What Congresswoman Barbara Lee Can Teach Children About Positive Black Self Image: Part 2


congress Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee is the highest-ranking African American woman in the U.S. Congress today. Lee represents the 13th district in California, is based in Oakland, and covers most of the northern part of Alameda County. Lee is the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and the chair emeritus and former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She is the vice-chair and a founding member of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. She has co-chaired the House Democratic Steering Committee since 2019.

Representative Lee has been a champion for the underserved and unseen all her political life. She has used her platform to speak for people whose voices aren’t heard or listened to, especially young children. She has been an advocate for PreK education and early childhood resources. She shares her own story of being a young, single mother with young children who she brought to her college classes because she could not secure decent childcare.

What young Black children can learn from Barbara Lee is the power of standing on what they believe even if it means that they must stand alone. Lee had to make a difficult decision in 2001. Her conviction and belief in diplomacy led her to the floor of the House of Representatives to make a speech about not being too hasty in the decision to grant unilateral war decisions to the Executive Branch of government. She famously voted ‘no’ on the floor of the Congress against granting unlimited war capability to the President in 2001.

She was at odds with her party and with the nation, which had just witnessed one of the worse attacks on U.S. soil. She believed that more information was needed. It did not sit well with her soul to go to war when all the facts weren’t in.

When faced with choices—whether to stand up for another child who is being bullied or choosing to not use plastics or learning how to stand up for other living beings that are not human—children can learn from the lessons that Representative Lee teaches.

Lee emphasizes the importance of addressing mental health for Black parents as well as coping strategies for Black youth. She advocates for more community-based resources, like the ones Smart Beginnings Virginia Peninsula provides: direct support to parents to access resources and advice on raising children 0-5, ensuring quality early learning experiences for children, social/emotional support, and promoting courageous decisions and strategies to improve the overall quality of early childhood health and education programs.

By telling Barbara Lee’s story, young Black children are given a powerful example of how to stand their ground on principle. Lee’s story can open spaces for children to think about fairness, courage, and fighting for what one believes in.


~ Dr. Sarita McCoy Gregory

Dr. McCoy Gregory is an SBVP Board Member, former educator, and founder of 7 Cities Speaker series. She writes about culturally responsive strategies for early childhood providers. She is mom to three amazing humans and one furry baby. Email her at sarita@7cities.org. Follow her on Twitter @Sarita_gregory.

(image courtesy of Congresswoman Lee’s website)