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In an informal talk before the Freshmen Black Table last night, U.S. Rep.-elect Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) urged students to reinvest their energies in the Black community and show support for efforts to hire minority faculty.
Specifically, Waters encouraged her audience to contact Professor of Law Derrick A. Bell, Jr., who has taken a leave from the Law School to protest the dearth of minority faculty. Bell has said he will not return until the school hires a minority woman professor.
"Somehow I don't see, know or understand how in this whole country there is not one Black woman who can teach law at Harvard," Waters said to the 50 undergraduates at the speech. "Student activism is very powerful."
Waters has come to the University, along with the 34 other newly elected legislators, to take part in a congressional orientation and training session at the Kennedy School of Government.
Waters, who is participating in a congressional orientation session at the Kennedy School, also spoke to other key issues in the Black community. She lambasted the Bush Administration, saying it should not be supporting an expensive military operation in the Persian Gulf when Black communities in the U.S. are suffering financially.
"I want my money back in Harlem, St. Louis and Watts to deal with some of the problems in this country," Waters said.
Organizing a strong Black political community, encouraging Black youths to take an active interest in politics, and creating drug rehabilitation and job training programs will be her main priorities in Congress next year.
"Despite the crisis in the Persian Gulf, despite the budget, despite anything, I am going to force a debate on what is happening to Black males in the ghettos of America," she said. "Young Black males are an endangered species and America doesn't have an agenda for these young people."
The representative expressed her concern over the disproportionate number of Black males in the U.S. armed forces. Waters noted that 31 percent of all military personnel currently stationed in the Gulf are Black, and attributed the high representation to a lack of other opportunities for poor young Blacks.
Waters accused President Bush of being "the biggest bluffer." She charged Bush with trying to mask the true objective of the intervention--U.S. economic interests--behind the curtain of such justifications as a possible Iraqi nuclear threat. And the representative applauded the emerging anti-war sentiment in the U.S. that she hopes will end U.S. military involvement in the Gulf crisis.
"I don't care that Saddam has taken over Kuwait. I don't want to lose money and lives over a conflict between Kuwait and Iraq," Waters said.
Waters, who served on the California Assembly for 14 years and chaired the state Democratic caucus, said that as a member of Congress she plans to spend a great deal of time increasing political awareness in Black communities throughout the country. She is widely known for starting a child abuse prevention program, initiating the divestment of all state pension funds from companies with ties to South Africa and pushing to reduce toxic waste in the state.
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