath, basically failed to acknowledge the purpose of my intent, in which I was specifically referring to police brutality and referring to the Tyre Nichols case,” Crockett said. He didn’t even refer to civil rights issues, as he was talking about the range of jurisdiction that we have on oversight. So, I think that the way that we interpret this is that it’s not a priority for them, and they absolutely have no intention of digging into the continuous chain that we see being inflicted on certain Americans in this country by those that are supposed to protect them.”
She said the subcommittee on Civil Rights and Liberties purpose was to address and hold accountable people who violate the civil and human rights of another and said as a legislature, their responsibility is to make sure the civil rights of citizens are not violated.
A champion for justice
Fighting for underserved communities and people’s civil rights is nothing new for Crockett.
Before running for Congress, she served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives 100th district, filing more bills than any other freshman in her class. She served as a civil rights attorney and public defender of Bowie County after graduating from the University of Houston Law Center and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Rhodes College.
As an attorney, she represented several clients and activists within the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I feel that my desire to serve a community that really needed someone that was going to go in and have the skill set as well as the heart for service is why I decided to run for Congress,” she said.
Her district includes the cities and communities of Grand Prairie, Arlington, Cedar Hill, Duncanville, Ovilla, DeSoto, Glenn Heights, Lancaster, Hutchins and Wilmer, in addition to South Dallas, Downtown Dallas and West Dallas.
“I’m really excited to be sworn in as the first Black woman to be sworn in from the state of Texas in this particular century,” she stated. “I think overall coming from this district, I got to look at economic opportunities, and I don’t think those economic opportunities are necessarily limited to the effects of inflation because this particular district has struggled from an economic standpoint for a long time so with what inflation and COVID did because these are all things that are interrelated as well as how exposed and vulnerable people were.”
She said she decided that her primary focus is on economics with or without inflation and said her number one committee choice is financial services.
“Because without the banking in this country, we know that there have been small minority businesses that have been harmed in a very disproportionate way, so I really want to focus on the money side of things and direct money for the district.
Crockett also said she wanted to focus on home ownership and making housing more affordable for her constituents.
“We know that home ownership is the gateway to living and building wealth for generations,” she said. “Being able to create legislation that hopefully the Biden administration can get behind as well in a collaborative way, especially the economics and zoning in on housing. We have a housing shortage issue. We also know that even when we do get homes in our area, seemingly they are built for people who don’t live here. People are unable to afford the homes being built so we are experiencing how we can be smarter about urban planning. What does that look like and how do we build with the model that says we have these people who make a lot of money, and we have these people who aren’t making that much money, but they can live here.”
A seat at the table
Another passion of hers was voting rights and making sure every citizen could have the opportunity to go to the polls or have the ability to vote.
“Part of the reason I ended up in congress, and I don’t have any questions about this, is basically the work so many people saw me do with voting rights,” Crockett said. “I just don’t think that I have the luxury in the state of Texas and not talk about voting rights.”
In South Dallas, there is a concern for lack of voter participation, according to Crockett, who said she understands, but urged the residents to get out and vote if they want to see change.
“You can’t complain if you don’t vote and it is hard to say that something is going wrong when you won’t take the time to make sure that your voice is heard and at the table,” she said. “My job is to go to D.C. and to make sure that I am representing based upon what the people are telling me is their priority, making sure that I am listening.
“These are the things that we should be doing but it is so hard to make sure that you have someone that is going to listen to you when they are not participating. We have the data and know what you are doing and not doing so if you want to see action and know what somebody is doing, they need to be held accountable, you got to show up. Your voice is your vote and there have been people who have died for this right. Anytime anybody wants to take something away from you, then you need to understand that is just how valuable it is.”
With the changes that have taken place, Crockett is concerned about many things with the Republicans having the majority in the House.
“The concerns are never ending with what we are dealing with now – a dysfunctional House. What I wish we were dealing with is reasonable people, but that’s not what they want to do. It’s not who they want to be – debt ceiling and the fact that as of today we reached that point and with us reaching that point that means we are getting close to the government shutting down,” Crockett said. “A shutdown used to be one of those random things we didn’t ever really think about, that we didn’t really contemplate and now it is becoming too much of a common place.
With a possible government shutdown, it means that we are taking a big hit to our global economy, our local economy, this really is something that is going to hit directly at home.”
With her mom working for the IRS, Crockett said she knew first-hand the suffering experienced for those who depend on and work for the government.
“The debt ceiling, I really think the government is going to shut down, services that people rely on are not going to be available,” she said.
Continuing the fight
Crockett noted that overall, congressional representatives are younger now and believed the current House inducted the youngest freshman class in history.
“It is a young Congress, it is an energetic crowd, I think it speaks to just where we are in this country,” she said. “We have gotten to the point when you think about the Civil Rights Movement, I try to remind people that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was younger than me when he was assassinated. Everything we celebrate about them was done at a younger age then I was when I was sworn in and everybody who looks at me and thinks wow, you are so young, when John Lewis was leading hundreds of marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, to oppose voting restrictions against African Americans in the South, it was young people that led the way. I say this because young people got us to this movement to the present day.”
She advised young adults and youth to continue the fight.
“What we see right now is that there is a movement to take us back, and it is young people again that are rising up in all kinds of ways because they really understand that it is their future. I think we see that when we look around this country, you see we got some of the youngest mayors ever elected,” Crockett said. “We are uncomfortable, and we want better days in our future, and we don’t know if there is anybody else that can get it done, so we are just going to do it ourselves.”
Her advice to young Black girls who dream of being in her shoes one day or in other leadership positions is that the sky is not the limit.
“There are no limits to what you can do because I am not someone who ever anticipated that I would sit in Congress one day,” she said. “But, when you really walk in your purpose and trust your gut by doing what you really feel like you are called to do, it’s all going to work out. God will have you covered.
“I don’t want people to be discouraged and start believing the hype of what other people may say around them about what they can or can’t attain. So as long as you don’t believe that you will be limited, you won’t be limited. With every decision that I made, I trusted that God placed it in my heart because I could really do it. I never doubted myself. Regardless of what anybody says to you, never doubt yourself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will believe in you.”