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Waters, Maxine

Maxine Waters

1938—

Politician

Considered by many the most powerful black woman in American politics, Maxine Waters has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1991. After a distinguished career as a legislator in California—where she was known as a staunch defender of the rights of African Americans, women, and the poor—Waters won election to the Congressional seat being vacated by octogenarian fellow-Democrat Augustus F. Hawkins. Throughout her career in politics, Waters has been famous for her outspoken and confrontational manner, and her persistence in pursuing the interests of her constituency. As she told Essence Magazine in November 1990, "If you believe in something, you must be prepared to fight. To argue. To persuade. To introduce legislation again and again and again…. Too many Black politicians want to be in the mainstream…. My power comes from the fact that I am ready to talk about Black people."

Inspired by Her Mother's Determination

Born in 1938, Waters was one of thirteen children in a poor family living in a housing project in St. Louis, Missouri. She credits her childhood for making her what she is today—competitive, outspoken, and determined. "Just getting heard in a family that size is difficult," she explained in Ebony. Waters's mother, Velma Moore Carr, struggled to support her family by working intermittently at a series of low-paying jobs augmented by welfare. Waters described her mother in Ebony as "a strong woman, a survivor," whose determination served as an inspiration.

Although Waters's high school yearbook had predicted that one day she would be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Waters found that possibility to be extremely remote. After graduating from high school, she married and had two children. In 1960 the family moved to Los Angeles, where Waters worked at a few menial jobs before taking an opportunity to organize a Head Start program in the suburb of Watts. "Head Start made a significant difference in my life," Waters stated in Essence. "It helped me see how I could help people, and it helped steer me into politics."

In the late 1960s she entered California State University at Los Angeles to study sociology. By the time she earned her degree, she was divorced and raising her children alone. Waters's background is frequently cited to explain why she fights so passionately for such issues as education and affirmative action. In Essence she explained: "I just want to make life better for some people. Everybody deserves a good quality of life. There is too great a divide between the haves and the have-nots, and I believe I can do something to change that."

Became a Force in California Politics

Waters got her start in politics as the chief deputy to Los Angeles city councilman David Cunningham. She managed Councilman Cunningham's campaigns and was actively involved in the campaigns of Senator Alan Cranston and Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley. She gained a reputation for superb legislative ability and determination. Although her move into state politics was natural, it was also a rough transition. Because some of her colleagues regarded her as a maverick, Waters found all sorts of roadblocks when she arrived at the California State Assembly. Waters told Ebony that the early difficulties she had were a result of "this perception they had of the Black woman coming from Los Angeles who needed to be taught a lesson."

The first thing Waters did was to take on women's issues and travel throughout California, organizing and talking to women who had never before heard from a legislator. Waters believes that this experience helped to shape her leadership ability. The Speaker of the Assembly, Willie Brown, Jr., provided support and guidance as Waters learned the system.

While a member of the California State Assembly, Waters introduced and passed legislation on minority and women's tenants' rights and on limits on police strip searches. Her greatest challenge, however, was maintaining patience throughout the eight years it took to pass legislation divesting California state pension funds from companies doing business with South Africa. She reintroduced the bill six times before it passed in September 1986, demonstrating the perseverance that she maintains is necessary for success in politics.

Waters also succeeded in passing an affirmative action bill that required California to set aside 15 percent of all state contracts for companies owned by members of minority groups and 5 percent for companies owned by women. The bill was acclaimed as landmark legislation because it was the first major statewide bill to mandate such programs. Another of Waters's pieces of legislation resulted in the creation of the nation's first statewide Child Abuse Prevention Program. In 1984 Waters's accomplishments were acknowledged when she was selected to chair the California State Assembly's Democratic Caucus, the first woman to ever hold this post.

At a Glance …

Born Maxine Carr, August 15, 1938, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Remus and Velma (Moore) Carr; married Edward Waters (divorced, 1972); married Sidney Williams, July 23, 1977; children: (first marriage) Edward, Karen. Politics: Democrat. Education: California State University, Los Angeles, BA.

