Laphonza Butler, the first Black lesbian in Congress, honours young people in first Senate speech

US Senator Laphonza Butler has honoured young people in her first Senate speech on 17 January. 

Butler, the first Black lesbian to serve in Congress, delivered her maiden address to her colleagues this week, focusing on the work being done by US youth and pledging to support them. 

The Democrat from California said: “From the Women’s March to the Black Lives Matter marches around the globe, the most racially and ethnically diverse generation of our time has shown up time and time again, demanding that we do better.

“Whether it’s the movements for gun reform, environmental protection, racial justice, or your local barista’s fight to join a union, young people are demonstrating their willingness to be the force, the energy, and the face of change. While this is true across the nation, it is especially true in my home state of California, the state home to the largest number of Gen Z-ers in our country.”

Butler also acknowledged the challenges young people face and the urgent need to address them. “My impatience emerges from listening to my own child, who at my staff holiday celebration just last year shared the story of her elementary school lockdown as if it were commonplace,” she said. 

“My sense of urgency comes from the facts amplified by the American Psychological Association that 13 per cent of high school girls had attempted suicide while 30 per cent had considered it. Those numbers rose to 20 per cent for LGBTQ+ students, and amongst black girls, the suicide rate rose 36 and a half per cent.”

Butler gave a nod to Kamarie Brown, the 17-year-old who became the first Black female to be elected as a student board member for the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2020. “It’s thanks to Kamarie’s leadership that students in L.A. have access to greater resources that they need to thrive,” Butler said.

Butler, the advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign, will be the only Black female senator to currently serve in Congress and only the third in US history. 

She is also the first openly LGBTQ+ person to represent California in the chamber. 

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