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Women to Know 2020, Karen Bass

Source: iOne Creative Team / other

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA)

Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus

Protesters across the United States and around the world called for justice and immediate police reform following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed in police custody in May 2020. As the uprisings intensified, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was hard at work sponsoring the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a “comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, end racial profiling and change law enforcement culture.” This bill is one of the many examples of the five-term congresswoman’s unwavering dedication to her community.

A proud Los Angeles native, Bass’ interest in activism began as a child, where she observed and participated in the Civil Rights movement with her father. As a teen, she knocked on doors as part of Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. While working as an emergency room physician assistant, she helped establish and run the Community Coalition in 1990. The nonprofit sought to provide community-centered solutions to aid in the devastating health crisis and surge in violence following the 1980’s crack cocaine epidemic in South Los Angeles.

Bass took her political aspirations a step further when she won a seat in the California Assembly in 2004. Four years later, she made history as the first Black woman to become the speaker of any state legislature in the United States after she was elected speaker. Her historic run continued when she became the first physician assistant to be elected to the US House of Representatives in 2010. The same year, she was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for her bipartisan negotiating efforts.

Chairwoman Bass’ dedication to uplifting the Black community extends beyond American borders. She led the charge in enabling African nations to export goods to the United States duty-free through the reauthorization and strengthening of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. In January 2019, she was sworn in as the 26th Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Bass is a graduate of Cal State Dominguez Hills, the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program, and the USC Masters Program in Social Work.

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