Career: Teacher, Head Start program; member, California State Assembly, Sacramento, CA, 1977-91; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, Democratic congresswoman from California's District 29, 1991-92, District 35 1993—; chair, Congressional Black Caucus, 1997-98; chair, Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus, 2005—. Member House Financial Services Committee; Judiciary Committee; Judiciary Task Force on Antitrust; subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit; subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology; subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security; subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law; chair, subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity. Member, Democratic National Committee; delegate, Democratic National Convention, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, and 1988; Democratic Caucus chair, 1984; member of Rules Committee, 1984. Member of National Advisory Committee of Women, 1978—.

Awards: Honorary doctorates from Spelman College and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; named one of the outstanding leaders at the International Women's Year Conference in Houston; Princeton Peace Prize, 1991; Candace Award 1992; 365 Black Award, 2005; BET Honors, 2007.

Addresses: Office—2344 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-0535; and 10124 S. Broadway, Suite 1, Los Angeles, CA 90003.

Participated in Jackson Presidential Campaigns

Waters was Reverend Jesse Jackson's most vocal backer in both the 1984 and 1988 presidential races and was his campaign manager in the latter. When presidential candidate Michael Dukakis (D-MA) chose Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) instead of Jackson as his vice presidential running mate in 1988, Waters expressed her dissatisfaction in an article published in the Nation. Waters wrote: "The Democrats cannot win the presidency without us and without Jackson and others who will work for the party." In the same article Waters addressed what she considered the Democratic Party's lack of commitment to black issues. She wrote of the hopelessness of young black people crowded into inner-city ghettos, not only in Los Angeles but across the nation, and of the "lethal infestation of drugs" in such communities. Waters noted: "An elementary lesson in life is that if people cannot survive in one way they will try another. In an affluent society in which only dollars appear to matter, some young people will find drug-pushing a seductive (or desperate) alternative to low-paying jobs."

For a time Waters advocated breaking away from the Democratic Party and possibly creating a third party that would be responsive to the concerns of blacks and other people of color. In the Nation she commented: "When I look at what is currently happening to the masses of black people, to America's poor in general and the entire nation, I am angry and frustrated. But we cannot yield to feelings of helplessness; we must transform anger and frustration into bold and direct action…. As for the Democratic Party, it must prove itself in these critical times or stand, like the Republicans, as just another instrument for betrayal and suppression of the people."

It was perhaps because of such comments that, when the African-American legislator Augustus Hawkins announced his retirement from Congress in 1990, the Democratic Party supported her opponent in the primary for Hawkins's congressional district. The district, which included much of South Central Los Angeles, heavily favored Waters; she won the primary by a large margin and has consistently been reelected with more than 80 percent of the vote.

Drew Controversy as Congressional Representative

Throughout her career in Congress, Waters has been a magnet for controversy. Near the end of her first term, racially motivated riots broke out in Waters's district as a result of the acquittal four police officers in the beating of an African-American motorist. While Waters was one of the first federal officers to arrive in the riot zone and offer aid, she came under fire for remarks that seemed to justify the looting of Korean-owned businesses. Congresswoman Waters was unapologetic: "I said in a 101 different ways that violence is not right, that I do not condone violence, that people cannot endanger their own or others' lives. What I didn't do is to use the airwaves to call people hoodlums and thugs for burning down their own communities. It only makes them madder when you call them hoodlums and thugs, as the President did."

Shortly after the riots, Waters made waves of another sort, showing up to a presidential conference on urban issues at the White House uninvited. That type of audacity, and the passage of $2 billion Emergency Development Loan Guarantee Program later that year, marked her as a congressional leader on urban issues. In 1996 she was chosen to lead the Congressional Black Caucus, a position from which she led the defense of President Bill Clinton during debate in the House of Representatives on impeachment in 1998. During this time Waters also spearheaded calls for an investigation into an alleged Central Intelligence Agency role in the traffic of crack cocaine in the inner cities of the United States.

Waters has also been outspoken on international issues, advocating the cancellation of U.S. debts for poor nations. She was vocal in her sympathy toward the regime of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, particularly in the custody battle over child refugee Elián González in 2000. Waters also supported the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, visiting the nation in 2005 to seek release of jailed members of his government after Aristide was sent into exile in 2004. She has been most prominent in her opposition to American military action, particularly in the Persian Gulf. Waters consistently voted against both Persian Gulf wars, and in 2005 she founded the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus, a group representatives dedicated to ending the occupation of Iraq.

