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First Black Lawmaker to Head a Party in Congress, Hakeem Jeffries Creates History

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When he addressed the 118th Congress for the first time early on Saturday morning, Hakeem Jeffries made history by becoming the first Black congressman to serve as the leader of a party in Congress.

Jeffries noted the late civil rights icon and longtime congressman John Lewis as saying, “We may have arrived on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat right now.”

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“Our race is White. We are Black.  We’re Latino. We’re Asian. We are indigenous people. As Christians, we. We’re all Jews. We follow Islam. As Hindus, we. We practice religion. Being secular, we. We’re gay. We are honest. We are kids. We’re older now. We are female. We’re males. Being citizens, we. We are dreamers,” he added. “We are one in a sea of many. That is what makes America such a wonderful nation. And we won’t allow anyone to take that away from us, no matter what kind of haters are attempting to split us up. Not right now. Not at all.”

“The United States of America, a nation of opportunity, is where we are. Another data point is the fact that I can stand up in front of you right now.”

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Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from New York who served as speaker during the previous Congress when Democrats had the majority, has been replaced as the leader of the minority party in the US House of Representatives. He is not only the first Black member to hold such a post, but he is also the first House Democratic leader chosen from a generation born after World War II.

Following the conclusion of a long floor battle for the job of House speaker, Jeffries’ position became official. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California became the powerful leader of the GOP majority in the chamber after days of difficult negotiations and unsuccessful votes.