“I am the child my mother raised me to be,” said recently appointed California U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler during a meeting with NNPA publishers on Friday, October 13, 2023.
“I am the child my mother raised me to be,” said recently appointed California U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler during a meeting with NNPA publishers on Friday, October 13, 2023. Credit: Chris Allen, VOICE

S. E. Williams

Laphonza Butler, California’s first openly LGBTQ and second Black Senator made history when she was sworn in on Tuesday, October 3 to replace the state’s longtime Senator Dianne Feinstein who passed away in late September, received an enthusiastically warm welcome on Friday, October 13 when she met with members of the National News Publishers Association (NNPA), a consortium of Black news organizations. 

During the Zoom meeting, NNPA publishers applauded Butler’s outreach to the organization and expressed their inspiration were, encouragement and appreciation for her steadfast commitment to the Black press and the communities she serves. Butler energized  attendees with a sense she will continue to be a powerful ally not only for the Black press and the Black community but for all constituents across the state and Americans overall. 

“I want to make sure that we as a community are talking about the importance and impact of this pending government shutdown and the consequences of a broken Congress, led by a Republican Party that can’t govern themselves and is putting the future of our country in peril as well as our national security,” Butler declared. 

During the session she also left no doubt about her allegiance to  ensuring the sustainability and viability of the Black press, pledging to host representatives of Black publishers on Capitol Hill to discuss issues related to federal advertising and other ways Black publications can be engaged at the national level from a business perspective—something that has historically and continues to be a rare occurrence. 

In expressing her understanding of the important role of  Black media in the nation’s history she expounded, “The existence of your outlets is the lifeline to our community,” as she further noted the importance of being “truth tellers” and “present and accounted for in our space,” stressing, “I appreciate the work you do tirelessly.”

As only the third Black woman in history to serve in the U.S. Senate, Butler has earned bona fides as a Democratic strategist. She also served as an adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign. During her swearing in ceremony earlier this month, Senate Leader Chuck Shumer (D-N.Y) stated, “Today, the Senate takes another step towards fully reflecting our vibrant democracy.” He further highlighted how Butler has “dedicated her entire career to fighting for others – fighting for women, fighting for working families and fighting for the cause of justice.”

Governor Gavin Newsom’s appointment of Butler fulfilled a pledge he made to appoint a Black woman should Feinstein’s seat became open before the end of her term. 

Previous to her appointment to the U.S. Senate, Butler led the powerful political organization Emily’s List that backs Democratic women candidates. She is also an experienced and respected labor leader having served with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 2015, California’s powerful long term care workers’ organization.

In humble acknowledgement of the accolades showered on her by members of the NNPA during Friday’s session for her work on behalf of the community and her outreach to NNPA, Butler confided, “I am the child my mother raised me to be.” 

In conclusion, Butler assured publishers,  “I know that my being in this position is an important opportunity. . . I wanted to make sure I was in conversation with all of you as I start my tenure in my appointed role, I want to hear what the concerns of your readers are. I want to be a voice and a champion for those issues and for all of you.”

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.