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Black congress head gives thumbs up to UN conference

barbaralee2As a United Nations conference on ‘minority issues’ ends, one of America’s most prominent Black politicians insisted it had made progress in advancing equality worldwide

Barbara Lee (pictured above), who heads the Congressional Black Caucus, said that even though such conferences attracted little publicity, they can be the “voice for the voiceless.”

The Californian congresswoman said: ‘International conferences do actually matter, because it’s about coming up with concrete plans for action, networking, sharing best practice and pushing forward.’

A volunteer with the Black Panthers in her youth Lee, 63, made waves in 2001 as the only national politician in Washington to vote against an anti-terrorism bill because it gave the then president George Bush a “blank cheque” to attack potentially innocent people.

Asked whether she now supported Barack Obama’s plan to send 35,000 extra American troops to Afghanistan, Lee echoed her words from eight years ago when she told OBV Blog that she did not want “the United States government to be given a blank cheque in perpetuity.”

However she did not overtly criticise Obama, saying: ‘The president is doing the right thing by evaluating the options.’ She added: ‘We are at a critical juncture and the president has rightly taken time out to assess things.’

Speaking from Geneva on Friday, where she was about to chair a conference session, Lee said that the election of the US president last year was important but that people should not be distracted from the need to create a “movement of those who are seeking justice and equality and civic participation.”

She praised Operation Black Vote for its’ work in Britain, calling the organisation a “strong movement.”

By Lester Holloway

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