Waters has been criticized for engaging in machine politics in California, tactics that have reputedly provided financial benefit for her family members. In 2005 and 2006 the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington included Waters on their list of "20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress," in the wake of reports that her immediate family members had received more than $1 million in payments from projects related to politicians who depend on Waters for endorsements. Waters's husband and children have responded by claiming that the payments were for advertising, consulting, and lobbying services, and that all payments were reported in compliance with the law.

Waters's husband, former professional football player Sidney Williams, had previously benefited from her political connections when President Clinton named him U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas in 1994. The strong bond between Waters and the Clintons was reinforced in January 2008, when Waters endorsed New York Senator Hillary Clinton's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination over African-American candidate Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

Waters considers herself an inspiration to average women, maintaining that if she can succeed, so can they. "People who come from backgrounds like mine are not supposed to serve in the U.S. Congress," she asserted in Essence. "When a little girl who came out of poverty in St. Louis has an opportunity to serve in Congress, it is like thumbing your nose at the status quo." In Washington Waters continues to fight for black interests with the same forcefulness and skill she has demonstrated for more than thirty years.

Sources

Periodicals

Black Enterprise, November 1981; January 1985; August 1985; December 1988; January 1989; April 1991; December 1991; June 2005.

Ebony, August 1984; January 1991.

Essence, March 1984; May 1985; November 1990; January 1999.

Glamour, January 1991.

Jet, April 6, 1987; October 22, 1990; December 9, 1991.

Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1989; February 1, 1990; March 17, 1990; March 20, 1990; October 1, 1990; May 12, 1991; December 19, 2004.

Maclean's, November 1, 1982.

Mother Jones, February 1984.

Ms., January-February 1991.

Nation, July 24, 1989.

National Review, January 25, 1999.

New York Times, May 19, 1992; December 10, 1992; September 21, 1996.

People, May 18, 1992.

Time, August 22, 1983.

Washington Post, February 19, 1991; March 15, 1991; March 20, 1991.

—Debra G. Darnell and Derek Jacques

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"Waters, Maxine." Contemporary Black Biography. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 30 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Waters, Maxine." Contemporary Black Biography. 2008. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3027700055.html

Maxine Waters

Maxine Waters

After serving in the California State Assembly, Maxine Waters (born 1938) was elected by Californians to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990. As a member of Congress she fought for legislation promoting aid to poor and minority neighborhoods in American cities and combating apartheid in South Africa.

"I f you believe in something, you must be prepared to fight. To argue. To persuade. To introduce legislation again and again and again, " stated Maxine Waters in Essence. During the fourteen years that she served in the California State Assembly, Waters earned a reputation as a both a fighter and the most powerful black woman in politics. In 1984 M. Carl Holman, head of the National Urban League, was quoted in Ebony as saying that Waters was "one of the brightest, ablest and most effective legislators without regard to race or sex that I've ever seen." After her 1990 election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Waters moved to Washington ready to continue what she had done in California—champion black issues. In an Essence article entitled "Woman of the House, " Waters reiterated her belief that "too many Black politicians want to be in the mainstream….My power comes from the fact that I am ready to talk about Black people."

Born in 1938, Waters was one of thirteen children in a poor family living in a St. Louis housing project. She credits her childhood for what she is today—competitive, outspoken, and determined. "Just getting heard in a family that size is difficult, " she explained in Ebony. Waters's mother, Velma Moore Carr, struggled to support her family by working intermittently at a series of low-paying jobs augmented by welfare. Waters described her mother in Ebony as "a strong woman, a survivor, " whose determination served as an inspiration to her.

Although Waters's high school yearbook had predicted that one day she would be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Waters found that possibility to be extremely remote. After graduating from high school, she married and had two children. In 1960 the family moved to Los Angeles, where Waters worked at a few menial jobs before taking an opportunity to organize a Head Start program in the suburb of Watts. " Head Start made a significant difference in my life, " Waters stated in Essence. "It helped me see how I could help people, and it helped steer me into politics."

