Stating that it has been her honor to work on constituents’ behalf in the nation’s capital — even in the most difficult moments, including when the federal government was literally shut down — Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke on Wednesday, Jan. 25 evening took the oath of office as she enters into her second decade in the US House of Representatives.
Clarke, representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, was sworn-in for her 11th consecutive year, at a Community Swearing-in Ceremony, administered by New York State Supreme Court Justice Paul Wooten, at the Theodore Roosevelt Federal District Courthouse, downtown Brooklyn.
“Today, we find ourselves gathered together under very different circumstances that many people expected — certainly far different than I expected,” Clarke told the audience in the packed Ceremonial Courtroom, which included her Jamaican-born parents, Leslie and Una Clarke, her brother, Leslie, who served as Master of Ceremonies, as well as many dignitaries, which comprised, elected officials, judges, college professors, among ordinary citizens.
“After eight years of the Obama administration that focused on uniting the American people around the common purpose of shared prosperity and the recognition of the humanity of each individual, we now confront a challenge for which many people were totally underprepared,” Clarke added. “But we all know that, as Brooklynites, we don’t run away from a challenge. When they say, ‘get back, we say, ‘fight back.’”
The congresswoman said she will continue to oppose policies that threaten the people she represents, stating that she is ready to work with anyone who is willing to advance the interests of the people — Republicans, Democrats and Independents — “who want to move us forward as a nation.”
“I will not be complicit in the harm being projected and espoused by Donald Trump and company,” she asserted to loud applause. “I and my office are focused on a positive agenda for the 21st Century.”
Clarke said it was critical that the nation build upon the “integrity and success” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, which she said now provides access to comprehensive healthcare for more than 21 million Americans.
She noted that ACA has held down the rise in premium costs for all Americans who receive health insurance through their employers, adding that even Republicans in Congress who reject Obamacare promise to keep most of its provisions.
“I consider it my responsibility to hold them to that promise,” she said. “We mend it; not end it.”
Additionally, Clarke wants elimination of inequities in healthcare, stating that most medical research studies exclude women and people of color.
As a result, she said the treatments they receive fail to take into account their specific and particular needs.
Clarke said she was proud of the near passage of legislation last year that would have supported diversity in medical research – and in medical researchers, pointing out that she was hopeful that, as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the committed responsible for healthcare, “we will have an opportunity to resolve that issue.”
The fiery legislator also believed that the nation must advance comprehensive immigration reform that protects families and allows millions who are now living in the shadows to emerge “as fully productive participants in our society.”
She noted that, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, implemented by President Obama, more than 600,000 young women and men have already gained the ability to enter college and find a job.
Clarke said even many conservative Republicans, who had initially resisted DACA now support continuation of the program.
“We now have a responsibility to the courageous young people who put their faith in us with dreams of one day embracing the American Dream,” she said.
In addition, Clarke called for the reversal of stereotypical images of women and girls in the media, stating that African Americans, particularly African American women, have often been portrayed “only as stereotypes in the media, rather than [as] real human beings.”
“By denying the basic humanity of African Americans and other underrepresented individuals, mass media effectively reinforced the structures of racism,” she said. “As an African American woman, who represents the communities of Brooklyn in the United States House of Representatives, I have a responsibility to hold the media accountable for its efforts to include our voices in the conversation and to accurately reflect our diverse society.”
For this reason, Clarke said she founded and serves as chair of the Multicultural Media Caucus, “which has been examining the best methods to increase diversity in our media – not only on the screen but also among writers, directors and producers, as well as in ownership.”
She lamented that New York City has more than twice as many African American residents as any other city, “yet we lack even a single radio station owned by an African American.”
“My colleagues and I have resolved that we will not allow the hands of time to spin in reverse and that, instead, we will build on our recent successes, creating a media that fairly and accurately represents the lived experiences of all Americans,” Clarke said.
She said she was committed to fighting for her constituents and for all working families in Brooklyn and across America.
“Your voices, whether in letters and phone calls, or tweets and Facebook posts, have been my inspiration,” Clarke said. “I want to thank all of you for placing your faith in me. I promise that I will always keep that faith with you.”