Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke on Wednesday celebrated the 92nd birthday of the late Caribbean American Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman and Caribbean American to enter the race for president of the United States.
“Today, we celebrate the 92nd birthday of my esteemed predecessor, the Honorable Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. A woman proud of her Caribbean heritage and her membership in the renowned Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., her voice was a call to action in the Civil Rights Movement to insist that women must have an opportunity to assume positions of leadership,” said Clarke who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.
Chisholm, born in Brooklyn in 1924 to Barbadian and Guyanese parents, was renowned for becoming the first Black congresswoman (1968), representing the then 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn for seven, two-year terms. With redistricting, the 11th Congressional District has now become the 9th Congressional District.
In 1972, the out-spoken Chisholm, whose husband was Jamaican, was an activist who was elected to New York State Assembly in 1964. Chisholm broke many barriers as a community advocate and legislator.
Clarke said Chisholm’s achievements in the United States Congress were “extensive,” listing, among her achievements, the establishment of nutrition assistance programs; expanded health services for parents and children; increases in the minimum wage; literacy training; the protection of the right to vote; support for veterans of the armed forces; and providing opportunities for women to succeed in college, graduate school, and collegiate and professional sports with the enactment of Title IX.
Clarke said that, when Chisolm, in 1972, entered the campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for United States president, “there had never been a woman candidate for president in the Democratic Party or an African-American candidate in either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.
“She had a button that explained, ‘Ready or Not.’ And ‘Ready or Not’ was exactly the idea,” Clarke said.” Shirley Chisholm realized that she could not wait until the United States believed it was ‘ready’ for an African-American as president or a woman as president. As a result, all of us are now beneficiaries of her legacy.”
Chisholm, who fought for education opportunities and social justice, left the US House of Representatives in 1983 to teach. She died in Florida in 2005.