In the late 1960s she entered California State University at Los Angeles to study sociology. By the time she earned her degree, she was divorced and raising her children alone. Waters's background is frequently cited to explain why she fights so passionately for such issues as education and affirmative action. She explained in Essence: "I just want to make life better for some people. Everybody deserves a good quality of life. There is too great a divide between the haves and the have-nots, and I believe I can do something to change that."

Entered Politics

Waters got her start in politics as the chief deputy to Los Angeles city councilman David Cunningham. She managed Councilman Cunningham's campaigns and was actively involved in the campaigns of Senator Alan Cranston and Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley. She gained a reputation for superb legislative ability and determination. Although her move into state politics was natural, it was also a rough transition. Because some of her colleagues regarded her as a maverick, Waters found all sorts of roadblocks when she arrived at the California State Assembly. Waters told Ebony that the early difficulties she had were a result of "this perception they had of the Black woman coming from Los Angeles who needed to be taught a lesson."

The first thing Waters did was to take on women's issues and travel throughout California, organizing and talking to women who had never before heard from a legislator. Waters believes that this experience helped to shape her leadership ability. The Speaker of the Assembly, Willie Brown, Jr., provided support and guidance as Waters learned the system.

Waters was instrumental in the formation of the National Political Congress of Black Women in August of 1984. Born of the frustration of black women leaders, the organization emphasized mainstream electoral politics as a way to focus on what they felt were unique and neglected problems facing women. The organization's goal was to encourage every black woman in America to become involved in political activity. "It is important that Black women understand that we can seek leadership roles and not lose our identity, " proclaimed Waters in Essence. "We don't have to do a song and dance because we're afraid we might alienate others. I'm not interested in making everyone comfortable—some people need to be made uncomfortable. Black women need to feel a sense of our own power."

Sponsored Minority Legislation

While a member of the California State Assembly, Waters introduced and passed legislation on minority and women's tenants' rights and on limits on police strip searches. Her greatest challenge, however, was maintaining patience throughout the eight years it took her to pass legislation divesting California state pension funds from companies doing business with South Africa. She reintroduced the bill six times before it passed in September 1986, demonstrating the perseverance that she feels is necessary for success in politics.

Waters also succeeded in passing an affirmative action bill that required California to set aside 15% of all state contracts for companies owned by members of minority groups and 5% for companies owned by women. The bill was acclaimed as landmark legislation because it was the first major statewide bill to mandate such programs. Another of Waters's pieces of legislation resulted in the creation of the nation's first statewide Child Abuse Prevention Program. In 1984 Waters's accomplishments were acknowledged when she was selected to chair the California State Assembly's Democratic Caucus, the first woman to ever hold this post.

Worked on Jesse Jackson's Campaigns

Waters was Jesse Jackson's most vocal backer in both the 1984 and 1988 presidential races and was his campaign manager in the latter. When presidential candidate Michael Dukakis chose Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen instead of Jackson as his vice presidential running mate, Waters appeared on ABC's Nightline declaring that Jackson would break off talks with the Dukakis campaign.

In an article for the Nation, Waters wrote: "That Jackson speaks for large numbers of others as well is one indication that blacks serve as a barometer for the nation… . The Democrats cannot win the presidency without us and without Jackson and others who will work for the party." In the same article, Waters further addressed what she considered the Democratic party's lack of commitment to black issues. She wrote of the hopelessness of young black people crowded into inner-city ghettos, not only in Los Angeles but across the nation, and of the "lethal infestation of drugs" in such communities. Waters noted: "An elementary lesson in life is that if people cannot survive in one way they will try another. In an affluent society in which only dollars appear to matter, some young people will find drug-pushing a seductive (or desperate) alternative to low-paying jobs."

Waters advocated breaking away from the Democratic party and possibly creating a third party that would be responsive to the concerns of blacks and other people of color. In the Nation she commented: "When I look at what is currently happening to the masses of black people, to America's poor in general and the entire nation, I am angry and frustrated. But we cannot yield to feelings of helplessness; we must transform anger and frustration into bold and direct action… . As for the Democratic Party, it must prove itself in these critical times or stand, like the Republicans, as just another instrument for betrayal and suppression of the people."

