Congressman Beyer’s News Commentary: Celebrating Black History Month

February 22, 2017 8:27 PM0 comments

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We recognize African American history during the month of February as an integral part of American history, and celebrate the many achievements of African Americans to our great nation.

It is also a time to remember Virginia’s checkered history. From massive resistance to the integration of public schools, to the end of poll taxes, to the election of Governor Doug Wilder, and to Governor McAuliffe’s restoration of rights initiatives, Virginia has had a complex history in the push towards racial equality. Yet we march on toward progress.

In celebrating the history and achievements of African Americans, I hope this gives us a moment to reflect on where we still must find ways to fight for racial equality. As your Congressman and neighbor, I will be fighting with you.

In the last Congress, I worked to grow the middle class economy, build safer communities through sensible gun legislation, ensure women’s economic empowerment and combat the causes and effects of climate change. I am proud of the bills I co-sponsored to increase police body camera use, push for criminal justice and sentencing reform, provide faster care for veterans, and honor those who participated in the Selma March.

I introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act, which would address unsafe and unfair school disciplinary practices that disproportionately impact students of color. I also helped lead the 400 Years of African American History Commission Act to recognize and create programming in honor of African Americans. One of the last bills I introduced was the NO HATE Act, which would improve hate crime reporting and tracking.

I am still concerned about the systematic increase in legal barriers that make it harder to vote, especially for people of color – through voter ID laws, limited or nonexistent early voting, and fewer polling locations. These restrictions reduce voting ease and access and constantly remind us of the purpose of the Voting Rights Act.

The current Administration has brought a great deal of uncertainty, fear, and anger into our communities. I will continue to work with my colleagues across the aisle and consider reasonable policy proposals; but I will not compromise our basic values.

In the new Congress, I am working for bipartisan support to put criminal justice reform back on the table.  I will do everything in my power to prevent the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, strive to ensure everyone gets a fair shot in the economy, make college more affordable, and stand up to bigotry.

Recently, I sponsored a bill that would diminish and hopefully overturn the President’s Executive Order, which banned all refugees as well as citizens from certain Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East from entering the United States.

Motivated by the calls of concern over the great divisions across our country, I invited the public to discuss “The Road Ahead.” With local organizations such as the NAACP and the Northern Virginia Urban League Young Professionals Network, constituents and I discussed civil rights, health care, immigration and public safety.

On Martin Luther King Day I marched with the Tinner Hill Foundation for unity, racial healing, and justice. The day brought together Falls Church residents to celebrate the dream of Dr. King and focus our efforts on bridging the divisions between us to heal racial and justice inequalities.

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