Stephanie Tubbs Jones has served the public for 25 years, as a prosecutor, judge, and representative of the 11th District of Ohio. Now in her fourth term as a member of Congress, she serves on the Committee on Ways and Means (among others) and is an active member of the Congressional Black Caucus. After reciting a poem by Maya Angelou, Tubbs Jones spoke on the pertinent issue of voting rights—and wrongs. While fair to all persons, the humorous and vivacious lawmaker did not mute her vigorous Democratic politics, which brought forth frequent applause from the audience.
Tubbs Jones discussed the problematic issues surrounding the voting and requests for recounts in Ohio in the last presidential election and her disagreements with Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, whose rulings on provisional ballots and other issues confused voters and observers alike and cost thousands of would-be voters the opportunity to cast ballots. (Blackwell is now the Republican frontrunner for governor of Ohio.) Tubbs Jones took the opportunity in Congress to object to the vote counts in both Ohio and Florida. She noted that the right to vote is one of the most important human rights. African Americans have been afforded that right, but it’s hard to get elected. (Tubbs Jones is the first African American woman to be elected to Congress from Ohio.)
In touching on current topics, the congresswoman said that the U.S. Gulf Coast was important to African Americans for several reasons: that's where many slaves arrived here; it’s a melting pot area; it’s a stronghold for people of color; and the Ninth Ward is a crucial make-or-break electorate for Democrats and people of color. Regarding Cuba, she said that she once spent two and a half hours with Fidel Castro, “who is an amazing man, whether you love him or hate him.” She noted the contradiction in U.S. policy that accuses Cuba of human rights violations but opens trade doors to China. About Darfur, she said that the Black Caucus is pushing for U.S. involvement in stopping genocide by calling for Congress to step in. In addition, she spoke of how workers are exploited by Wal-Mart; how the United Nations Human Rights Commission nowadays fails those who need it by issuing only generic objections rather than substantive action; how she is proud to be a “product of Affirmative Action” and believes strongly in the policy; and how the African diaspora is still not well connected through the people except at the academic level.
Tubbs Jones is involved with the Count Every Vote program, with Senator Hilary Clinton, and the Second Chance Act, which aim to reinstate the right to vote for people whose right has been lost through the criminal justice system. A standard bearer for GLBT issues, Tubbs Jones noted that sometimes the legislative successes too often reap regression by generating fear. She advocates moving forward one step at a time on such issues.
With a 100 percent voting record on human rights issues, Tubbs Jones is optimistic, even as she believes that the nation is still dealing with some of the same problems as when the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. That optimism ringing in her voice, she ended her talk with another poem: “Arise Africa.”