"That's the thing about Waters, " remarked Julianne Malveaux in Essence. "She pushes her causes openly. She raises her voice while everyone else whispers. She wears red when everyone else wears gray. She makes a difference." That Waters has made a difference is evidenced by such programs as Project Build, which she established in her district to provide educational and job training services for residents in six Watts housing projects. Late in 1990 the Maxine Waters Vocational Educational Center was under construction in South Central Los Angeles, a symbol of hope in an area of boarded-up buildings and vacant lots.

When Waters was elected to Congress in 1990 she was one of five new African American representatives. She was appointed to the House Banking, Finance and Urban Development and the veteran Affairs Committees but vowed to remain an activist in civil rights, women's issues, and peace. She explained: "Activists don't shut down when they get to Congress, they try to be more activist." On gender issues she remained adamant in inspiring the "average" woman to succeed. "People who come from backgrounds like mine are not supposed to serve in the U.S. Congress. When a little girl who came out of poverty in St. Louis has an opportunity to serve in Congress, it is like thumbing your nose at the status quo."

Waters exploded onto the national scene during the Los Angeles fires, beatings, and rioting which followed the verdict of the policemen in the Rodney King beating. Much of the destruction and mayhem was in Waters's district and she quickly returned home to lend a helping hand and take advantage of the media spotlight by excoriating the urban policies of President Bush and former President Reagan. She was also in turn excoriated for defending the rioters, looters, and arsonists when she remarked on national television: "Riot is the voice of the unheard." In a scathing editorial the conservative National Review claimed she was trying to shift the blame for the riots from the rioters to everybody and everything else and in the process was giving tacit permission to riot again.

As promised, Waters continued her form of activism from Washington D.C. In 1992 she introduced a bill which would have provided $10 billion to fight urban decay. In defending her proposed legislation she claimed that America's cities deserve the same consideration as Russia and Israel, both recipients of massive U.S. foreign aid. Waters also called for job training for black males aged 17 to 30, increased African American ownership of small businesses, and tougher anti-discrimination banking laws. In 1994 she joined a coalition against violent and sexually explicit song lyrics and came out against so-called "gangsta rap." She told Jet that little was being done to curb music's obscenities and vulgarities. But ever the street populist, Waters pointed the finger of blame at industry executives for not exercising more control over their recording artists and said it was "…foolhardy to single out rap artists as instigators of violence among young people."

In 1996, Waters was elected to chair the Congressional Black Caucus. Following that, she was involved in pushing for further investigation of reports that the CIA was involved in a plan to distribute drugs to African Americans in Los Angeles in the early 1980s.

Further Reading

Black Enterprise, November 1981; January 1985; August 1985; December 1988; January 1989; April 1991; December 1991.

Ebony, August 1984; January 1991.

Essence, March 1984; May 1985; November 1990.

Glamour, January 1991.

Jet, April 6, 1987; October 22, 1990; December 9, 1991.

Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1989; February 1, 1990; March 17, 1990; March 20, 1990; October 1, 1990; May 12, 1991; March 4, 1997.

Maclean's, November 1, 1982.

Mother Jones, February 1984.

Ms., January-February 1991.

Nation, July 24, 1989.

Time, August 22, 1983.

Washington Post, February 19, 1991; March 15, 1991; March 20, 1991. □

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"Maxine Waters." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 30 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Maxine Waters." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404706748.html

Waters, Maxine 1938–

Maxine Waters 1938

Politician

At a Glance

Entered Politics

Sponsored Minority Legislation

Worked on Jesse Jacksons Campaigns

The Squeaky Wheel

Sources

If you believe in something, you must be prepared to fight. To argue. To persuade. To introduce legislation again and again and again, stated Maxine Waters in Essence. During the fourteen years that she served in the California State Assembly, Waters earned a reputation as a both a fighter and the most powerful black woman in politics. In 1984 M. Carl Holman, head of the National Urban League, was quoted in Ebony as saying that Waters was one of the brightest, ablest and most effective legislators without regard to race or sex that Ive ever seen. After her 1990 election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Waters moved to Washington ready to continue what she had done in Californiachampion black issues. In an Essence article entitled Woman of the House, Waters reiterated her belief that too many Black politicians want to be in the mainstream. My power comes from the fact that I am ready to talk about Black people.

