Rest in Power: California Black Leaders Pay Tribute to Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Antonio Ray Harvey| California Black Media
Condolences and tributes poured in from California’s Black community after the passing of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Lawmakers, business leaders, and political service organizations expressed their condolences and sympathy to family, friends, and staff of U.S. Sen. Feinstein, 90, who died of natural causes in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 28.
On Friday, in a statement, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said, “In Senator Feinstein’s honor, I am directing the flags flying at all City facilities to be lowered to half-staff.”
“I am saddened by the passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein, one of our nation’s great leaders and someone I was blessed to call a colleague and friend,” added Bass. “Senator Feinstein was a trailblazer on whose shoulders I, and women in elected office all across America, will always stand. She worked harder than anyone I knew on Capitol Hill, and she will be remembered as one of the most effective and impactful Senators in American history.”
Feinstein made history as the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from California. She served over three decades in the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress and was the oldest lawmaker on Capitol Hill.
“California lost a trailblazer and a giant today,” wrote Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12). “Senator Feinstein broke glass ceilings for women in politics and fought fearlessly for safer communities free of gun violence. My deepest condolences go out to her family and loved ones.”
Feinstein built a reputation as an independent voice, working hard to find practical solutions to issues confronting California and the nation. She was the first woman to chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a position she held for six years beginning in 2009.
In 2017, Sen. Feinstein became the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee – the first woman to assume that role – where she helped shape policy on criminal law, national security, immigration, civil rights and the courts. She held that position until 2021.
“We have fond memories to cherish of the work accomplished together on behalf of our most vulnerable and underserved communities. The Senator is truly a trailblazer,” stated Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) founding member and state President Dezie Woods-Jones.
BWOPA’s mission is to empower and educate African American women about politics encourage involvement, and address issues affecting the African American community.
Over 50 years ago, BWOPA charter members Hon. Ella Hill Hutch and Hon. Doris Ward collaborated extensively with Feinstein on a range of social issues during her time on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and as San Francisco Mayor.
Woods-Jones recalls Sen. Feinstein hosted BWOPA’s first annual board retreat.
“May her profound legacy of supporting women’s rights and leadership continue to be front and center. Thank you for your years of service
Senator,” shared Woods-Jones.” May her profound legacy of supporting women’s rights and leadership continue to be front and center.”
Feinstein was instrumental in helping another Black political organization grow and become a force to be reckoned with in California politics, the Black American Political Association of California (BAPAC). The group is dedicated to amplifying the economic, social, and political influence of the Black community in California.
According to BAPAC Sacramento Regional Director Rory Kaufman, BAPAC’s growth and influence were bolstered by the support of former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, former two-time Gov. Jerry Brown, and Feinstein. The organization was founded by Percy Pinkney, an outspoken champion for solutions to challenges facing Black Californians, who also served as a senior state field representative for Feinstein.
“The bottom line is that Dianne Feinstein helped keep BAPAC alive because she had Percy Pinkney on her staff,” Kaufman said. “If history serves me correctly, it was either Brown or Feinstein that sent Pinkney to Indiana where he discovered an organization similar to BAPAC and brought it back here (to the West Coast) to start the organization.”
The California Black Women’s Collective (CBWC) also issued a statement on the passing of Feinstein. CBWC serves as a resource for lawmakers, elected officials, business leaders, and advocacy organizations.
“We are all saddened by the passing of Senator Diane Feinstein, who paved the way for women to serve their communities in California and nationally,” states Kellie Todd Griffin, founding convener of CBWC. “It is imperative that we all take a moment to honor her contributions that positioned California as a beacon for others to follow.”
Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood), vice chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) ,called Feinstein an “icon for her service and leadership.”
“Senator Dianne Feinstein dedicated her life to public service. As the longest-serving woman in the U.S. Senate, she was a trailblazer who served our state with strength, vision, and compassion,” said Bradford. “Her career was forged through the tragedy of gun violence which fueled her unwavering resolve to pass groundbreaking gun control. A true giant has left us.”