Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) celebrated Black History Month a day early at a rally Wednesday outside the Capitol to introduce his Equity for All Resolution.
The resolution intends to uplift the Equity or Else Quality of Life Agenda presented by the Journey for Justice Alliance grassroots organization.
The agenda declares that Black and brown communities “have the right to define, name and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named and spoken for by others.”
It calls for culturally competent policy on environmental health, health care, housing, public safety, education, economics and food production and delivery.
“Racism, sexism, homophobia, wealth inequality and all kinds of discrimination will continue to stop our legislation from being rooted in equity,” Bowman said.
Bowman was joined by Jitu Brown, national director for Journey for Justice Alliance; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; and activists from across the nation.
Brown said the nation has the infrastructure to protect families from inequity if pushed by those who have been affected.
“The institutions that have said, that fed racism, inequity, for decades, still exist unchanged,” Brown said. “We are at war with a belief system. That belief system poisons every institution that most of white America takes for granted — a grocery store, a decent school, affordable housing instead of slumlord, production and delivery systems.”
Brown said he believes the resolution, which has eight sponsors, including himself, will eventually pass in Congress because his team spent hours traveling around the country to build the agenda. Journey for Justice conducted hours of town halls and even door-to-door canvassing to hear from those “closest to the pain,” he said.
Weingarten said the agenda is needed now more than ever because the nation is in the midst of a fight over an issue of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“This country is made up of immigrants, both those who came forcibly and those who decided to come voluntarily,” Weingarten said. “And yet, how many times have we now seen that ladder of opportunity being pulled up by people who have already climbed it?”
Those people, Weingarten added, are the legislators sitting in offices in the Capitol building.
“Equity is about ensuring that the next generation and the next generation after that can actually not just have the opportunities of those of us who are old, but have even greater opportunities,” she said. “That’s what America is about, but we have always had to fight for it. But the fight now is, I would argue, as hard as it was 100 years [ago], because the polarization is great.”
Brown said the alliance will continue pushing for sponsors and passage of the resolution, including this summer at the 2024 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where he and his team are based.
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