Born in 1938, Waters was one of thirteen children in a poor family living in a St. Louis housing project. She credits her childhood for what she is todaycompetitive, outspoken, and determined. Just getting heard in a family that size is difficult, she explained in Ebony. Waterss mother, Velma Moore Carr, struggled to support her family by working intermittently at a series of low-paying jobs augmented by welfare. Waters described her mother in Ebony as a strong woman, a survivor, whose determination served as whose determination served as an inspiration to her.

Although Waterss high school yearbook had predicted that one day she would be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Waters found that possibility to be extremely remote. After graduating from high school, she married and had two children. In 1960 the family moved to Los Angeles, where Waters worked at a few menial jobs before taking an opportunity to organize a Head Start program in the suburb of Watts. Head Start made a significant difference in my life, Waters stated in Essence. It helped me see how I could help people, and it helped steer me into politics.

In the late 1960s she entered California State University at Los Angeles to study sociology. By the time she earned her degree, she was divorced and raising her children alone. Waterss background is frequently cited to explain why she fights so passionately for such issues as education and affirmative action. She explained in Essence: I just want

At a Glance

Born Maxine Carr, August 15, 1938, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Remus and Velma (Moore) Carr; married husband, Edward (divorced, 1972); married Sidney Williams, July 23, 1977; children: (first marriage) Edward, Karen. Education: California State University, Los Angeles, B.A. Politics: Democrat.

Teacher, Head Start program; member, California State Assembly, 1976-1990; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, Democratic congresswoman from California, 1990. Member of Democratic National Committee; delegate to Democratic National Convention, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, and 1988; Democratic Caucus chair, 1984; member of Rules Committee, 1984; member of National Advisory Committee of Women, 1978.

Awards: Honorary doctorates from Spelman College and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; named one of the outstanding leaders at the International Womens Year Conference in Houston.

Addresses: Office 1207 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; and 4509 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90037.

to make life better for some people. Everybody deserves a good quality of life. There is too great a divide between the haves and the have-nots, and I believe I can do something to change that.

Entered Politics

Waters got her start in politics as the chief deputy to Los Angeles city councilman David Cunningham. She managed Councilman Cunninghams campaigns and was actively involved in the campaigns of Senator Alan Cranston and Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley. She gained a reputation for superb legislative ability and determination. Although her move into state politics was natural, it was also a rough transition. Because some of her colleagues regarded her as a maverick, Waters found all sorts of roadblocks when she arrived at the California State Assembly. Waters told Ebony that the early difficulties she had were a result of this perception they had of the Black woman coming from Los Angeles who needed to be taught a lesson.

The first thing Waters did was to take on womens issues and travel throughout California, organizing and talking to women who had never before heard from a legislator. Waters believes that this experience helped to shape her leadership ability. The Speaker of the Assembly, Willie Brown, Jr., provided support and guidance as Waters learned the system.

Waters was instrumental in the formation of the National Political Congress of Black Women in August of 1984. Born of the frustration of black women leaders, the organization emphasized mainstream electoral politics as a way to focus on what they felt were unique and neglected problems facing women. The organizations goal was to encourage every black woman in America to become involved in political activity. It is important that Black women understand that we can seek leadership roles and not lose our identity, proclaimed Waters in Essence. We dont have to do a song and dance because were afraid we might alienate others. Im not interested in making everyone comfortablesome people need to be made uncomfortable. Black women need to feel a sense of our own power.

Sponsored Minority Legislation

While a member of the California State Assembly, Waters introduced and passed legislation on minority and womens tenants rights and on limits on police strip searches. Her greatest challenge, however, was maintaining patience throughout the eight years it took her to pass legislation divesting California state pension funds from companies doing business with South Africa. She reintroduced the bill six times before it passed in September 1986, demonstrating the perseverance that she feels is necessary for success in politics.

