In a reception room packed with politicos, constituents from Harlem, lobbyists no doubt and press, an important national African-American thing occurred. The highest ranking and longest political survivalist African-American in American Congressional history had his official portrait unveiled at the Longworth building in Washington D.C. Chairman of the powerhouse Ways and Means committee, Charlie Rangel, despite his public censure in 2010, Rangel has survived to this moment. Something his predecessor did not, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. who Rangel unseated in 1970. There is no official portrait of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. despite his brilliant and agitating career on behalf of all negroes in the U.S Powell was the lone Congressional negro insider voice for Civil Rights in the halls of the national capitol during one of our most modern day social justice eras of the riotous 1960’s. A period where the KKK and national regional governments across the U.S. openly sought to keep Negroes segregated and disenfranchised. Rangel unseated Powell.
September 20-25th, 2011 was Black Congressional Caucus week in D.C. and 2nd annual “Out on the Hill” sponsored by National Black Justice Coalition, a national black LGBT advocacy group whose panels, lobbying and social networking opportunities were designed to intersect with their straight black brothers and sisters. I attended both.
Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Library Of Congress
Stephanie Baez, Legislative Correspondent/Press Assistant in Rangel’s office was incredibly accommodating to this unknown constituent by getting me on the White House self-guided tour Thursday morning, 9 AM. After the tour I was off to Rangel’s office to thank her. The halls of the East Side of the White House, the only ones a visitor can tour were lined were photos of President Obama and family and all of his most recent predecessors. Dishes and furnishings chosen by the first ladies over the decades and centuries, the untouched Rose Garden where the Americas Jobs Act was recently announced. Two large (larger than a coffee table) sculptures by John Remington of Native Americans killing buffalo and Cowboys galloping on horses to stake a claim to God knows where. I waited patiently outside the doors as black men moved large leather chairs into the reception room where those closest to Rangel would be seated for the presentation.
“My life is a story that anyone can make it, from high school dropout to…chairman of this great committee,” said Charlie Rangel, on Thursday September 23rd. to a packed room of over 300 persons. The opening remarks were kicked off by none other than Tea Party dogged House Majority leader, John Boehner (R-Ohio) followed by Nancy Pelosi (D-CA.) Alma Rangel, Charlie’s wife unveiled the portrait, which was painted by African-American artist, Simmi Knox.
Knox also painted the official portrait of Nancy Pelosi, President Clinton, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Colin Powell and other heavy weights of the national scene.
Ms. Baez in the office even gave my many nieces and nephews official Senate passes with Rangel’s signature stamped at the bottom. The buzz among groups I talked with in the general Congressional Black Caucus and the National Black Justice Coalition attendees was, Rangel may be retiring. Hmmm, well even more reason for my nieces and nephews (the youngest being 2 years old) to treasure their keepsakes of this modern-day African-American political reformer. As Boehner said in his remarks at the unveiling if you live in Harlem and in one of the 30,000 units of rent-controlled housing today-you have Charlie to thank for it.
Top photo: painting of Charles Rangel by Portrait painted by Simmi Knox .
Tod Roulette’s Masters thesis is being rewritten as a book and examines four generations of female members of his Mid West family 1795-1908, “Rowing, Not Drifting-Bryant Women in Kansas, 1795-1908: The Expansion of the West and the Participation by Women of Color”