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Bay Area Reporter: Guest Opinion: Black queer women make history in California politics

by Jennifer Esteen | Wednesday November 1, 2023

As the hottest labor fall in several generations churns on, Governor Gavin Newsom turned up the heat in the labor community by appointing Laphonza Butler to replace the late Dianne Feinstein as California's U.S. senator. This appointment marks a historic milestone that will be celebrated for years to come. As of October 3, California has its first lesbian Black woman senator. For all who cherish equal rights, civil rights, representation, and equity, this is a cause célèbre.

Butler, who recently announced that she would not seek election for a full six-year term, has a remarkable back story that makes her uniquely qualified for the role, and she said that she would work hard for the remaining 300-odd days she will serve in the Senate. She migrated to California following the path of so many who left the South during the Great Migration, which brought millions of Black people to northern and western parts of the United States as they escaped the harsh economic conditions and racism of the Jim Crow South. Born and raised in Magnolia, Mississippi, Butler spent the majority of her early professional years organizing and leading in multiple roles within California's largest labor union, Service Employees International Union. She moved between locals serving as a president multiple times, as a division director and an SEIU international executive vice president. Needless to say, her labor experience is vast and, through it, she developed deep relationships with other labor leaders and elected officials all across the Golden State.


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