Waters also succeeded in passing an affirmative action bill that required California to set aside 15% of all state contracts for companies owned by members of minority groups and 5% for companies owned by women. The bill was acclaimed as landmark legislation because it was the first major statewide bill to mandate such programs. Another of Waterss pieces of legislation resulted in the creation of the nations first statewide Child Abuse Prevention Program. In 1984 Waterss accomplishments were acknowledged when she was selected to chair the California State Assemblys Democratic Caucus, the first woman to ever hold this post.

Worked on Jesse Jacksons Campaigns

Waters was Jesse Jacksons most vocal backer in both the 1984 and 1988 presidential races and was his campaign manager in the latter. When presidential candidate Michael Dukakis chose Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen instead of Jackson as his vice presidential running mate, Waters appeared on ABCs Nightline declaring that Jackson would break off talks with the Dukakis campaign.

In an article for the Nation, Waters wrote: That Jackson speaks for large numbers of others as well is one indication that blacks serve as a barometer for the nation. The Democrats cannot win the presidency without us and without Jackson and others who will work for the party. In the same article, Waters further addressed what she considered the Democratic partys lack of commitment to black issues. She wrote of the hopelessness of young black people crowded into inner-city ghettos, not only in Los Angeles but across the nation, and of the lethal infestation of drugs in such communities. Waters noted: An elementary lesson in life is that if people cannot survive in one way they will try another. In an affluent society in which only dollars appear to matter, some young people will find drug-pushing a seductive (or desperate) alternative to low-paying jobs.

Waters advocated breaking away from the Democratic party and possibly creating a third party that would be responsive to the concerns of blacks and other people of color. In the Nation she commented: When I look at what is currently happening to the masses of black people, to Americas poor in general and the entire nation, I am angry and frustrated. But we cannot yield to feelings of helplessness; we must transform anger and frustration into bold and direct action. As for the Democratic Party, it must prove itself in these critical times or stand, like the Republicans, as just another instrument for betrayal and suppression of the people.

The Squeaky Wheel

Thats the thing about Waters, remarked Julianne Malveaux in Essence. She pushes her causes openly. She raises her voice while everyone else whispers. She wears red when everyone else wears gray. She makes a difference. That Waters has made a difference is evidenced by such programs as Project Build, which she established in her district to provide educational and job training services for residents in six Watts housing projects. Late in 1990 the Maxine Waters Vocational Educational Center was under construction in South Central Los Angeles, a symbol of hope in an area of boarded-up buildings and vacant lots. And in the aftermath of the racially motivated riots that rocked the city in the spring of 1992, Waters was among the first officials on the scene, providing food for the hungry Watts residents and demanding that the Department of Water and Power restore service to the area.

In Washington Waters continues her fight for black interests with the same forcefulness and skill she demonstrated in California. She sees herself as an inspiration to average women, letting them know that if she can succeed, so can they. People who come from backgrounds like mine are not supposed to serve in the U.S. Congress, she asserted in Essence. When a little girl who came out of poverty in St. Louis has an opportunity to serve in Congress, it is like thumbing your nose at the status quo. From all indications, Waters will be challenging the status quo in Congress for as long as she wants.

Sources

Black Enterprise, November 1981; January 1985; August 1985; December 1988; January 1989; April 1991; December 1991.

Ebony, August 1984; January 1991.

Essence, March 1984; May 1985; November 1990.

Glamour, January 1991.

Jet, April 6, 1987; October 22, 1990; December 9, 1991.

Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1989; February 1, 1990; March 17, 1990; March 20, 1990; October 1, 1990; May 12, 1991.

Macleans, November 1, 1982.

Mother Jones, February 1984.

Ms., January-February 1991.

Nation, July 24, 1989.

People, May 18, 1992.

Time, August 22, 1983.

Washington Post, February 19, 1991; March 15, 1991; March 20, 1991.

Debra G. Darnell

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Darnell, Debra. "Waters, Maxine 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1993. Encyclopedia.com. 30 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Darnell, Debra. "Waters, Maxine 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1993. Encyclopedia.com. (June 30, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870500075.html

Darnell, Debra. "Waters, Maxine 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1993. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870500075.html

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