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Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange)

Opinion: Celebrating a Long Overdue Moment in History

By Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake, March 04 2021 12:05 pm


The next generation of children will never know a world in which there was never a Black, Asian, female vice-president.

As they grow up and are told they can be anything they want to be, little girls will look to their history books and find concrete proof that yes, they belong in the White House. They belong in every room where important decisions are made. They belong at the top of the corporate ladder. They deserve to be there, and they will be.

We have reached the end of our first Black History Month with a Black vice president, and we are entering our first Women’s History Month with a female in this role. This moment is long overdue.

Amidst our celebration, we must never forget Kamala Harris stands on the shoulders of countless Black women who conquered seemly insurmountable obstacles in the pursuit of a more equitable future.

We find courage in Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger was not because she was tired, but because she was “tired of giving in.”

We see the future in Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress and the first woman and African-American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties.

We remember Fannie Lou Hamer, a powerful voice in the civil and voting rights movement who was brutally beaten and arrested for her efforts to challenge racial prejudice yet went on to co-found the National Women’s Political Caucus.

We look to former Assembly Speaker and current New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver as a modern example of the power of Black women to thrive as legislators and leaders.

In my work as an Assemblywoman, I’m inspired every day by these trailblazers. I strive to impact change and push our communities forward, just as they did and do.

I proudly sponsored laws to gradually increase New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour; ban the sale of realistic toy guns, a measure in direct response to the tragic death of Tamir Rice; and require independent investigations in the event someone loses their life while interacting with the police and prevent bias in subsequent trials.

As a member of the Assembly Housing Committee, I’m currently advocating for legislation (A-4034/A-4226) to help working-class families facing foreclosure and eviction during the pandemic.

As a little girl I looked up to women like Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm and Fannie Lou Hamer. Now I’m in a position to take on challenging issues and work to make a difference in part because of their heroism. I’m grateful to be in public service at the same time as strong women like Kamala Harris, Sheila Oliver and so many others.

I hope today’s children look to my generation with the same pride and admiration that I feel for the pioneering women of color who proceeded me. Their futures are at the heart of everything I do, and I will never stop striving to make them proud.

Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake represents the 34th legislative district in the New Jersey State Assembly. 

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